...Something Rotten! has established itself as Broadway's funniest, splashiest, slap-happiest musical comedy in at least 400 years...tremendous care and showbiz savvy have gone into making a sophisticatedly silly rom-com that has it all: laugh-out-loud lyrics, catchy music, jaw-dropping sight gags and a powerhouse cast selling Bard-laced punch lines to the ecstatic balcony...the songs...are perfectly placed and deliver an escalating level of zaniness. Director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw...keeps it all spinning dizzily, imbuing the self-referential theatricality with sass and smarts. And what a cast. If you didn't already know what a smashing actor and singer Brian D'Arcy James is...here is a chance to see him carry a show with wit, fire and some impressive tap moves.
SOMETHING ROTTEN! Broadway Reviews
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"Something Rotten!"...is fresh and hysterical and irreverent. It's easily the funniest thing to arrive on Broadway since "The Book of Mormon"...the song "A Musical," in which the writers get to goof on such shows as "Rent," 'Pippin," 'Les Miserables," 'On the Town," 'Annie" and the Rockettes. It's one of the highlights of a show that is full of them, all led by director Casey Nicholaw at his exuberant, daffy best...A stunningly good first act...invariably leads to a somewhat weaker second act, but that's still better than most entire musicals on Broadway right now...But Borle as Shakespeare seems to be having the most fun of all. He shakes his butt, gets to put on a disguise and plays a preening peacock of a man..."Something Rotten!" is a valentine to Broadway musicals...these outsiders have created something far from rotten. Or a turd. It's awesome.
This is a big, brash meta-musical studiously fashioned in the mold of Monty Python's Spamalot, The Producers and The Book of Mormon, loaded with crowd-pleasing showstoppers, deliciously puerile gags and an infectious love of the form it so playfully skewers...If the songs themselves are standard-issue show-tunes, they are elevated by dynamic staging and performances. Nicholaw can spin froth into a full-bodied confection, even if this one cries out for something more substantial at the finish. But while Something Rotten! might have benefited from a more robust second act and a punchier closing number, the show is clever enough in its impish desecration of highfalutin history to make it a very agreeable lark...Channeling Tim Curry, Borle is an uproarious scene-stealer who delivers big time in the flashiest part. But it's the enormously appealing James' prickly humor and natural charisma that anchor this highly entertaining show.
"Rotten!" delivers the same sort of accessible and over-the-top laughs as "Mormon"...A generous sampling of Shakespearean conventions helps elevate an otherwise-thin and double entendre-laden plot. While Borle's role is flashier, it's d'Arcy James...who does the heavy-lifting. He's the closest thing "Something Rotten!" has to a serious character...Tony-winner Borle...is clearly beside himself with glee at the chance to play the preening rock-star scribe who throws parties in the park..."Rotten!" paints musical theater culture in the same broad strokes that the "The Book of Mormon" used to satirize religion -- everyone gets to be in on the joke. This new musical makes us do just enough work that we feel satisfied for picking up on them. Go for the production numbers and the big-hearted turns from the leads, whose enthusiasm ultimately proves even more infectious than the plague.
Something Rotten! revels in its silliness while delivering such a nonstop blitzkrieg of production numbers, each out-doing the one before, that you hardly notice how much you've fallen in love with the Bottom bros...It's entirely possible that I would have had a different reaction had not the show given us the exuberant D'Arcy James in his best role ever...Ditto Borle....The book is jam-packed with outrageous puns, bad jokes and inside references to Shakespeare and Broadway, and in that the show is like the much-missed series Forbidden Broadway, but on steroids...One surefire combination in the art of producing for Broadway is the ability to make audiences feel smart -- but not outsmarted -- and giddy at the same time...Anyone who can pull off jabs at Cats and Les Miz at this late hour has tapped into something, you know, not rotten -- and the best tonic I can imagine for this endless winter season.
Borle pulls off the rare feat of appearing simultaneously sexy and ridiculous as the Bard who rips off "Hamlet" from a Renaissance nobody named Nigel Bottom. As that timid genius, John Cariani makes adorable totally arresting when he puts up the good fight not to turn his masterpiece into a musical called "Omelette," which pits him against his very determined, very dense producer-brother, Nick Bottom (Brian d'Arcy James)...when two or all three of them converge, it's musical nirvana. Kudos to director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw for making that happen..."Rotten" appears to be part of Nicholaw's ongoing mission in the theater to bring "Forbidden Broadway" to Broadway...Which is where "Something Rotten!" turns into something recycled...The score by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick is most successful when it sticks to what always works on Broadway nowadays: disco and gospel, complete with a large-voiced black woman, Marisha Wallace, leading the charge.
