Brush up on Your Shakespeare with “Something Rotten”
By Skip Sheffield
“Something Rotten” is a theater geek’s delight. Maybe that’s because it was written by two self-professed theater geeks: brothers Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick, who wrote the music.
This extremely silly mock Shakespearean spoof runs through April 2 at Broward Center for the Arts. The script, written by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell, could make a good trivia contest. How many references to other shows can you identify?
The Kirkpatrick brothers played their stage counterparts, Nick and Nigel Bottom, for the show’s 2015 Broadway debut. Rob McClure and Josh Grisetti, who originated the Bottom brothers in the national touring production, are featured in the Fort Lauderdale show. Adam Pascal, who originated the role of writer-genius Shakespeare, is in this production as well.
The year is 1595 in England, when Shakespeare was at his peak of creativity. The Bottom brothers are struggling in the shadow of Shakespeare, who is portrayed as a strutting rock star by Pascal, who originated the lead role of Roger Davis in the Broadway and London productions of “Rent.”
The brothers’ latest show is “Richard II,” which is completely overshadowed by Shakespeare’s tragedy “Romeo and Juliet.” Furthermore the brothers learn Shakespeare’s next play is “Richard II.” No wonder Nick Bottom is jealous of the towering figure who is considered by many the greatest writer in the English language. This is a comedy- a farce really- so it sets up Nick to sing “God, I Hate Shakespeare.” This is a sentiment shared by many students who consider Shakespeare a pompous bore. Nick enlists the help of Nostradamus (Blake Hammond), a renowned soothsayer, to look into the future and swipe some ideas from Shakespeare. This couldn’t have been the actual Nostradamus, for he died in 1566, but who's counting?
Nick is married to Bea (Maggie Lakis), a thoroughly modern Renaissance woman. Bea dresses as a man so she can get work, since Nick isn’t much of a provider.
Nigel is not married, but he becomes entranced with Portia (Autumn Hurlbert), the daughter of strict Puritan magistrate Brother Jeremiah (Scott Cote). Cote makes comic gold out of Jeremiah’s repressed homosexual tendencies.
“Something Rotten” is a laugh a minute romp, lampooning theatrical conventions. The show’s comic pinnacle is a ridiculous “Omelet: The Musical,” complete with tap-dancing chorus line.
You don’t have to be a Shakespearean scholar to recognize one of the Bard’s most quoted maxims, “To thine own self be true.” The line is from “Hamlet,” but in this case it is the poetic inspiration of Nigel (who has a beautiful tenor voice), which prompts the show’s most endearing number. On the other side of the coin is “Make an omelet,” which is one of the craziest production numbers ever conceived in American musical theater; chockablock with pointed theatrical references.
Any show that can make a production number out of “The Black Death” has to be a flat-out farce. “Something Rotten” is as clever as it is funny, but it helps to have a passing knowledge of theater history to fully appreciate it.
Tickets are $35-$150. Call 954-462-0222 or go to www.browardcenter.org.