During Martin Luther King, Jr. Day weekend, I was given the opportunity of a lifetime to visit New York City with my floor, the Media Living Learning Center at Indiana University. During the trip, we visited with a myriad of media outlets and made connections with a wide variety of journalists. These outlets include NBC, People magazine, New York Times and Sports Illustrated, just to name a few.
While I could easily write a 1,000-page article describing in detail the events of this voyage to the Big Apple – and I probably will in the future – one aspect that I would rather share for now is seeing possibly the greatest theatre production in the past few years on my first night in the city that never sleeps.
“Something Rotten” is an ironic title for this close-masterpiece of comedic proportions. It’s “Spamalot” but even funnier - if that’s even possible – and it’s very much in that absurdist Monty Python tradition.
“Something Rotten” is a sort of what-if story that explores Elizabethan England, which, yes, means a ton of Shakespeare. So much, in fact, that not only is the Bard one of the main protagonists (portrayed flawlessly by Smash actor Christian Borle), but so is Nick Bottom, portrayed by Spotlight star Brian d’Arcy James – who, of course, is a strange embodiment of the comic relief character from “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.”
This is only the peak of the iceberg for the endless amount of references in this musical. Boy, are there a lot of references.
It comes as no surprise, though, when one thinks about it. The story follows Bottom on his quest to write and direct a masterful play to beat his competitor – none other than Shakespeare himself – and therefore goes to a fortune teller to steal what could be Shakespeare’s eventual masterpiece.
With the fortune teller being a dunce, he mistakes “Hamlet” for “Omelette”, and when asked what will be the future of theatre, the teller foretells the birth of musicals. So, naturally, “Something Rotten” becomes a musical about musicals.
Therefore, the resulting musical, “Omelette”, borrows from every mainstream musical even the most die-hard Broadway buffs can imagine, and while I enjoyed trying to fit all the pieces together, it honestly became a little tiresome after a while. It came across as simply bad writing and a limitation of potentially clever jokes.
It comes as a surprise, too, because this is was written by screenwriter Karey Kirkpatrick. Given the wonderfulness of "Chicken Run", "James and the Giant Peach" and his work with "Studio Ghibli", one would expect this to be less in your face with its references and more so with clever dialogue.
But then again, he has done work with the "Smurfs" movies as well, and we all saw just how godawful those train-wrecks were.
I’m being a little tough on “Something Rotten”, though. In all honesty, it was a pretty fantastic musical, and if you’re a Shakespearean, or even just a theatre kid at heart like me, then you will especially love it. The acting is wonderful, the pacing is splendid and it’s just the ideal show to attend when you’re looking for a fun time.
It also looks like a relatively cheap show budget-wise, so this could be perfect to bug your high school music teacher to do for the spring musical this year or next.
All in all, it’s a fun time. If all the world’s a stage, then I would be perfectly content with “Something Rotten” being the play.