Shakespeare Wins, The End: SOMETHING ROTTEN!

SOMETHING ROTTEN!
Conceived by Karey Kirkpatrick and Wayne Kirkpatrick
Book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell
Music and lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick
Directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw
Music directed  by Phil Reno

Now through January 1, 2017
St. James Theatre, a Jujiamcyn Theater
246 W. 44th Street
New York, NY
(Between 7th & 8th Avenues)
Something Rotten! On Facebook

Review by Kitty Drexel

(New York, NYIt is a perk and a privilege to write complimentary reviews for people I know or used to know in a different life. There’s a certain joy in spinning a glowing critique for someone who deserves it. My joy is incalculably multiplied when done for a personal acquaintance. It’s best if it’s a surprise. It’s even better if it’s a special occasion.

Last weekend, Saturday, October 28 I had the pleasure of reviewing Something Rotten! at the St. James Theatre in NYC. I was shocked to see a familiar face on stage that afternoon. I met Josh Grisetti at a liberal arts sponsored poetry event my sophomore year of college at the Boston Conservatory where we were both students. He was quite the presence. My 20 year old heart being what it was, I developed an immediate crush on him. Alas, it went absolutely nowhere. He probably has no remembrance of me. Seeing Grisetti tear up the stage as Nigel Bottom brought all of that back (for better or for worse). He was on Saturday as he was at that reading many years ago: charming and acutely funny. It was a special treat seeing him on stage.

Personal anecdotes aside, Something Rotten! Is a clever show with enough oomph to please theatre enthusiasts, and a dollop of heart to appease sentimentalists. It is Shakespeare’s (Eric Sciotto) Renaissance England. He owns everything the light touches (and many things it doesn’t). Brothers Nick (Rob McClure) and Nigel (Josh Grisetti) Bottom are actors with a troupe that can’t catch a break. Nick visits a Soothsayer (Brad Oscar) who tells him that musicals are the next great invention. Nick and Nigel do their darndest to invent one. Along the way, Nick is supported by his wife Bea (Leslie Kritzer). Nigel falls in love with a anti-theatre Puritan’s daughter, Portia (Catherine Brunell). Hijinks in the name of art ensue.

Rotten! will be at the Boston Opera House starting January 17, 2017. This is the kind of parody musical the New England loves. It pays homage to a beloved artist (good God, does Boston love Shakespeare) without taking the artist or the art too seriously. Rotten! incorporates an offensive level of theatre puns and inside jokes with metatheatre commentary such as the number “God, I Hate Shakespeare.” Attendees with no particular attachment to The Bard may find this song especially comedic. It’s a conversation between Shakespeare disciples and the naysayers. It’s humor points to the truth.

I hope the original choreography makes it into the tour. Nicholaw’s staging allows for dancing reapers with scythes, a tap dance rap battle, and all the show appropriate kick lines one could wish for. There are even dancing eggs! But readers will have to see the show in order to understand why.

The women in this musical are relegated to wife, girlfriend, and ensemble roles. There’s autonomous adventure for the men but not for the gals. That’s how they are written. Bea gets to talk about feminism. She sings about it too in “Right Hand Man.” Talking and singing don’t a feminist make. A feminist audience perspective won’t prevent one from enjoying themselves; it’s still a great show regardless of the cop-out plotline.

This is a family-friendly show for kids over the age of 10. Any younger and lines like “don’t be a penis/he’s a genius” may be inappropriate. There is enough innuendo from the Brother Jeremiah (David Beach), and fraught sexual tension between Nick and Shakespeare that plot lines will go over innocent heads. The codpieces, and every dude has a codpiece, are… Sizable. If your parenting plan includes an explanation for what codpieces are for, go ahead and bring the kids. It’s up to you.  

The moral of the story is “to thine own self be true.” You can see it coming from a mile away but that’s it. The Bottom Brothers also learn to write what they know… Which is another way to say, be yourself because everyone else is taken. Something Rotten! is a well-constructed, fun show with singable tunes and epic ensemble dance numbers. It’s a great night out for anyone who loves musicals. It has enough snark that it’ll serve for those who don’t.

Oh, and it even has two black people in its cast. Everyone else is or passes as white. How quaint. 

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