Wayne Kirkpatrick on Bringing SOMETHING ROTTEN! To His Hometown
Try as you might, chances are you won't be very lucky in convincing Wayne Kirkpatrick to give you the scoop about his next Broadway musical - that information is kept under the strictest of confidence, thanks to his pledge to producer Kevin McCollum and his musical collaborator who just happens to be his brother, Karey.
This much he will admit: "We're working on another project with Kevin - and we're in the early stages - and he's asked us not to say what the project is yet, but is should be made public knowledge soon. I can tell you that it includes the same writing team [music and lyrics by the Kirkpatricks, with a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and best-selling author and Tony nominee John O'Farrell] as Something Rotten!"
What he is willing to tell you about, however, is how excited he is for Something Rotten! - the rousing, rollicking and Tony Award-winning musical now on tour nationwide - to come "home" to Nashville for an eight-performance run starting Tuesday, June 27, at Tennessee Performing Arts Center's Andrew Jackson Hall.
"I've been lived in Nashville over 30 years now and I've been seeing shows at TPAC as long as I've been here," he explains. "I don't think I could have ever imagined seeing my own show at TPAC, so this is a real full circle moment for me. I'm as excited to see it in Andrew Jackson Hall as I was seeing it on Broadway for the first time. It means a lot to share the show with my hometown and just watch it with all my friends."
With a successful career in country and Christian music, Wayne Kirkpatrick has long been a stalwart of the music scene in Music City, but his foray into musical theater may have come as something of a surprise to his legions of fans who knew him for the many hit songs he's composed for artists like Eric Clapton, Amy Grant, Garth Brooks, Little Big Town, Michael W. Smith, Bonnie Raitt, Faith Hill, Tim McGRaw, Joe Cocker, Wynonna, Gabe Dixon, Nickel Creek, Trisha Yearwood, Babyface and Peter Frampton, among a myriad of others. His songs have been featured in films such as Almost Famous and Phenomenon and television shows like Grey's Anatomy, True Blood and Hart of Dixie.
Growing up in Louisiana, Kirkpatrick was always involved in music and theater: "I went to a college prep magnet high school in Baton Rouge, where you had to declare a major and my major was theater," he says. "I was in You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown and 1776, so I did theater all through high school and wrote a little bit as part of a class project. At an early age, my brother and I had the exposure to - and a love of - theater and it's always stuck with us."
The Kirkpatrick brothers' journey to Broadway, a long-held dream of the pair, came as the result of planning and, perhaps, more than a little serendipity: "There were several things that prompted us to write the show," Wayne says. "We had talked about doing this for about 15 years and within that time, I came up with a few pieces of music that I thought would lend themselves to something like this. But it took Karey and me a few years to get to the point in our own individual careers where it made sense to do it. Luckily, we had an open door policy with producer Kevin McCollum, who had told us he would be willing to hear whatever we wanted to pitch."
The show they pitched to McCollum - Something Rotten! - is set in 1595 and tells the story of the brothers Bottom (Nick and Nigel) who are struggling to gain a foothold in theater, which is dominated by a playwright cum rockstar Will Shakespeare. But thanks to the ruminations of a second-rate soothsayer namEd Thomas Nostradamus (the nephew of the Nostradamus) who foretells of the next big thing in theater - A Musical! - wherein "an actor is saying his lines, and out of nowhere he just starts singing..." And the rest, as they say, is history...not just in the context of Something Rotten! and its highly theatrical tale, but also in the budding musical theater careers of the brothers Kirkpatrick.
What surprises awaited the Kirkpatricks along the way during the creative process of giving birth to a critically lauded, audience approved new musical? "So many surprises," Wayne says. "Early on, it was finding out how incredibly hard it was to write a musical and then surprise at how it was embraced by so many people. It was a surprise how it has become a love letter to the theater and how it has become a show both for people who love musical theater and Shakespeare and simultaneously a show for people who say they hate theater and Shakespeare."
The resulting show, it seems, has become that hard-to-define and even harder-to-create "something for everyone" that producers, directors and other creative types has long sought.
From the beginning, Wayne Kirkpatrick says he and his brother "were conscious that we wanted to do a show that didn't exclude anyone."
