The Column Online



National Tour

Book, Music, and Lyrics by Karey Kirkpatrick
Music and Lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick
Book by John O’Farrell

AT&T Performing Arts Center

Director/Choreographer- Casey Nicholaw
Music Supervisor/Vocal Arrangements- Phil Reno
Musical Director/Conductor- Brian P. Kennedy
Scenic Design- Scott Pask
Costume Design- Gregg Barnes
Lighting Design- Jeff Croiter
Sound Design- Peter Hylenski
Orchestrations- Larry Hochman
Hair Design- Josh Marquette
Music Arranger- Glen Kelly
Production Stage Manager- Jeff Norman
Stage Manager- Matt Schreiber
Assistant Stage Manager- Brae Singleton
Associate Director- Steve Bebout
Associate Choreographer- Eric Giancola
Music Coordinator- John Miller
Company Manager- Jim Harrison

Rob McClure (Nick Bottom)
Adam Pascal (Shakespeare)
Josh Grisetti (Nigel Bottom)
Maggie Lakis (Bea)
Blake Hammond (Nostradamus)
Autumn Hurlbert (Portia)
Scott Cote (Brother Jeremiah)
Jeff Brooks (Shylock)
Lucy Anders (Ensemble)
Kyle Nicholas Anderson (Ensemble)
Daniel Beeman (Ensemble)
Brandon Bieder (Dance Captain)
Mandie Black (Ensemble)
Nick Rashad Burroughs (Minstrel, Ensemble)
Drew Franklin (Ensemble)
Juliane Godfrey (Ensemble)
Leah Hofmann (Ensemble)
Kristie Kerwin (Ensemble)
Ralph Meitzler (Ensemble)
Patrick john Moran (Ensemble)
Joel Newsome (Lord Clapham, Ensemble)
Con O’Shea-Creal (Ensemble)
Tonya Thompson (Ensemble)
Swings: Kate Bailey, Ian Campayno, Pierce Cassedy, Eric Coles

Reviewed Performance: 6/13/2017

Reviewed by John Garcia, Senior Chief Theater Critic/Editor/Founder, THE COLUMN. Member, AMERICAN THEATRE CRITICS ASSOCIATION for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

Something Rotten arrived at the St. James Theater on Broadway with an interesting background. Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick (brothers just like the musical) in the 1990s had this kernel of an idea about a musical spoofing the Bard, musicals in general, and Broadway. During their journey of creation, they connected with composer John O’Farrell, and taking their piece to producer Kevin McCollum in 2010. In 2014 they had Tony Award winning Director/Choreographer Casey Nicholaw on board and they mounted a widely successful workshop.

Many musicals have out of town tryouts away from the New York critics and snoopy insiders. Something Rotten was to have their try out run in Seattle at the 5th Arts Avenue Theater in 2015. This Seattle Theater already had success with previous try out runs of Hairspray and Jekyll & Hyde. But when word got to Producer McCollum that the St. James was available, he had such faith in the show and had received positive results from the workshop. That’s when he decided to put all his eggs in one basket (pun intended) bypassing the out of town try out and went directly to Broadway!

The musical cracked open on March 23, 2015. The Bard would be quoted and sung for 742 performances. Something Rotten received 10 Tony award nominations (winning one), 8 Drama Desk nods (winning one), and 11 Outer Critics Circle Awards nods.

I did catch a performance of Something Rotten on Broadway just one month after they had opened. The ushers at the St. James Theater are still searching for my spleen and bladder as both internal organs exploded from my body from laughing so hard.

Thus, let’s see how this national tour’s cod pieces measure up to the Broadway version.

One of the delicious treasures of seeing this new musical for the first time was not knowing the plot which really made it special and unique for me. So I will not spill the goods here. Suffice to say, it is a very original book slathered in a zillion one liners, jokes, and physical comedy all evening long. As an added bonus the book and score are not based on a movie, TV show, or a jukebox catalogue!

While sitting at the St. James at intermission I thought to myself, “This can tour easily”. Meaning the production did not have complicated moving sets on electronic floor tracks or turntables. Nor massive complicated set pieces that cannot tour (think Titanic). It also did not have a cast of dozens or endless costume changes. Thus, audiences here in Dallas (and beyond) are seeing the physical elements that have not changed that much from the original. There are a few tweaks I noticed, but the majority of the original scenic design is there.

