BWW Review: SOMETHING ROTTEN at Orpheum Theater: A Standout Surely Not To Be Forgotten
You've seen it done before. A play on words, but this production is literally a play with its sole premise on words. Shakespearean verse set to music teeming with puns and double entendre. A merry minstrel with a set of vocal pipes takes us back to the Renaissance ("Welcome to the Renaissance,") and gives us a taste of the golden years burgeoning out of the Dark Ages. We're talking the rhapsody of ancient technology and archaic sciences with Elizabethan progressivism. It's also culturally advanced because there is a woman on the throne. Something Rotten, opened Tuesday night at the Orpheum Theatre and left the crowd cheering for more.
Shakespeare is all the rage, a renaissance man himself, and depicted as a rock star, oozing with stardom, but he apparently cannot conceive a single original thought on his own without the inspiration of his fellow rivalry, the Bottom brothers, Nick and Nigel Bottom. Adam Pascal ("Rent,") is the saving grace with his portrayal of the pompous Shakespeare, giving life to the character with star power and a bombastic personality. The words of Shakespeare garners all the accolades and praise as the best playwright in Europe. "If you're name is Shakespeare you're better than hot/ but if you're any other writer, then you're not." The famous bard in this case is a hack, and hardly the brilliant theatrical genius he is made out to be ("Hard to Be the Bard.")
Lost in the anonymity of the theatre, Nick Bottom (Tony Award nominee Rob McClure) seeks out a soothsayer (Blake Hammond) to gain foresight into the theatrical future: musicals! Yes, really, musicals. And the show stopping number ("A Musical,") pays homage to just about every classic and beloved musical that has ever graced the Broadway stage.
Nick seethes in anger over his resentment of the celebratory bard, ("God, I Hate Shakespeare,") and Nigel finds love with Portia, ironically one of Shakespeare's leading ladies, and a Puritan damsel with a pious father hell-bent on bringing down the antics of the theatre that's demoralizing society. Enamored by his flair for verbiage, Portia steals away to be with Nigel (Drama Desk Award nominee Josh Grisetti). The star crossed logophiles rendezvous to indulge in their love of poetry, a palpable temptation for the Puritan ingénue. Like any great Shakespeare play, snafus ensue as characters pose as imposters and the plot thickens. Not resting on his laurels, Shakespeare knows if the tables are turned, he has to find a way to stay on top. Nick is also aware of his underdog status but if his musical "Omelet," can be a smash hit, he is sure to make it big and be lauded as the greatest bard of his time ("This Bottoms Gonna Be On Top".) Nigel, skeptical of such lofty ambitions, reminds him "to thine own self be true." "Omelet," may not be his cup of tea, err, sour grape wine.
There is something rotten in the state of Denmark, but they just can't figure out what the solution to that is. Whether it be lemons or in this case, "When life gives you eggs, you got to make an omelet." To emphasize this point, cue dancing eggs and omelets in the lineup of chorus dancers (It's Eggs!")
The ensemble is fantastic with their execution of complex and stylized choreography, and sell it effortlessly with pizzazz. The 2015 musical originally starred Broadway veterans Brian D'Arcy and Christian Borle, with the book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell, and music and lyrics by brothers Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick. Choreography is by Casey Nicholaw.
A jocular song and dance fanfare of melodious merriment, it's full of folly, quippy one liners, and farcical entertainment. So many tropes. So many references that fly by in the blink of an eye, so stay planted at the edge of your seat because it's quick, it's witty, and it's downright bawdy. While not brazen, it carries mature humor and themes that may not be for everyone. But you might just leave the theatre dancing and delighted, like you're one of the chorus ensemble.