Something Rotten! is larded with overripe performances, layer upon layer of schmaltz, and everything in the kitchen sink except a battle of flying cream pies...Something Rotten! hits the target again and again, but as the evening progresses they serve up fewer and fewer bull's eyes...After a dazzling production number midway through the first act...the show loses its freshness...there is no theatre-savvy genius like Bobby Lopez to keep things on musical theatre track...What Something Rotten! does have, to its great benefit, is Nicholaw's sharply-etched comedy blocking, his high-powered musical comedy dancing, and a talented cast of comic actors. D'Arcy James...here displays his outsized comic talents...Cariani...makes a fine counterpart as the poetic Bottom brother...Borle, a superb clown who can chew the scenery with the best of them...makes the most of the smarmy Will (as in "Will Power"), although the authors have given him more of a sketch than a fully-rounded role.
Now, that something special is "Something Rotten!," a deliriously entertaining new musical comedy that is devilishly clever under its goofy exterior. The influences are clear: "The Producers," "Spamalot" and "The Book of Mormon." Yep, this is a blockbuster.
This shamelessly silly parody of Broadway musicals -- and outrageous spoof of all things Shakespeare -- was hatched from the fevered brains of brothers Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick...Although comic desperation descends on the second act, it's still a deliriously funny show...That synthesis of highbrow/lowbrow humor is what makes the show so irresistible. The cockeyed creative style works brilliantly in that showstopper, "A Musical," which simultaneously celebrates and sends up everything we hold dear about this peculiar art form, from the "jazzy hands" of Bob Fosse to the synchronized line dancing of the Rockettes...And that's all the plot you need to know, because there's entirely too much of it in the messy second act. But by that time, the show is steaming ahead, fueled by the bold-as-brass music, the ingenious lyrics and the sheer lunacy of the whole enterprise.
Happily, the director/choreographer is Casey Nicholaw, whose distinctly joyful irreverence...is just what's needed here...The talented players are key. Brian d'Arcy James buoyantly returns to Broadway as Nick...Nick prefigures certain skeptical scholars in believing that Shakespeare's invention is not always truly his own. Certainly, as played by a devilishly funny Christian Borle, this Will's a slippery fellow...Nigel, played by John Cariani -- giving a relatively subdued performance, in which tenderness and goofiness are relayed with endearing understatement -- is actually the more inspired of the siblings...Even if you haven't brushed up on your Shakespeare recently -- or your musical theater -- you'll find plenty that's amusing, if little that's memorable, in Something Rotten!
Suffice it to say that, despite my sincere desire to be at the party, the show's good-natured silly charms just feel hammered by an unrelenting tsunami of manic, frenetic, zanier-than-zaniest onslaught of collegiate show-biz humor. Director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw...may be unchallenged today in his ability to put new spins on bushels of naughty-but-nice frolics. For "Rotten!," he has rounded up a pack of Broadway's most appealing clowns and set them loose on a project determined to make breathless (but, alas, not particularly fresh) reference to just about every musical of the last 70 years and every Shakespeare play.
‘Something Rotten!’ review: Brian d’Arcy James leads new musical comedy that riffs on Shakespeare and Broadway
The show is the brainchild of Broadway rookies...who wrote the breezy, hummable score that goes down easy from the start...Karey and John O'Farrell wrote the book, which, fittingly, reminds us that all the world's a stage...Even if you don't get every allusion, the staging by choreographer and director Casey Nicholaw...is consistently fun. And the formula works -- mostly. Some tunes and dance pieces recur. So laughs dry up as "Something Rotten!" becomes a deju vu-sical...The cast is another big plus...John Cariani is solid as Nick's brother...Christian Borle...brings Jagger-like swagger to his plum role of Shakespeare...And as Nick, a guy who makes bad choices, James makes all the right moves, sings with panache and tap dances, too. He's a charmer who makes it look easy. When all is said and sung, James is something outstanding -- the show's living exclamation point.
You could describe "Something Rotten!" as "Shakespeare in Love" meets "Spamalot"...With all its showmanship and silliness, "Something Rotten!" begins on an extremely promising note, sustains it throughout act one, and then falters in act two, where attempts are made to resolve the haywire plot...Even so, "Something Rotten!" is a great deal of cartoonish fun, especially for musical theater fans who can appreciate the inside references...Its cheery songs are enjoyable and hummable...The cast is comprised of musical theater veterans who deliver larger-than-life performances. Borle is especially hilarious, portraying Shakespeare like a narcissistic rock star, and James gives a sympathetic turn in the leading role.
