Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 1, 2018

Something Rotten!

The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through February 4, 2018
by Shera Cohen

Photo by Jeremy Daniel
Imagine Shakespeare with punky dyed hair, ever-so tight black leather pants, shirt open to the naval who could pass as Sting’s identical twin. He is one of the 30 or so characters in the hilariously funny “Something’s Rotten” […as “in the state of Denmark”]. The title is an instant clue that, to some degree, “Hamlet” will be significant. But, you say, I don’t like Shakespeare, don’t understand it, haven’t read a play since high school, and left my Cliff Notes at home. Not to worry. Playgoers familiar with The Bard have a slight edge up on appreciating “Rotten,” however, the humor is accessible to everyone. It also helps to be a Broadway buff.

Written by brothers Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick, their story’s leads are brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom, poor wannabe playwright contemporaries of Shakespeare. While the latter is #1 on the Best Seller list, Nick & Nigel have yet to even make the bottom of the list. “Rotten” is their journey from obscurity to continued obscurity. Sounds like a downer. Ah, but there’s the rub – this show is the exact opposite. In fact, it is one of the most sidesplitting musicals I’ve seen. The N&N duo are so na├»ve and sweet at the center of the saga, while most of the uproarious comedy surrounds them.

Rob McClure (Nick), Josh Grisetti (Nigel), and Adam Pascal (Shakespeare) star. McClure is a slight man with a loud voice whose character has big hopes. We love him. Grisetti plays nerdy to perfection. It’s not until Act II that the audience is given the opportunity to hear his magnificent tenor voice. Pascal portrays pompous with a capital “P.” His lines and lyrics are so fast that you might have to strain your ears a bit to catch up with his words, but it’s worth the effort. Pascal’s “Hard to Be the Bard” is my favorite.

“Rotten” is a rare musical. Just when you think you’ve seen the absolute funniest section of a song/dance number and you think the piece can’t possibly be better, it tops itself. “A Musical,” the show-stopper in Act I, and “Make an Omelette,” the Act II show-stopper are perfect examples. “Rotten” is jam-packed with hummable songs (ballads, country, gospel, and lots of rock), rapid-fire tap-dancing (the dance-off between Nick and Shakespeare is a hoot), colorful period costumes, and musician quartet (sounding like a full orchestra).

Kudos to the Bushnell on its opening night full house for a relatively new musical.