Something Rotten is Something Wonderful

-Marialena Rago
-Photos by Jeremy Daniel

Imagine life during the Renaissance with all the new inventions and great poets and storytellers. It’s a time where William Shakespeare is treated like a rock star and indoor plumbing is a novelty. Welcome to Something Rotten, the amusing romp that is now at the Academy of Music until March 4th. This fantastic musical comedy will keep you laughing from the opening song. The show follows two brothers, Nigel and Nick Bottom (Josh Grisetti and Rob McClure, respectively), who try to outdo the Bard (Adam Pascal) and create a new play that everyone will love. The Bottom Brothers have been trying to get a hit, but are always upstaged by Shakespeare. Nick has a baby on the way with his wife Bea (played by McClure’s real life wife Maggie Lakis) and mountains of debt, so he decides to see a seer to help figure out a new theatre sensation.


Nick visits Nostradamus (Blake Hammon) – not the famous one, but his nephew – and he tells Nick that the next big hit will be…musicals! Nick finds this to be an incredibly odd concept, but after some convincing, he runs home to tell Nigel about it. As the two of them work to create something even better than a Shakespeare production, Nigel falls in love with the poet-loving Puritan, Portia (Autumn Hurlbert). The brothers can’t seem to find a fitting plot for their new musical, so in a last ditch effort Nick returns to Nostradamus to get insight on (and steal) Shakespeare’s greatest idea. Of course, hilarity ensues.

In its first national tour, Something Rotten gives us one of the best touring casts we have had here in Philadelphia. It includes the charming and funny Rob McClure, who resides here with his Philly native wife Maggie Lakis (read our interview with her here). McClure’s voice and physical comedy is some of the best. The show also features Adam Pascal who is perfectly cast as William Shakespeare. Many theater fans will know him as the original Roger Davis from the Off-Broadway, Broadway and movie version of Rent; he’s as close to a rock star as we theater fans have.


The supporting cast is equally as strong and funny with Blake Hammond as the seer, Autumn Hurlbert who gives a cute performance with major Galinda from Wicked vibes as Portia (Hurlbert was also the runner up in MTV’s search for the Legally Blonde musical’s Elle Woods), and Scott Cote as Brother Jeremiah who simply just has to walk on stage for you to laugh!

Every song in the musical is big and flashy, especially “A Musical”, which uses elements from famous Broadway shows like Les Miserables, Annie, and Avenue Q. It is a fantastic song and any theater nerd will be able to pick out the references with ease. How many can you recognize when you see Something Rotten this weekend? “God, I Hate Shakespeare” is where McClure really shines in his ability to make you laugh with his inflection and comedic timing. I, for one, wish he was the original Nick just so I could have seen him win the Tony!

Theater fans in general will love this musical because of the little nudges to all the musicals in the past (or should I say future?!). Shakespeare fans will enjoy how the show incorporates his sonnets and plays, but might resent the fact that the show does make him out to be a fraud of a Bard. It is a great musical to take the family to this week if you just want to do “something more relaxing and less taxing on the brain.”


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