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Something Rotten!

Evan C

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If anyone decides to see a musical in New York any time soon, I cannot recommend Something Rotten! highly enough. It's a mash-up of Shakespeare and musical theatre tropes, which simultaneously parodies and pays tribute to countless musicals. I wouldn't say it's the best musical I've ever seen, but it is unquestionably the most fun musical I've ever seen. The lively pace is maintained throughout, and the second act neither gets bogged down with extraneous filler nor rushes through the climax to tie up all the plot points. The references to other musicals include: The Music Man, Annie, Rent, Chicago, A Chorus Line, The Sound of Music, The Lion King, Dreamgirls, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Cats, Les Miserables, The Phantom of the Opera, My Fair Lady, Chess, and more. The Merchant of Venice and Hamlet play crucially into the plot as well.

Portraying Shakespeare as a pompous rock-legend was an hilarious decision, and Christian Borle is absolutely brilliant. Keeping that in mind, his two songs have a distinctive Queen-vibe, especially the second one. Brad Oscar, another original cast member, is also hilarious as the sooth-sayer Nostradamus who spits out various aspects of famous musicals as Nick Bottom, a failing playwright, consults him over what will be the biggest thing in the theatre. "Cats....singing, dancing cats...wait, wait, there's more...no, that's it, just cats."

The big act 1 song, "A Musical" is the first brilliant pastiche, which I thought was untoppable, until I saw the act 2 pastiche, "Make an Omelette," which was at least just as good, and possibly better. The soundtrack alone doesn't really do these songs justice; you have to see how they're staged along with the copious musical references. The tap/rap-athon finale of act 1 which is part of "Bottom's Gonna Be on Top" is a delight to watch.

Some familiarity with Shakespeare and musical theatre is obviously needed to appreciate it more deeply; but the production is straightforward and easy to follow, and there are enough obvious references, some of which are non-musical, (no one who's been alive for the past twenty years could miss the Phantom of the Opera or Lion King nods) that I'd say almost anyone could get something out of it. However, musical theatre-geeks will definitely get more out of it.

Edited by Evan C

"Anyway, in general I love tragic artists, especially classical ones."

"Even the forms for expressing truth can be multiform, and this is indeed necessary for the transmission of the Gospel in its timeless meaning."

- Pope Francis, August 2013 interview with Antonio Spadaro

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