The year is 1595, hitmaker William Shakespeare struts and preens like a Renaissance Mick Jagger, and Nick Bottom is fed up. Nick and his brother Nigel are a playwriting team whose careers are going nowhere fast, and he can’t abide the Bard. Desperate to write a hit and to outshine Shakespeare, Nick consults with a soothsayer, who informs him that the next big theatrical thing will be shows that feature song and dance. So Nick and Nigel set out to write the very first musical.
Welcome to the wacky, absurd world of Something Rotten!, which sends up Shakespeare and musicals with great silliness, wit, and affection. Written by Broadway newcomers Wayne Kirkpatrick (music and lyrics), Karey Kirkpatrick (music, lyrics, and book), and John O’Farrell (book), and directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, Something Rotten! hit the road in January just nine days after its Broadway run ended. Leading the national tour are Rob McClure (Nick), Josh Grisetti (Nigel), and Adam Pascal (Shakespeare), all of whom come directly from the New York production.
Despite the barrage of references to Shakespeare and musicals, those with limited knowledge of either or both can appreciate the show’s over-the-top humor. “You can say that the show is a big, flashy musical comedy that makes fun of musicals and Shakespeare, and that’s true,” says McClure. “But it’s also about a guy, a writer, who’s trying to provide for his family and is living in the shadow of Shakespeare and is trying to beat him. That’s a story that stands on its own. Anyone in in any field can relate to trying to compete and provide. So much of the humor comes from Nick’s desperation and the mistakes he makes in trying to do the right thing.”
McClure says that the cast is greeted nightly by huge crowds at the stage door, and he’s always willing to engage with them, because he remembers what it was like. “When I was in high school, I saw Gary Sinise in One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” he says. “It was a matinee, and I waited at the stage door afterward, and no one else was waiting. He came out and I started gushing: ‘I just did my first musical in high school and I want to be an actor and I don’t know how you did what you did.’ And Gary Sinise said, ‘You know, this show is long, so my break between shows is shorter than usual. Do you mind walking and talking?’ He brought me to a deli and bought me an egg salad sandwich and asked me about my play. He took the time to encourage me, and that has stayed with me. May we all be so lucky.”