What also helps this musical in not losing any of its shine and finesse was having the original production team return for this tour. You have the extraordinary direction and pizzazz, crowd pleasing choreography by Nicholaw. It also was a festive surprise to see that he, the Kirkpatrick brothers and O’Farrell took another crack at the book and score to add some new one liners, comedic bits, and touch ups on the music and orchestrations.

Scott Pask's scenic design, Gregg Barnes’ costumes, and Jeff Croiter’s lighting design all remain intact from the original. So all the vibrant colors and movement of light, the array of lush Elizabethan costumes and the fantastic earthy sets from all three impeccable designers is still a feast for the eyes.

From high school to college and beyond I have been taught to know that ensembles are the backbone of any musical. They can be the success or the failure of any musical. The SR (Something Rotten) ensemble is not only the backbone but the engine and heart of the piece. This band of insanely talented triple threats play a dizzying array of characters all evening long. From villagers to guards, to peasants, to snooty party guests, and even dancing omelets! Their facial expressions were priceless. Their vocals were sublime and rich in tone (harmonies were pitch perfect), and their dancing almost caught the Winspear stage floor on fire- they are that hot!

There is a quartet of men called Will’s Power Backup Boys that earn special kudos. During the New York run they were labeled “The leather boys”. All four wear tight leather pants with open shirts and flowing locks. They back up Shakespeare where ever he goes. There were times I would watch them and they posed there like sexy Lotharios encased in leather dripping in masculine heat. Think Renaissance boy band! These four sang and danced up a storm. These four studs in leather comprised of Daniel Beeman, Drew Franklin, Ralph Meitzler, and Con O’Shea-Ceal.

Praise must also be given to the Chef Trio in a “certain” number in Act II. Kyle Nicholas Anderson, Nick Rashad Burroughs, and Con O’Shea-Ceal. Tight wicked harmonies these three sang and tapped like they were a wind-up toy that never lost energy or missed a step.

Within the supporting cast providing performances that kept giving the audience hearty laughter include Joel Newsome as Lord Clapham and Jeff Brooks as Shylock.

Chewing up the scenery and stealing every scene they were in were two actors that gave side splitting performances. Scott Cote is Brother Jeremiah; he is the patriarch of the religious puritans who bellows from the good book fire and damnation to poets and theater folk. But Jeremiah with his billowing black cloaks sashays around like he is on the runway for RuPaul’s Drag race. It is met with screams of laughter. His facial expressions, body movement and sizzling comedic timing is hysterical. Brother Jeremiah keeps saying loud proclamations, but they always come out blue and bawdy. Cote is outrageously hilarious!

Blake Hammond has one of the best numbers of the entire score, and it becomes a thunderous showstopper-which is placed in Act One! Hammond is Nostradamus, a soothsayer. When Nick Bottom pays him to look into the future, his vision becomes a masterpiece of music, book, lyrics, choreography, and comedic brilliance that will have you cross your legs for fear you will wee-wee in your seat from guffawing so hard! The number is titled “A Musical”. For lovers of musicals, you will catch the never ending homages to so many shows in this number. The energy from everyone is so powerful that it almost lifts you out of your seat! When the number finished, Hammond and the company were met with one of the longest ear shattering applause and whistles that I ever saw at the Winspear. I mentioned this in my review of the New York version that this character desperately needed a second number in Act II. You can feel the audience hungry for this. Alas it doesn’t happen. But Hammond has some terrific one liners in Act II that are met with resounding laughter. His facial expressions and comedic timing are worth their weight in gold.

Maggie Lakis (Bea) and Autumn Hurlbert (Portia) are the two lone female leads in a village of men. But these two hold their own like Wonder Woman’s amazon warriors. Bea is married to Nick. She is a supportive, loving wife, but she knows there are greater things for women, like good jobs and equal pay. Hurlbert is the only child of Miss Thang Brother Jeremiah. With flowing blonde curls she falls in love with Nigel, a penniless poet and writer who works in theater. Two things her father hates! Both women sing like angelic nightingales bathed in sunshine. They show no vocal breaks as they glide to the higher notes. Pristine diction from both as well. Lakis has great fun as she disguises herself as a man to get work. While Hulbert’s Portia is so bubbly, full of school girl squeals, and incredibly hyper, that you wonder if her pre-show ritual is downing two boxes of 5 hour energy drinks. She has some very jovial scene work with her paramour Nigel (Josh Grisetti).

