BWW Review: SOMETHING ROTTEN! at the Hippodrome - An Homage to Musical Theatre
I was fortunate to see the original Broadway production of SOMETHING ROTTEN and thoroughly enjoyed it. It had a great cast starring Brian d'Arcy James, John Cariani, Heidi Blickenstaff, Brad Oscar, Kate Reinders, Brooks Ashmanskas, and Christian Borle who won a Tony for Best Featured Actor in a Musical playing William Shakespeare like Mick Jagger. It opened in 2015 and just closed in January, 2017 after 742 performances. There is a clever billboard advertising the show at the Hippodrome as one leaves downtown Baltimore which reads "Winner of 10 Tony Awards" and in small letters adds nominations. Whoever designed the advertising and the logo (a take-off of the web site "Rotten Tomatoes" with a smashed tomato replacing the "O" in "Rotten") deserves an award.
Well let me tell you, this road show of the hit musical is as good if not better than the original Broadway show. From the moment Nick Rashad Burroughs takes center stage and as the "Minstral" begins plucking a tune and then begins the infectious "Welcome to the Renaissance" (the show takes place in 1595...and later there's a line "It's the '90s) the Hippodrome audience was hooked. It is one of the best opening numbers in Broadway history. In fact, I have been humming it ever since I bought the CD and loved singing it to my co-workers all day long.
Credit must be given to the brothers songwriter Wayne Kirkpatrick and screenwriter Karey Kirkpatrick who wrote the music and lyrics with the libretto by Karey and British writer John O'Farrell. And who did the producers get to helm this pastiche? None other than Casey Nicholaw who served as Director/Choreographer of the smash hit musical THE BOOK OF MORMAN. I only wish I could have been there to see the rehearsals for this.
The casting for this Equity touring company is why it is such a success. The show centers on the brothers Bottom who desire to match the notoriety of Shakespeare. Nick (the idea man and named after a character in A MIDSUMMER NIGHT'S DREAM) is played by the most talented musical theater person you have never heard of, Rob McClure. McClure received a Tony nomination for his leading role in the musical CHAPLIN and I thoroughly enjoyed his performance in Jason Robert Brown's entertaining musical HONEYMOON IN VEGAS which I saw at the Paper Mill Playhouse in Millburn, New Jersey which later transferred to Broadway. His humor is infectious. He has a great voice and he can even tap dance. Playing his brother Nigel is the wonderful Josh Grisetti. Nigel is the real talent between the brothers and his naiveté and quirkiness is wholesome. They work together perfectly.
Nigel becomes romantically entwined with the daughter of a religious zealot Brother Jeremiah (the marvelous Scott Cote) named "Portia" (the talented Autumn Hurlbert) who just adores the sonnets Bottom writes. Hurlbert and Grisetti perform brilliantly together.
Playing Nick's wife "Bea" is the lovely Maggie Lakis (the real wife of McLure) who gets a chance to fight for feminism in "Right Hand Man".
What a coup it was for the tour to snag the star of the original cast of RENT and AIDA, Adam Pascal to play the Bard. You must wait almost an hour into the show to see the talented Pascal play Shakespeare as if he were Mick Jagger. He nails the part. He shines in "Will Power" and "Hard to Be the Bard".
When Nick Bottom is stumped when attempting to compose a play, he turns to a soothsayer named Nostradamus (the magnificent Blake Hammond) who almost steals the show when he looks to the future and advises Bottom the future of the theater may something called .... a musical. The number "A Musical" brings down the house. I have never heard such a thunderous ovation at the Hippodrome in the middle of a show which lasted about three minutes. There was whooping and hollering. The music you will recognize comes from such shows as: RENT, CATS, A CHORUS LINE, CHICAGO, ANNIE, LES MISERABLES, JOSEPH, THE SOUND OF MUSIC, SWEET CHARITY, SWEENY TODD, and SOUTH PACIFIC.
The energetic and talented ensemble really make the show the hit that it is.
Kudos to Conductor Brian P. Kennedy and the 11 great musicians in the pit.
SOMETHING ROTTEN! runs until Sunday night, April 23 at Baltimore's Hippodrome Theatre. Call 410-547-7328 for tickets or go to www.ticketmaster.com. Visit the show's website, www.rottenbroadway.com.
Let me repeat...do not miss it.
If you cannot make it this week, SOMETHING ROTTEN! heads to Washington, DC to play the National from Feb. 6 to Feb. 18, 2018.