Something Rotten! is an original musical comedy with a book by John O’Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick and music and lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick. Set in 1595, the story follows the Bottom brothers, Nick and Nigel, who struggle to find success in the theatrical world, as they compete with the wild popularity of their contemporary William Shakespeare. Something Rotten! opened on Broadway at the St. James Theatre in previews on March 23, 2015, and officially opened on April 22, 2015. It was nominated for ten Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and won one (Christian Borle as Best Featured Actor in a Musical). Its cast album received a nomination for the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album.
The musical began with an idea that brothers Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick had had since the 1990s. They finally joined with John O’Farrell to write several songs and presented those songs and a treatment to the producer Kevin McCollum in 2010. The team then joined with Casey Nicholaw, who brought in several of the actors, resulting in the workshop in 2014. Something Rotten! was expected to have a pre-Broadway tryout at the 5th Avenue Theatre, Seattle, in April 2015. However, when a Broadway theatre became available, Kevin McCollum decided to open the show without the Seattle tryout. “David Armstrong, artistic director of 5th Avenue Theater, said…that after the positive buzz surrounding the musical’s workshop in October , he and Mr. McCollum began discussing the possibility of the show bypassing Seattle in favor of Broadway.” The developmental lab took place in New York City in October 2014 with Casey Nicholaw as director and choreographer.
Something Rotten! opened on Broadway at the St. James Theatre in previews on March 23, 2015, and officially opened on April 22, directed and choreographed by Casey Nicholaw, with the sets designed by Scott Pask, costumes by Gregg Barnes and lighting by Jeff Croiter. The Broadway production closed on January 1, 2017 after 742 performances. The show launched a U.S. national tour with previews at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, New York on January 10, 2017, before officially opening at the Boston Opera House on January 17. The tour cast features Rob McClure (Nick Bottom), Adam Pascal (Shakespeare) and Josh Grisetti (Nigel Bottom).
The show also launched a Non-Equity national tour beginning on September 19, 2018 at the RiverCenter for the Performing Arts in Columbus, Georgia The tour stars Matthew Janisse (Nick Bottom), Matthew Baker (Shakespeare), and Richard Spitaletta (Nigel Bottom) and was staged by Steve Bebout (Associate director to the original Broadway production). 
The Story as Told
The “musical” opens with “The Minstrel” welcoming the audience to the English Renaissance (“Welcome to the Renaissance”). He tells the audience that “not everybody is getting what he wants”, referring to Nick Bottom, who runs a theatre troupe with his brother Nigel. They are rehearsing for their upcoming play “Richard II”, while William Shakespeare (referred to as “The Bard”) is opening Romeo and Juliet. Lord Clapham, a patron who trusts the brothers and raises funds for their troupe, enters to announce that Shakespeare is doing “Richard II”. The news outrages Nick, as Shakespeare has already done “Richard III”, and the thought of going backwards seems absurd to him. He rants about his hatred of Shakespeare to the troupe members, who are horrified (“God, I Hate Shakespeare”). Lord Clapham leaves, telling the brothers he is stopping their funds unless they have another play by the next morning.
Nigel and Nick go home to their small house, and on the way Nick encounters Shylock the Jew. Shylock expresses a desire to help fund the troupe, but Nick rejects him as it is illegal to employ a Jew. Bea, Nick’s wife, tells them the events of her day and how she acquired their dinner as she serves it. They are saving for a better life, and when Nick tries to open the Money Box, Bea smacks his hand away. Bea tells him how she could help them out, but Nick is ambivalent (“Right Hand Man”). Despite Nick’s arguments, Bea goes out to do jobs that Nick claims are for men. As Nigel sleeps, Nick faces the real reason he hates Shakespeare: “The Bard” makes Nick feel self-conscious (“God, I Hate Shakespeare (Reprise)”). He wishes there was a way to top Shakespeare, and steals from the Money Box to see a soothsayer. He finds a soothsayer named Thomas Nostradamus (the nephew of the famous soothsayer Nostradamus). Nick asks him what the next big thing in theatre will be, and Nostradamus says that it will be “A Musical”, a play where “an actor is saying his lines, and out of nowhere he just starts singing….” Nick thinks it is ridiculous but quickly warms up to the idea (“A Musical”).
Later, Nick meets Nigel on the street. Nigel has just met Portia, a Puritan and the daughter of Brother Jeremiah, and they immediately fall in love. Nick tells him that he shouldn’t pursue her because she is a Puritan. The Puritans leave and Nick tells Nigel what the soothsayer said, but neglects to tell him that it was not Nick’s own idea. Nigel wants to do “The Brothers from Cornwall”, the story of the two brothers’ lives, but Nick vetoes saying it has to be bigger, and decides to do a play about the Black Death. The troupe performs a song for Lord Clapham (”The Black Death”), who is disgusted and deserts the troupe.
