Something Rotten Review – Raucous Surprises, a Roaring Good Time

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Something Rotten!, Broadway’s newest musical, is so fun it's hard to say for sure who was having a better time at the St. James Theater the other night, the audience or the actors and musicians on stage.  

"Something Rotten!" was not one of the new shows I was jumping out of my skin to see.  However, earlier that day, a ticket peddler on the street gave this show quite a build-up.  He went so far as to say it was the next, "Book of Mormon."  So I went to the theatre that night expecting 'the second coming'.

To be honest, all the hype ruined the first few minutes of the show for me.  The over-the-top acting on stage was not nearly as overdone as the response from the audience.  It reminded me of the 'plants' or 'seat fillers' that famed Broadway Producer David Merrick used to bump up the energy in the house.  I didn't appreciate it.  However, once I got over the hype, I caught the bug!

Brian D'Arcy James is responsible for my change of heart.  He is the star of the show, a Broadway veteran who deserves this opportunity as much as anyone. He makes the most of every minute he is on stage, which is most of them. He's so good at what he does that he reminded me that with certain, well-crafter pieces, 'over-the-top', is exactly what's needed.

"Something Rotten!", like its predecessors, "Something Happened On The Way To The Forum," "Kiss Me Kate" and "The Producers," is about the making of a Broadway Musical, only in this case it's 1595, so it's pre-Broadway.  It's the time of bards and Shakespeare.  What this show does so seamlessly is to merge the baudy, sophomoric humor with literary and political references, many of which will go over your head on the first viewing.  That makes "Something Rotten!" two and half hours of surprises.  You see some of them coming a mile away, but it doesn't matter.  

This show is hilarious!  It was put together by newcomers Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick, John O'Farrell, and Mormon and Aladdin director and choreographer, Casey NichoLaw.  They supply a wordy, fast-paced text that a lesser cast would trip over line by line.  In these experienced hands, there are no curfuffles to be heard--just pure mastery and delight.

The D'Arcy role, Nick Bottom, is that of a playwright looking for the next 'big thing'. Listening to the advice of a bogus soothsayer, Thomas Nostradamus, he and his brother set out to write, "Omelette: The Musical."  Sound sadly familiar?

I don't want to ruin the experience for anyone, as it was briefly for me, so I'll leave much of the details out.  The biggest and happiest surprise for me was Christian Borle, in the role of the popstar bard of the day.  Perhaps like many of you, I only knew his work in the ill-fated tv appearances in Smash and The Sound of Music, with Carrie Underwood.  He was so understated in both of those roles, I assumed that was his entire range.  Oh no.  Be prepared to have your socks (and perhaps more than that) knocked off!  Now we know where Elvis got his moves!

The rest of the cast is superb.  Of special note are John Cariani, as Nick's brother Nigel Bottom, Heidi Blickenstaff, as Nick's wife, who goes all out to bring the women's movement to the 16th century, and Brad Oscar as Nostradamus.

Despite the over-hype, this is definitely the first feel-good show of the spring season!  Go and enjoy! 

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