Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Something Rotten! ***

Emerging out of the blue late in the season comes this dark horse of a musical that is clearly destined for lots of awards and a long run. The creators are an unlikely combo —  Karey Kirkpatrick, a Hollywood based screenwriter/director/songwriter with no theatrical credits; his brother Wayne Kirkpatrick, a Nashville-based songwriter; and John O’Farrell, a British satirist. The brothers are jointly credited with the music, lyrics and concept, while Karey and O’Farrell wrote the book. The only person on the creative side with name recognition is award-winning director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw  The topic and setting are equally unlikely — the invention of the musical in 1595 London. The Bottom brothers, Nick (Brian d’Arcy James) and Nigel (John Cariani) are struggling to keep their theatrical company afloat. To his regret, Nick had previously urged a certain actor whose initials are W.S. to leave the troupe and take up playwriting. Christian Borle plays The Bard as the rock star of his age with a nasty habit of stealing material. Nick, unable to come up with a plot that Shakespeare didn’t get to first, consults soothsayer Nostradamus (Brad Oscar) to find out what will be the “next big thing” and what will be Shakespeare’s best play. Unfortunately Nostradamus never gets things quite right, with the result that Nick sets out to write the world’s first musical — “Omelet.” Nick’s wife Bea (Heidi Blickenstaff) is a proto-feminist.  Nigel falls in love with Portia (Kate Reinders), daughter of leading Puritan Brother Jeremiah (Brad Ashmanskas) who thinks theater and music are the devil’s work. An uncharacteristically restrained Peter Bartlett appears in the dual roles of Lord Clapham and the Minister of Justice. The more familiar you are with the Shakespearean canon and the musicals of the last 60 years, the more you will enjoy the show. Running through the show are snippets from the bard and signature lines from virtually every musical you can think of, each received with delighted recognition by the audience. The music, in a variety of styles, works well within the context of the show. Midway through the first act there’s a show-stopping number (“A Musical”) that brought the loudest, longest applause I have ever witnessed in a theater. The uniformly strong cast seemed to be enjoying themselves.The scenic design by Scott Pask and the costumes by Gregg Barnes are top-notch. The show is entertaining, relentlessly so. I sometimes felt that it was trying too hard to amuse. For me, its clever conceits were stretched beyond their potential. As so often happens, the second act did not live up to the promise of the first. The dance numbers, while lively, were monotonously alike. Despite these reservations, I had a good time. The wildly enthusiastic audience portends a successful run. Running time: 2 hours 25 minutes including intermission.

1 comment:

Tessa said...

Bob, I certainly agree with you that this will be a big hit, and the very clever idea and writing. Had trouble understanding some of the lyrics, esp. in opening number - not a good way to start. I thought the Omlette number in 2nd act was priceless, dancing eggs, it had to happen! and the design of that number was gorgeous. Otherwise I thought the costumes over-designed and the set, thought cleverly conceived to serve the play looked amateurish.