Nigel sits down to try to write a new play. Portia sneaks out to see him, and they discover more about their similarities, especially in the way they both love poetry. (“I Love the Way”). A messenger arrives with an invitation for Nigel to attend “Shakespeare in the Park” and an after-party. Nigel explains to Portia that he sent one of his sonnets to The Bard for feedback. Nigel asks the messenger if Portia can be his “plus one”.
In the park, Shakespeare performs for the people (“Will Power”). Nigel and Portia go to the after party, where Portia gets drunk. Shakespeare asks to read Nigel’s journal of poems and writings, but Nick runs in with Shylock and chastises Shakespeare for trying to steal Nigel’s ideas, as well reprimanding Nigel for his naiveté. Brother Jeremiah then runs in to find a drunk Portia and once again admonishes Nigel.
In a rage, Nick goes back to Nostradamus with what he has left of the money he stole from the Money Box. He asks Nostradamus to tell him what Shakespeare’s new hit is going to be, and Nostradamus sees “Hamlet”, but misinterprets it as “Omelette”, among other mistakes (such as the Prince eating a danish pastry rather than being a Danish prince). He gets excited at the possibilities of success and dreams of a future in which crowds cheer for him and Shakespeare bows down to him (“Bottom’s Gonna Be on Top”).
The Minstrel welcomes the audience back and tells them of the stresses that the Bottom brothers and Shakespeare face (“Welcome to the Renaissance (Reprise)”). Shakespeare shows the stress he faces while trying to write hits and manage his fame (“Hard To Be The Bard”). A spy tells him that the brothers are trying to steal Shakespeare’s upcoming hit. An excited Shakespeare decides to disguise himself as “Toby Belch” and audition for the brothers’ troupe in order to steal the play.
Meanwhile, the troupe is rehearsing “Omelette: The Musical” (“It’s Eggs!”). Shylock has become their new investor, though they cannot find a title that would make his role legal. When some of the actors become suspicious of Nostradamus and why he is at their theatre, Nick lies and says that Nostradamus is an actor. “Toby Belch” arrives at the theatre and is hired for the company. He is surprised to learn that his hit is about eggs.
Nigel sneaks out to London Bridge to see Portia, where he reads her another poem about his love for her. He worries about their future together, but Portia reassures him by saying that everyone, even Nick and Brother Jeremiah, will change their minds about their relationship when they hear Nigel’s beautiful sonnets (“We See the Light”). Nigel is not very happy with “Omelette” and claims that it doesn’t feel right. Brother Jeremiah interrupts the lovers and takes Portia away to be imprisoned in a tower for disobeying. Saddened by the loss of his love, Nigel becomes inspired to write a completely different play that is revealed to be Hamlet.
Nigel goes into the theatre the next day and tells Nick about his new improvements. They get into a huge argument and Shakespeare tries to take advantage of their squabble to get his hit (“To Thine Own Self”). A hurt Nigel scrambles out onto the street and is confronted by Shakespeare, who steals his hit under the guise of “improving it”. Later, Nigel runs into Bea, who explains to him that they should still trust Nick because they can always fall on him if they need him (“Right Hand Man” (Reprise)).
Nick is having qualms about “Omelette: The Musical” as well, but dismisses these doubts once he learns that the town lined up all the way around the theatre for tickets. He and the troupe prepare for the show (“Something Rotten!”). Once the audience arrives, they perform a bombastic dance number that has many references to modern-day musicals (such as The Lion King and The Phantom of the Opera) (“Make an Omelette”). Towards the end of the number, Shakespeare reveals himself and sues the brothers. The troupe and Nigel find out that Nostradamus is a soothsayer, and are horrified.
In court, Shylock, Nick, Nigel, and Nostradamus are on trial and Nick is sentenced to beheading. Bea enters, disguised as a lawyer, and makes Nick confess that he stole from the Money Box, and tells the judge that beheading him would be redundant because he has already lost his head. She has made a deal with Shakespeare that they will be exiled to America (“To Thine Own Self” (Reprise)). She says that they always wanted a new country house and they are getting a house in a new country. Portia then arrives, having escaped the tower. She renounces her father’s ideals and joins the Bottoms, Shylock, and Nostradamus in exile.
They arrive in America and tell the audience of the new opportunities in the New World (“Finale”). Nick hears about the opening of Shakespeare’s new masterpiece, Hamlet, to which Nostradamus replies “I was this close”.