Josh Grisetti is a tall, adorable, lanky fellow who is Nigel Bottom, a superb poet and playwright. If you studied your Shakespeare you will get the connections to Nigel’s ideas to the Bard. Grisetti has a muscular strong baritone voice that includes a sweet falsetto. His voice crests on an iron clad vibrato. He doesn’t play Nigel as dumb, but instead as a hopeless romantic who somehow gets a feeling that his ideas are good, even if his brother Nick doesn’t think so. Grisetti has a beautiful, sweet duet with Hurlbert titled, “I Love the Way”. His chemistry with her is charming and quite touching. While his chemistry with Nick (Rob McClure) is rock solid. It’s just like any other brother relationship. They laugh, fight, create, disagree, but always in the end hug it out.

Rob McClure generated a lot of critical praise and a Tony award nomination for his portrayal of the lead role in the Broadway musical Chaplin. As Nick Bottom, McClure is impressive and remarkable in the role. His comedic timing, pace, and delivery is superior. He knows just where to place the pause to generate even bigger laughs. His facial expressions fit like a perfect pair of Galligaskins over his comedic talents. There are times where he does not have the punch line, but his response is next, so he does a take to the audience and then goes in for the home run. That’s comedic talent! McClure has several songs that are outlandish and exciting, covered in flawless vocals. Some his show stopping numbers include “Bottom’s Gonna Be on Top”; “God I Hate Shakespeare”, and of course “Something Rotten/Make an Omelette.” McClure has exceptional chemistry with Grisetti, Lakis, Adam Pascal, and the rest of the company. It is sweet though to note that Lakis and McClure are married in real life. If you have been following him on he has been filming the tour on the road. He even shows the cat he and his wife have with them on the road. McClure’s adorable, affable personality and his marvelous talents shine brightly within his performance.

The surprise performance of the night comes from Tony Award nominee Adam Pascal. I have been very fortunate to have seen practically all of Pascal’s Broadway work (Rent, Aida, Cabaret, Chicago, and Memphis). The bulk of Pascal’s previous stage work are roles that contain serious themes. Before he started his journey on stage, he was a rock musician playing in various bands. He has released four CDS showcasing that megawatt tenor rock voice. Pascal does have under his skin that rocker aura and swagger. All of this works stunningly in his creation of Shakespeare.

In SR, Shakespeare (Pascal) is a rock stud god with a walk and swagger that would make Tony Manero from Saturday Night Fever cross the street and hide. Pascal wears these pants that are so tight they look like they painted them on him in the wings. But that’s what our rock lead singers wear, from Mick Jaggar to Adam Levine. With his golden hair and his eyes lined in black (as rockers do), Pascal looks and acts perfectly as the rock god to playwriting. What is the surprise is to see new talents we had not seen before in him. He speaks with a snobbish English accent as Shakespeare, but in Act II he uses a cockney dialect as Tom (the new actor in the show). Pascal has superlative comedic timing, pace, and delivery. As if that wasn’t enough, he pulls out a razzle dazzle tap routine for the finale of Act I. It sincerely was a great surprise to see all these fantastic talents pour out of Pascal. Costumed in stunning gold and silver leather jackets (one with a metal collar!), he looked every inch of a man that makes women swoon in their petticoats and pantaloons. Pascal had some thrilling and intoxicating songs within the commanding score. His first number “Will Power” Pascal displays that out of this world tenor vocal submerged in rock. Pascal generates hilarious laughs in Act II with “Hard to Be the Bard”; this shows off wonderfully his comedic chops. Pascal delivers a commanding and exhilarating performance that was electrifying to watch!

Right now are nation and world for that matter is dealing with so much in regards to politics, scandals, violence, terrorism, homophobia, hatred, and much more. The TV news and social media feeds us all this horror non-stop. So escape all this for two hours. Go to the Winspear box office get some tickets to see Something Rotten and just laugh you face off and let your sides ache from guffawing so much. Escape the outside world and allow this magnificent talented cast take you on a journey of laughter. It is the perfect remedy to the cruel reality just outside those Winspear Opera House glass doors.

I have to go now as I just got a call from an usher at the Winspear; they found the other internal organs that popped out of my body last night from howling in laughter. Maybe I’ll stop at Denny’s on the way; I have a sudden craving for an omelet with a big slice of ham….again pun intended.

Winspear Opera House at AT&T Performing Arts Center
Through June 25, 2017

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