To get to the bottom of the boisterous mélange that is the multi-Tony-nominated Something Rotten!, audiences need an appreciation–and perhaps a thick lexicon–of all things musical (and probably also Elizabethan), as most of that genre is provoked, evoked or parodied inside this inventive 2015 Shakespearean shell.
But first we need some Bottoms, brothers Nick (Tony nominee Rob McClure, named after the Midsummer mechanical), a short, struggling married scribe, and lanky, nerdy single poet Nigel (Josh Grisetti) to become the background players getting a chance at the spotlight, a Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Alive and Looking to Break Into Showbiz.
Their foil is metallically clad Shakespeare (Tony nominee Adam Pascal), a Conrad Birdie rock star wearing an outsized codpiece to match his ego and groupie count, now even more inflated after the hit opening of his Romeo and Juliet.
The Bard schmoozes at after parties with Bacon, Middleton and Spenser as well. Pumpkin pants and colorful period pieces, created by Gregg Barnes, clad the robust ensemble, who keep promoting their “resumes and head sketches.” Nigel also tangles with his new girlfriend Portia’s (Autumn Hurlbert) Puritan father and hapless double-entendre dispenser Brother Jeremiah (Scott Cote).
Nostradamus’ nephew Thomas (Blake Hammond) prophesies that the Brothers Bottom should create a new form, the musical, titled what he thinks should be called Omelette (rather than Hamlet). What results is what might be called Buffoons Over My Hammy, a glut of jokes in the oeuf oeuvre, and a largely successful scramble of actors behind-the-scenes a la Waiting for Guffman.
Real-life brothers Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick penned the rapid fire music and lyrics–starting with “Welcome to the Renaissance”–and Karey co-wrote the book with John O’Farrell, direction and ebullient choreography by Casey Nicholaw, which runs two and half full hours.
There’s Fosse-flavored tap-dancing a-gogo, and references a-plenty including Annie, Jesus Christ Superstar, A Chorus Line, Dreamgirls, The Lion King, Fiddler on the Roof, Mary Poppins, and, of course, Cats.
It’s full of sound and fury, but signifying something. Eggs can have legs, and brought the opening audience to their feet.
Something Rotten! runs through July 23 at the Oriental Theatre, 24 W. Randolph St. Tickets and info at 312-977-1710.