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Hard to Be the Bard

Laced throughout with humor for Shakespeare aficionados and musical theater geeks, Something Rotten! reeks with originality and double-entendres while exploring the origins of “a musical.”

Hannah Gray Gordon
April 29, 2017

If an exciting, adventurous and fun musical is on your bucket list of things to see, look no further than Something Rotten!, which comes to Tulsa for eight performances from May 23-28 at the Chapman Music Hall of the Performing Arts Center. Presented by Celebrity Attractions, this groundbreaking musical set in 1595 takes the story of Shakespeare and his writing endeavors and twists it into the new, never-told story of Nick and Nigel Bottom (the last name comes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream), two brothers attempting to write a smash hit while overshadowed by the shining success of Shakespeare, who is seen as the “rock star god” of plays.

Produced by Tony Award-winner Kevin McCollum (In the Heights, Avenue Q, and Rent) and directed and choreographed by Tony Award-winner Casey Nicholaw (The Book of Mormon), Something Rotten! attained success from the start. The musical opened on Broadway in April 2015 and was geared both toward musical and Shakespeare lovers and those who aren’t familiar with either but want a good, fun night out.

The show originated from an idea that brothers Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick had. Karey, who started his career as a successful screenwriter for Disney Animation, and Wayne, a Grammy Award-winning songwriter, imagined a writing team trying to come up with a hit play under the shadow of Shakespeare. “It was a series of conversations that happened over many years,” says Karey. “We were big history buffs. We started with ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if Shakespeare’s London were a lot like what Broadway was like in the ‘30s?’ And went from there. It’s about show business and putting on a show. Just doing that in Tudor times gives it an extra spin.”

The Shakespeare of this world is the glorious “villain,” a young thespian fired by the main characters, Nigel and Nick Bottom, as a result of his poor acting ability. When he goes on to write Romeo and Juliet and becomes an overnight success, the Bottom brothers find themselves obsessed with one-upping him and coming up with something bigger and better. Enter the soothsayer Thomas Nostradamus, who predicts that the next big thing will be something called A Musical” — a play, but with singing and dancing and music. He goes on to say that the next successful play Shakespeare will write will be about an omelette. Armed with the words of the soothsayer, the Bottom brothers begin to explore how to make their own musical, with songs packed full of energy and wit and cleverly titled A Musical.

Something Rotten! opened on Broadway in April 2015 and was geared both toward musical and Shakespeare lovers and those who aren’t familiar with either but want a good, fun night out.
Something Rotten! opened on Broadway in April 2015 and was geared both toward musical and Shakespeare lovers and those who aren’t familiar with either but want a good, fun night out.

Throughout the story the brothers seek to gain footing in a show business resting comfortably under Shakespeare’s shadow. They are joined in their efforts by Nick’s wife, Bea, a feminist who refuses to conform to Elizabethan London attire, and Nigel’s new love interest, Portia, a Puritan whose family strongly disapproves of their relationship. 

While the show is packed full of references to the stage that only the theater savvy would catch, Steve Bebout, associate director of Something Rotten! says the show is enjoyable for everyone regardless of musical theater experience. “Most people know a little bit more about both of those things than they think they do,” says Bebout. “It’s part of our collective consciousness in culture. Everyone’s come into contact with Hamlet at some point in their lives.”

One of the main points of the show is that there is no fancy 1500s London vernacular to navigate. Instead, the characters speak in their own, normal accents as if they were in current day America. “It does so much to invite the audience in,” says Bebout. “We give you Shakespeare in a way that feels familiar.”

The collective 19 musical numbers are full of energy and wit, with songs like “God, I Hate Shakespeare” and “It’s Eggs!” Additionally, the musical makes numerous references to a host of other musicals including The Phantom of the Opera, West Side Story, Little Shop of Horrors, and Cats. The song “A Musical” spends six minutes encompassing the entire platform of musicals sure to keep you laughing. 

Wayne Kirkpatrick wrote the songs and lyrics to the show with a broad audience in mind, sticking to the mainstream musicals to ensure the audience would grab the references in the songs and further their enjoyment of the story. 

“Wayne records pop and country [and could] give an edge and style to the show that makes it unique and hip,” says Bebout. The hilarity of the music shines on the faces of the cast members as they perform, radiating into the audience with an energy sure to keep everyone moving in time to the beat.

Tulsa Performing Arts Center
110 E. 2nd St. | Tulsa
May 23: 7:30 p.m.
May 24: 7: 30 p.m.
May 25: 7:30 p.m. 
May 26: 8 p.m.
May 27: 2 p.m., 8 p.m.
May 28: 2 p.m., 7 p.m.