I've never seen a Broadway audience as raucous in a completely rational and organized way as during a couple spots during Something Rotten!. It's all thanks to the good-natured ribbing the show makes at the expense of musicals, Shakespeare, and, yes, audiences who comes out to see one or both of the categories listed above. If you're one of the lucky ones who falls into both camps, then your laughs were likely twice as loud.
The show comes courtesy of brothers Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick, who came up with something so impossibly zany that you can hardly believe it's being performed on such a grand stage, with a stellar cast led by Broadway regulars. John O'Farrell chips in with Karey Kirkpatrick on the book to inject, in this show's case, some time to catch up on your breath between so many showstopping numbers.
It's probably best to go into the show completely fresh, and it's extremely difficult to describe the setting for the show, but the evening centers on the year 1595 during the English Renaissance when William Shakespeare is riding high in British culture and entertainment. Christian Borle does his darndest to give his Will some swagger and every possible drop of narcissism, comically so. Of course, Nick Bottom (Brian d'Arcy James), a struggling playwright himself, takes exception to all of the attention that Shakespeare gets on a regular basis.
It's strange and convoluted at times, but on the whole the show delivers on its promise of a wondrous and unexpected looniness. Director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw gives the show several extra layers of magic with huge, funny dance numbers and finds every opportunity for a visual gag.
That doesn't mean the show is perfect in every way. You have to learn to forgive a sloppy second act that feels repetitive to the first one. Had the plot gone in practically any other direction, and the song, dance and comedy continued along a different trajectory, everything would have seemed right in order. It's only because the second half feels like nothing new that the show's cracks are so visible.
Nevertheless, the show stays true to itself, even wrapping up the ending at a frantic pace to echo the frenzied nature of the final scene of select Shakespeare's comedies when everyone pairs off or gets rescued. As you like it, Broadway.
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