Richard and I saw this musical on Broadway on 5/20. It’s a new show by Wayne Kirkpatrick, Karey Kirkpatrick, and John O’Farrell, none of whom appear to have previously written anything for the theatre. No need to be worried: it was a wonderful show!
It has a cute premise - - we’re in London, 1595. The central character is Nick Bottom, who runs a theatre company with his brother, Nigel. Their shows are all overshadowed by the bright star of London theatre, William Shakespeare. Nick visits a soothsayer (Thomas Nostradamus) and asks him to look into the future and tell him what the next hot new thing is. The soothsayer says it’s musicals! So the two brothers write a musical. Hijinks ensue.
The creators of the show were lucky to get Casey Nicholaw as their director and choreographer. He was the draw for us: he was director/choreographer for three other shows we loved - - *The Drowsy Chaperone*, *The Book of Mormon*, and *Aladdin*. All of them silly, old-fashioned Broadway musicals, and *Something Rotten!* fits right in that mold. There’s nothing that gets at me as much as a well-done tap number, it always turns me into a weepy mess. This show had THREE! Oy, was I a wreck. And to top it all off, one of the numbers culminated in a kick line, another thing that does me in.
That number (with the kick line) was “A musical”, the number where Nostradamus explains what a musical is to Nick. Of course the whole ensemble comes onstage and it becomes a big production number, and the audience was screaming with laughter. There were so many shows referenced throughout the show: *Sweet Charity*, *Cats*, *Annie*, *Cabaret*, *Dreamgirls*, *Pippin*, *The Sound of Music*, *Les Miz*, *Phantom*, *A Chorus Line*, so many more. Both *Gypsy* and *West Side Story* were in there, but no other Sondheim shows, which I found notable. But then I didn’t spot any Jerry Herman references either, so go figure.
The cast was marvelous. Brian d’Arcy James played Nick, and was just perfect. Nice voice, a lively personality, and jeez, he has the biggest smile on Broadway, I lit up every time he lit up. His wife was played by Heidi Blickenstaff - - Richard thought she looked familiar, and I reminded him that she was the lead in *Meet John Doe* at the Ford Theater in DC like eight years ago. My mind, it’s a steel trap! While we’re on the subject, I’ll give a quick shout-out to Jamie Schmidt for doing a great job as music director on *Meet John Doe*, and another to Karlos and Melinda Moser for taking us all out for tapas afterwards! But I digress. Blickenstaff has a great, distinctive voice and totally delivered the comedy.
Brad Oscar was hilarious as Nostradamus. Maybe the best performance in the show (in the best role, it must be said) is from Christian Borle as Shakespeare. He’s presented as an arrogant, preening English rock star. Borle is sort of funny looking, but you put a well-built guy in a pair of leather pants with a big codpiece and he will be oozing sex appeal! His first number, “Will power”, was a riot.
One head-scratching element in the cast: the brother’s girlfriend was played by Kate Reinders, who appears to be a victim of copycat casting. It seems like when producers are replacing a well-known actor in a hit show, they want to hire someone who more or less does an impersonation of the original, as if the audience didn’t know any better. Reinders was an early replacement in the role of Glinda in *Wicked*, and she’s an obvious Kristin Chenoweth knock-off. That might have made sense when she was doing *Wicked*, but she’s in a new show now, and she should knock that off. She should find a good voice teacher and scrub the Chenoweth out of her voice.
I don’t want to end this review on a sour note, because there were no sour notes in the show. We loved it, we laughed our heads off. It’s a special pleasure going to a comedy with Richard, his full body laugh is absolutely priceless.