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Broadway Series’ Latest Production is Anything But Rotten

Review by Alan Jozwiak of Something Rotten: Broadway in Cincinnati

“You’re doing a play, got something to say
So you sing it? It’s absurd!
Who on earth is going to sit there
While an actor breaks into song?
What possible thought could the audience think
Other than, “this is horribly wrong?”

These lines sung by Nick Bottom in the Broadway musical Something Rotten! beautifully captures the incredulity this character has in being introduced to that most spectacular of theatrical innovations—the Broadway musical.

With a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrel and music/lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick, Something Rotten! tells the story of brothers Nick Bottom (Rob McClure) and Nigel Bottom (Josh Grisetti), contemporary playwrights of William Shakespeare (Adam Pascal), who try to best the bard by coming up with the next great theatrical innovation. They do this by turning to soothsayer Thomas Nostradamus (Blake Hammond)—nephew of famed prophet Michel Nostradamus—who tells them that the future of theater is not with Shakespeare, but with musicals.

Something Rotten! excelled with strong performers who could sing, act, and tap dance (yes, tap dance). There were several show-stopping numbers that employed tap dancing, such as “A Musical” and “Something Rotten!/Make an Omelette.” For a play set in Elizabethan England, it was great fun to see all this tap dancing. It is wildly anachronistic, but very fun.

The Bottom brothers were at the top of their form in this production. Rob McClure as Nick Bottom was completely convincing as the theatrical impresario who desires a hit and could also combine his feelings with songs like “God, I Hate Shakespeare.” He possessed the necessary qualities of desperation and desire to better his lot that audiences root for him. Similarly, Josh Grisetti played the sweet and love struck Nigel Bottom to perfection. He also got a chance to showcase his vocal talents in such songs as “I Love the Way.”

The true scene stealer of this show was Adam Pascal who plays Shakespeare (or should I say… “SHAKESPEARE!”, since this is how the bard is always referred to within the play). Pascal plays Shakespeare with a perfect blend of brazen bombast, besotten boldness, and brain-sick brooding over his continued ability to produce plays. Pascal is Broadway royalty, having originated the Broadway roles of Roger in Rent and Radames in Aida. He is perfectly cast in this play and knows how to poke fun at the bard by turning him into an over-the-top rock god.

Strong performances were also given by the actors playing Brother Jeremiah (Scott Cote) and Thomas Nostradamus (Blake Hammond). Cote is great as the sexually repressed puritan who is against the Bottom brothers and their attempt to make the world’s first musical. His attempts to curb himself are hilarious. Hammond is also great as the zany and eccentric soothsayer who leads the Bottom brothers down the road to writing a musical.

This was a really fun musical. If you are a fan of the Broadway musical, there are more than enough side jokes and references to musicals from the last fifty years that that it should leave you satisfied. Something Rotten! appears courtesy of Fifth Third Bank Broadway in Cincinnati Presented by TriHealth. The show runs February 21 to March 5, 2017.

For more information on tickets, visit the Aronoff Center Box Office downtown at 650 Walnut Street, go online at CincinnatiArts.org, or buy your tickets through the phone at 513.621.ARTS.