Christian Borle, the Tony-winning actor of stage and screen is currently starring as the Bard in the musical Something Rotten!, a story of the birth of the world's first musical, which is inspired by two playwrights' ongoing rivalry with William Shakespeare.
Clad in leather pants and a spiked collar, Borle's take on the Bard is that of an egotistical rock star universally adored by his fellow Renaissance-era men — except for aspiring playwright Nick Bottom, played Tony nominee Brian d'Arcy James (who expresses his disgust in a song titled "God, I Hate Shakespeare").
Despite his character being introduced as "the man who put the 'I am' in iambic pentameter," Borle admits to not being that familiar with the classic comedies and tragedies of the 1500s.
"There's a bit of irony involved in that I've never had much of an affinity for Shakespeare," he said. "I think there are lot of words that he uses that I literally don't understand."
Shakespeare's words are set to slightly more contemporary music in the song "Will Power," in which the Bard (adorned with plenty of eyeliner) and accompanied by backup dancers, entertains screaming corset-clad fangirls with sexualized delivery of lines from Richard III and popular sonnets.
"There's an aspect of this particular Shakespeare being a rock star of 1595 that's a little more accessible — not that I'm a rock star, but at least I know how to play a rock star on some level," Borle said. "It's a fun twist on it, and it's also a fun twist on people who think that Shakespeare might have been not really Shakespeare, or maybe a bit of a plagiarist."
"The Tempest is near and dear to my heart," he added. "We put that on in high school when I was a junior, and my sweet director Mr. Taddler let me design my own Ariel costume. I was trying to decide at that very young age whether I'd be an actor or a comic book artist. I went through a lot of white hairspray... I had one little wing that I would lift up as an homage to Batman. I don't know what I was going for — something woodspritely, I guess."
Something Rotten! marks Borle's first return to Broadway since starring on the theatre-themed TV show "Smash" as the composer Tom Levitt. His screen credits also include "Masters of Sex," "The Good Wife" and the live broadcasts of The Sound of Music and Peter Pan on NBC, which followed his Tony-winning turn in Peter and the Starcatcher.
What else helps him play "the Will with the skill to thrill you with my quill"? Along with his "hors d'oeuvre collar," on which he says he stores melon balls and cheese cubes, Borle said, "Greg Barnes' leather pants that he's given me do at least half the work... They just made the pants tighter and tighter!"
(Carey Purcell is the Features Editor of Playbill.com. Her work appears in the news, feature and video sections of Playbill.com as well as in the pages of Playbill magazine. Follow her on Twitter @PlaybillCarey.)