"So, when we included references to Shakespeare and to musical theater in Something Rotten!, we tried to add layers to it, to be broad enough so that theater experts would get those second layer references, yet be broad enough for everyone to find something to like," he suggests.
"The way we achieved this - well, you can't calculate how people will respond when you're writing it, although you may hope they'll react a certain way - is that we have such an incredible love for the theater and every aspect of our love for the theater is apparent all through the show."
Talking with Wayne Kirkpatrick it becomes apparent how well-versed about and immersed he is in the world of musical theater (he is expansive and generous in his praise of the musical team of Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, the duo who just won the Tony Award for Best Musical for Dear Evan Hansen: "After winning the Oscar for LaLa Land and now the Tony for Dear Evan Hansen, they are definitely on a roll."), lauding praise on such recent theatrical behemoths as Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen, while paying homage to more classical/traditional music theater offerings by Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lerner and Loewe and others of their ilk.
"I love Dear Evan Hansen and I was really glad it won the Tony," he says. "Pasek and Paul are great and they're on a roll. I've been a fan of their work for a long time. I first saw DEH off-Broadway and have loved it since. Between that and Hamilton, I love that contemporary music is making its way into musical theater in a way that's still highly theatrical, but brings with it this modern feel - and I guess that's always been the case with musical theater - but I love how theater moves along with the times and doesn't say in one specific place. But, at the same time, there remains an important place for more traditional musical theater. I love how it seems like in every Broadway season there are always drastically different types of shows that can exist and find an audience at the same time."
About Something Rotten! The completely original new musical Something Rotten!, directed and choreographed by Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw, with music and lyrics by Grammy Award winner, Tony Award nominee, and Nashville's own Wayne Kirkpatrick and Golden Globe Award and Tony Award nominee Karey Kirkpatrick, with a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and best-selling author and Tony nominee John O'Farrell, makes its Music City debut at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center's Andrew Jackson Hall June 27-July 2.
Tickets are on sale at www.TPAC.org or by phone at (615) 782-4040, and at the TPAC Box Office, 505 Deaderick Street, in downtown Nashville. For groups of 10 or more, call (615) 782-4060.
From the director of Aladdin and co-director of The Book of Mormon and the producer of Rent, Avenue Q and In the Heights, this musical comedy tells the story of brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom, two playwrights stuck in the shadow of Renaissance rock star Will Shakespeare. When a soothsayer foretells the next big thing in theatre involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, the Bottom brothers set out to write the world's very first musical!
"We are exceptionally proud to close out this year's unforgettable Broadway season presenting an original new musical with ties to Music City," says Kathleen O'Brien, TPAC president and chief executive officer. "Nashville's own Wayne Kirkpatrick, who has written songs for Eric Clapton and Little Big Town, is one of the talented members of this creative team who brought this fresh, witty, clever show to fruition. Something Rotten! is bound to become one of the best modern musical comedies, and I can't wait to share it with our Broadway community."
The New York production opened in April 2015 with the National Tour launching in January 2017. Three Broadway principals are reprising their roles on tour: Rob McClure as Nick Bottom, Adam Pascal as Shakespeare and Josh Grisetti as Nigel Bottom. The touring cast also features Maggie Lakis as Bea, Blake Hammond as Nostradamus, Autumn Hurlbert as Portia, Scott Cote as Brother Jeremiah and Jeff Brooks as Shylock.
The award-winning design team of Broadway veterans includes Scott Pask (scenic design), Gregg Barnes (costume design), Jeff Croiter (lighting design), Peter Hylenski (sound design), Josh Marquette (hair design), Phil Reno (music direction / conductor), Glen Kelly (arrangements), Larry Hochman (orchestrations), Steve Bebout (associate director) and casting by Telsey + Company/Bethany Knox, CSA.
With its heart on its ruffled sleeve and sequins in its soul, Something Rotten! is an uproarious dose of pure Broadway fun and an irresistible ode to musicals - those dazzling creations that entertain us, inspire us, and remind us that everything's better with an exclamation point
Something Rotten! National Tour Photos by Jeremy Daniel