Show/Venue: Something Rotten!: A Very New Musical at the St. James Theatre
Date: Tuesday, March 5th, 2015 @ 7pm
Starring: Brian D’Arcy James, Christian Borle, John Cariani, Heidi Blickenstaff
Honestly, the advertisements for Something Rotten!, really don’t tell the viewer anything about the show and how hilarious it is! The premise is that the Bottom Brothers, Nick (Brian D’Arcy James, SMASH, Shrek, Next to Normal) and Nigel (John Cariani, Fiddler on the Roof) are writers who are tired of being constantly overshadowed by Shakespeare (Christian Borle, SMASH, Peter and the Starcatcher, Legally Blonde) during the Renaissance. Nick is the brains of their operation and Nigel is the writer/composer.
Nick expresses his distaste for Shakespeare (“God, I Hate Shakespeare”), while Nigel idolizes him and even writes his own prose. The opening number really sets up the plot for the rivalry between Nick & Shakespeare and Nick & Nigel as the Bottom Brothers try to come up with a great new play. Shortly thereafter, Nick finds out that his wife, Bea (Heidi Blickenstaff, The Addams Family, The Little Mermaid), wants to go to work and help Nick earn money for the family (“Right Hand Man”), but Nick protests his wife being “the man” and going to work for them; he should be the one supporting them.
As the brothers disagree on their next course of action, Nick takes matters into his own hands. He “borrows” from his family savings and visits a soothsayer to try and find out what Shakespeare’s next big hit will be. In the brilliant number, “A Musical!,” the soothsayer, who happens to be named Nostradamus (Brad Oscar, Big Fish, Spamalot), describes that the next big thing in theatre will be a musical! Nostradamus makes references towards many famous musicals through dance, lyrics and concepts; which is this wonderful crowd pleasing number in the show. Nick stands by trying to believe that people would actually want to see a show where people spontaneously burst into song and dance; who would want to see a show about singing and dancing cats?
Nick goes back to his troupe and tries to develop a musical around the plague, called “The Black Death” and has not convinced anyone that this is a concept that will help them gain popularity over Shakespeare. In the meantime, Nick finds out that Bea has been pretending to be a man to find work to provide money for their family and is pregnant. This only gives him more motivation to provide for his family and really come up with a great concept, as “The Black Death” isn’t going to work.
Nigel thinks that he & Nick should continue with their own writing and takes a moment to distance himself from his brother. At this time, he runs into Portia (Kate Reinders, Wicked, Gypsy), the daughter of a Puritan priest, Brother Jeremiah (Brooks Ashmanskas, Bullets Over Broadway), who denounces the theatre and the works of Shakespeare and the Bottom Brothers. Portia secretly finds Shakespeare dreamy and falls quickly for Nigel, as he recites his own poetry to her in the park (“I Love the Way”).
In a nod to Shakespeare in the Park, a crowd gathers to see the famous Bard in a great rock and roll influenced number, “Will Power” which plays up Shakespeare’s celebrity. Realizing that even Nigel is in awe of Shakespeare, Nick visits Nostradamus again to find out more about what Shakespeare could be up to. It’s revealed that Shakespeare’s biggest hit will be a play about…omelets. Nostradamus also has a vision that Shakespeare’s hit will be about a Danish, but leaving out the part about a Prince. Connecting Danish with the omelet theme, Nick believes he has all the information he needs and sets out to create a musical about eggs and breakfast.
What follows is the Act One Finale, an entertaining tap dance number to “This Bottoms’ Gonna Be on Top,” as Nick and Will have a face-off, full of name-dropping jabs and wonderful taps & slides. It’s here that Borle & D’Arcy James go above and beyond to one up each other and show off their killer tapping skills, which I never realized they had. (I guess that there wasn’t really a great plot line for them to show off these skills on SMASH.)
Act Two opens with a reprise of “Welcome to the Renaissance” and Shakespeare lamenting about how it’s “Hard to Be the Bard” in a hilarious song about his fame and fortune and featuring Borle in some pretty tight leather pants. Some great nods to paparazzi and the celebrity life in the 1500’s are mentioned in this number, with Will’s own back-up singers & dancers. It’s during this number that Shakespeare learns that the Bottom Brothers are coming up with a new idea for a play and that Nick has set out to “best” him. Shakespeare decides he will disguise himself as a fan, Toby Belch, and go to audition for Nick’s new play.
Across town, Nick and his troupe are working on a song, “It’s Eggs!” while everyone remains skeptical about the subject of eggs and the concept of the musical. Toby makes his appearance and the troupe gladly welcomes him into the fold. He is then shocked to find out that his next big play will be about eggs!?
In the meantime, Nigel has a secret meeting with Portia, where he shares a poem about his love for her (“We See the Light”). Through his expression, Portia realizes her love for Nigel and encourages him to keep writing and to get inspired to create something great for his next work. It’s through Nigel’s newly inspired writing that Nick and Brother Jeremiah will change their opinions of him & Portia as a couple and accept them for who they are.
Still skeptical about “Omelette: The Musical”, Nigel goes to Nick to inform him that he has been working on another play. During the brothers’ fight, Toby tries to use their arguments to his advantage and steal some of Nigel’s work (“To Thine Own Self”).
The troupe then goes onto opening night of Omelette: The Musical! There are subtle nods to Hamlet throughout; as if Shakespeare really did get some of his best work from Nigel Bottom’s writing (even “to be or not to be” is included). The troupe is struggling to make the musical seem coherent and not really ridiculous, when Shakespeare reveals himself to the crowd and they are stunned! Then Shakespeare decides to sue the Bottom Brothers and takes them to court.
During the proceedings, Nick is sentenced to be beheaded, when Bea, disguised as a lawyer comes to the defense of her husband. Bea makes a deal with Shakespeare to have her family exiled to America, where they can find many new opportunities (“Finale”) and bring the concept of musicals to the New World.
Overall, I was glad that I started off my Tony Award season with this show. The songs were very clever and there were plenty of musical references for all theatre fans to appreciate. I found myself laughing at some of the more obscure references to musicals and shows, but I think that most people will love the campiness and shtick in the show. With 10 Tony Nominations, the show is sure to clean up at the Awards on Sunday! And this Broadway fan girl hopes that Christian Borle walks away with another win, as I would gladly be one of his fans, shrieking at him in the park during “Will Power!”
1. Welcome to the Renaissance
2. God, I Hate Shakespeare
3. Right Hand Man
4. God, I Hate Shakespeare (Reprise)
5. A Musical
6. The Black Death
7. I Love the Way
8. Will Power
9. Bottom’s Gonna Be on Top
1. Welcome to the Renaissance (Reprise)
2. Hard to Be the Bard
3. It’s Eggs!
4. We See the Light
5. To Thine Own Self
6. Right Hand Man (Reprise)
7. Something Rotten!
8. Make an Omelette
9. To Thine Own Self (Reprise)