BWW Review: SOMETHING ROTTEN at the National Theatre
Sometimes touring productions of Broadway musicals are better than their original versions. When I first saw the Tony Award nominated musical Something Rotten in NYC, I found it to be forced and too over-the-top. The current touring production, now playing DC's National Theatre, features a cast that some might say is even better than the original. While all the laughs are still there, everything feels more natural.
Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell's story follows the escapades of the Bottom brothers Nick and Nigel (Rob McClure and Josh Grisetti) in England. It is the time of the Renaissance and William Shakespeare (Adam Pascal) is a rockstar among all the playwrights. To a point, the Bottom brothers are his competition. Nick enlists Nostradamus (Blake Hammond), a soothsayer, to help him come up with a play that will one up Shakespeare - essentially present what will be his best work before he does. Nostradamus doesn't have the most accurate view of the future, so Nick settles on writing a musical entitled Omelette. Nigel doesn't agree with his brother's plan and decides to write something more serious and artistic, which doesn't sit very well with Nick. Not to be outdone, Shakespeare masquerades as an actor named Toby Belch. Belch is cast in the production so it's the perfect opportunity to steal the Bottom brothers' work.
Meanwhile, Nigel is sweet on Portia (Autumn Hurlbert) but there is a problem. Her father Brother Jeremiah (Scott Cote) is a puritan and thus disdainful of the theater and the people who work in it. There is also Nick's wife Bea (Maggie Lakis) who is out to prove that women can do anything men can do.
Add to this a rich Jewish investor type named Shylock (Jeff Brooks), big splashy production numbers, and killer direction and choreography by Casey Nicolaw. Suffice it to say, the show doesn't live up to its name (and that's a good thing).
This is the kind of show that rises and falls on the lead actor. Rob McClure's performance as Nick Bottom is definitely that and more. He leaves everything on stage with such ease and grace. Musical numbers like "Bottom's Gonna be on Top" shows off McClure's full arsenal of talent to the max. Simply put, his performance is nothing short of pure WOW!!
I enjoyed Adam Pascal's performance of Shakespeare infinitely more than his Broadway counterpart and here's why. As written the character is smarmy and egotistical, but there are also other less obvious dimensions. On Broadway the character came off as an egomaniacal type and nothing more. Pascal's performance also brings out Shakespeare's sleaziness. His production number "Will Power" is a definite showstopper.
I also very much enjoyed Josh Grisetti as Nigel Bottom and Autumn Hurlbert as his true love, Portia. Their duet "I Love the Way" is a definite "AWW they are so cute" moment. Maggie Lakis (Mrs. Rob McClure) as Bea makes the most of her stage time as a woman striving for equality against the males. Blake Hammond as Nostradamus knocks the production number "A Musical" out of the park. His performance overall is just hysterical.
Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick's score sounds as glorious as ever. Brian P. Kennedy conducts a twelve-piece orchestra playing Larry Hochman's usual stellar charts. Hochman is easily one of the best modern day orchestrators we have.
All of the original design elements are intact. Scott Pask's sets fit very nicely onto the stage of the National Theatre. Gregg Barnes' costumes range from fluffy omelettes and wenches and a chest-revealing ensemble for Shakespeare. Jeff Croiter's lighting enhances the show as well.
Director and Choreographer Casey Nicolaw's work is still nice and tight, something you don't always get with a long running tour.
Something Rotten is something wonderful. For sooth, grab your tickets while it is in town. It might be "Hard to be the Bard," but it's very easy to enjoy this show.
Running Time: Two hours and 30 minutes with one intermission.
Something Rotten runs through February 18, 2018 at the National Theatre, which is located at 1321 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC. For tickets, click here.