Anything you've ever liked in a musical comedy (and a few things you haven't) are here, just waiting to sing-and-dance you into submission...It's total silliness, of course; Nicholaw keeps the lights bright, the sound loud, and the plot moving at a furious boil...As light as the material may be, it's no easy achievement, and quite a surprise coming from a group of writers with no experience on Broadway...For every freshman infelicity...there are a dozen smart lyrical jokes, nicely set on tunes that do only as much as they need to in order to keep the momentum going...a more fundamental problem -- the only one, really -- is too deeply entwined in what makes the show work to have ever unwound it. I refer to its relentlessness, the will to conquer at any cost, like Mel Brooks on steroids.
Chock full of show tune references, theatrical puns and Shakespeare quotes, the show is a field day for drama nerds. Casey Nicholaw's direction and choreography constantly amp up the silliness and energy, and the cast of veterans is more than game...The bouncy score is crammed with production numbers and clever rhymes...As Shakespeare, Christian Borle is in prime stage animal form...he begins gyrating in skintight pants as he quotes his most famous lines...Yet he seems to have a viable adversary in nervous Nigel, played by Cariani as a sweet-voiced, endearing underdog...The sincere aspects of the musical are its weak points...One could also quibble with the show's reliance on parody and pastiche. But, then, you don't go to "Something Rotten!" expecting something profound. With great comedic timing and expression, James is perfectly cast as the striver Nick.
For the first half hour of "Something Rotten!"...it feels like same winds that blew Mel Brooks' "The Producers" into the St. James Theatre finally are back...This musical...has the best opening comedic number of the season -- heck, several seasons...It's not just the cleverness of the song and director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw's triple-time staging -- it's the sticky melody the Kirkpatrick brothers have crafted...It's catchier than the plague, that darn thing..."A Musical" makes reference to every musical on God's green earth, given that the vision thing offers a delicious license for anachronism. Nicholaw stages this one within an inch of its life, too, stopping the show for a sustained ovation...That level of anarchic comedy is not, alas, fully sustained...Certainly the most fun of the spring musical openings on Broadway, "Something Rotten!" is a sharply directed piece that achieves a consistent world and never checks its own literacy.
"A Musical" is such a showstopper it threatens to render the rest of the show something of a comparative damp squib, and the many subsequent jokes and numbers invoking the lunacy of musicals do become a little repetitive. What carries you through is the evident fun being had by the cast, which also includes Heidi Blickenstaff as Nick's long-suffering, proto-feminist wife and Brooks Ashmanskas as Brother Jeremiah, Portia's literally Puritanical but clearly closeted father. Borle, in particular, seems to be having the best time possible while clothed with his portrayal of Shakespeare as a preening, Frank-N-Furter-esque monster. Will he and the company's efforts be rewarded this time around with a 'smash'? Forsooth, we thinkest they will. B+
"Something Rotten!" is a Mel Brooks-style Elizabethan-era backstage spoof...Alas...Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick have blown it up to 21/2 half hours by inserting 15 mostly comic songs, none of whose lyrics are sharp enough to penetrate their targets...The cast is resolutely lively, and Casey Nicholaw has staged "Something Rotten!" with enough punch to partially conceal the thinness of the material. Nevertheless, this one's for backward sophomores only.
Unchecked enthusiasm is not always an asset in musical comedy, despite the genre's reputation for wholesale peppiness. "Something Rotten!"...dances dangerously on the line between tireless and tedious, and winds up collapsing into the second camp..."Sophomoric" is the right adjective for "Something Rotten!"...this production wallows in the puerile puns, giggly double-entendres, lip-smacking bad taste and goofy pastiche numbers often found in college revues...With his resolute jaw, gleaming smile and heroic tenor, Mr. d'Arcy James wasn't meant to play a sad sack like Nick. Though he works hard, the character eludes his grasp. Mr. Borle brings his well-polished panoply of comic tics, winks and flourishes to his portrayal of Shakespeare as a glam rock star...Borle is a master of carefully stylized excess. In "Something Rotten!," though, he has nothing else to fall back on. Like the show itself, it's both too much and not enough.
Something Rotten! goes over easy. Too easy. The songs are catchy, but quickly digested (though the opening number Welcome to the Renaissance lodges in the head nicely). The book, co-written with John O'Farrell of Spitting Image, and lyrics settle for the undemanding laugh and usually get it. The performers are excellent, of course, with James strutting his song-and-dance stuff and Borle channelling Mick Jagger, or maybe just Harry Styles. Casey Nicholaw directs in his usual pert and perky fashion, and the choreography is reasonably entertaining.