By Morgan Politzer
I never thought I would laugh so hard at a Shakespeare play. But “Something Rotten!” had me laughing at subtle and not so subtle innuendos and references to other famous musicals that were slipped into the script. With a talented cast, many of whom came directly from the Broadway production, “Something Rotten!” had me smiling the entire show.
While “Something Rotten!” is set in Shakespearean England, it truly is anything but “Shakespeare.” Instead, Shakespeare (Adam Pascal) is an arrogant, leather-wearing, hair-flipping rock-god who basks in his newfound celebrity status that I wanted to love and hate at the same time.
“I think a lot of people think you need to be a fan of Shakespeare and musicals to enjoy the show, and we’re finding more and more that’s not true. At the core of this show is just a really great, funny story that everyone can enjoy,” actor Rob McClure (Nick Bottom) says.
Nick and Nigel Bottom (Josh Grisetti) are aspiring playwrights, but they just don’t have “that one good idea.” In a town that swoons over the work of the young and vibrant William Shakespeare, Nick boldly declares his disgust and hatred for his competitor. In desperation, he seeks out the soothsayer Nostradamus (Blake Hammond) to ask what the next big thing in theater will be.
“Of all the roles I’ve had, Nostradamus is my favorite one. He’s another play all together and just in his own little world. He’s so confident in what he’s doing, but he’s really not right. He just comes out of nowhere and people don’t know what to expect,” Hammond said.
Nostradamus tells Nick that the next big thing in theater is “a muuuuuscial!” Originally dumbfounded by the idea of an actor speaking and then suddenly breaking into song, Nick warms to the idea and writes “Omelette: The Musical” with the help of his brother Nigel.
However, Nigel quickly decides something is wrong with “Omelette: The Musical,” and instead decides to follow the advice of Portia, the Puritan girl he has fallen in love with, and what he feels. After the intentional disaster of dancing eggs and omelettes on stage, Nick learns his wife Bea and Nigel are right, thus giving Shakespeare an opportunity to steal some of the ideas and create Hamlet.
Having seen the musical before, I was not expecting the show to hold any surprises. But watching the production, something seemed unfamiliar. I later learned that the writers tweaked the original Broadway version and rewrote a scene that occurs in the middle of the show. There is moment when Nigel is telling his brother that he has decided to listen to Portia and be true “to thy known self.” This originally short scene became a large acapella number that wasn’t included in the original show.
“The writers were in rehearsal with us, which doesn’t normally happen when a tour goes out,” Scott Cote (Brother Jeremiah) said. “They were still adding and changing things around, which was awesome. We got to work directly with them throughout the process, which was amazing.”
While the cast’s incredible talent was obvious, there is so much more that goes into a show that deserves to be recognized. Tony Award nominee Gregg Barnes created gorgeous costumes, each made individually and custom tailored to the actor.
McClure explained that even their shoes were custom made. “We had to stand and they traced our feet. Then they literally pieced together a boot from real leather around our leg for us.”
Maggie Lakis (Bea) described the earth tones throughout her costumes. “The shirt I wear has leaves on it, even though the audience can’t see it. My costumes are just so gorgeous and full of detail. I love wearing them. Some of the skirts I wear are heavy, though. I need an extra umph every time I move or go up stairs. Once I stop, the skirt swings back and forth a few times. People have learned that I need extra space to walk.”
The cast of “Something Rotten!” was able to take the idea of Shakespeare, something that has long been considered a classic, and make it modern and exciting by discussing issues currently facing our society, including gender equality, self-discovery and forbidden love. We as an audience come back to these themes over and over, not just in theater but in books, movies and even our everyday lives. Maybe Shakespeare really was onto something.
“Something Rotten!” will be at Baltimore’s Hippodrome Theatre through April 23.
Featured Photo Credit: Cast of the Something Rotten! National Tour. ©Jeremy Daniel
Morgan Politzer is a freshman journalism major and can be reached a firstname.lastname@example.org.