Ghostlight Records released the Original Broadway Cast Album of Something Rotten! on June 2, 2015 in digital music stores and July 17, 2015 on CD.
In the recording, “Something Rotten!” and “Make an Omelette” are combined into one track because of the brevity of the former.
The show includes references to numerous musicals. For example, during the song “A Musical,” “Nostradamus and the chorus men don sailor hats, which harkens to several nautical-themed musicals, including South Pacific, Anything Goes, On the Town and Dames at Sea.” The TheaterMania reviewer noted that the song “A Musical”, “…encapsulates the entire book-musical form in six hilarious minutes. It’s so chock-full of witty references and energetic dance; it’s hard to see how it could be topped.” Variety also pointed out that the song “A Musical” “simultaneously celebrates and sends up everything we hold dear about this peculiar art form, from the ‘jazzy hands’ of Bob Fosse to the synchronized line dancing of the Rockettes.”
Cast and Characters
The original casts are as follows:
|Character||Original Broadway Cast
|US National Tour
|Nick Bottom||Brian d’Arcy James||Rob McClure|
|William Shakespeare||Christian Borle||Adam Pascal|
|Nigel Bottom||John Cariani||Josh Grisetti|
|Bea||Heidi Blickenstaff||Maggie Lakis|
|Nostradamus||Brad Oscar||Blake Hammond|
|Portia||Kate Reinders||Autumn Hurlbert|
|Brother Jeremiah||Brooks Ashmanskas||Scott Cote|
|Lorde Clapham / Judge||Peter Bartlett||Joel Newsome/Patrick John Moran|
|Shylock||Gerry Vichi||Jeff Brooks|
|Minstrel||Michael James Scott||Nick Rashad Burroughs|
Awards and Honors
Original Broadway Production
|Tony Award||Best Musical||Nominated|
|Best Book of a Musical||Karey Kirkpatrick & John O’Farrell||Nominated|
|Best Original Score||Karey & Wayne Kirkpatrick||Nominated|
|Best Leading Actor in a Musical||Brian d’Arcy James||Nominated|
|Best Featured Actor in a Musical||Christian Borle||Won|
|Best Costume Design of a Musical||Gregg Barnes||Nominated|
|Best Direction of a Musical||Casey Nicholaw||Nominated|
|Best Orchestrations||Larry Hochman||Nominated|
|Drama Desk Award||Outstanding Musical||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||James||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical||Borle||Won|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Nicholaw||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lyrics||K. & W. Kirkpatrick||Nominated|
|Outstanding Book of a Musical||K. Kirkpatrick & O’Farrell||Nominated|
|Outer Critics Circle Award||Outstanding New Broadway Musical||Nominated|
|Outstanding Book of a Musical||K. Kirkpatrick & O’Farrell||Nominated|
|Outstanding New Score||K. & W. Kirkpatrick||Nominated|
|Outstanding Director of a Musical||Nicholaw||Nominated|
|Outstanding Set Design||Scott Pask||Nominated|
|Outstanding Costume Design||Barnes||Nominated|
|Outstanding Lighting Design||Jeff Croiter||Nominated|
|Outstanding Actor in a Musical||Borle||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical||John Cariani||Nominated|
|Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical||Heidi Blickenstaff||Nominated|
|Drama League Award||Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Musical||Nominated|
|Distinguished Performance Award||Borle||Nominated|
|2016||Grammy Award||Best Musical Theater Album||Blickenstaff, Borle, Cariani, James, Oscar & Kate Reinders (principal soloists); Kurt Deutsch, K. & W. Kirkpatrick, Lawrence Manchester, Kevin McCollum & Phil Reno (producers); K. & W. Kirkpatrick (composers/lyricists)||Nominated|
- 1. Hetrick, Adam. ” ‘Something Rotten!’ Puts a Shakespearean Twist On Broadway Musical Comedy, Starting Tonight” Playbill, March 23, 20152
- 2. “How 3 Broadway novices wrote ‘Something Rotten!‘“. San Francisco Chronicle. Associated Press. March 24, 2015.
- Healy, Patrick. ” ‘Something Rotten!’ to Skip Seattle Premiere and Debut on Broadway in March”, The New York Times, December 16, 2014.
- Hetrick, Adam (September 30, 2014). “Casey Nicholaw-Helmed Musical Comedy ‘Something Rotten!’ Taps Christian Borle, Brian D’Arcy James and Beth Leavel for NYC Lab”. Playbill.
- Hetrick, Adam. ” ‘Something Rotten!’ Puts a Shakespearean Twist On Broadway Musical Comedy, Starting Tonight” Playbill, March 23, 2015
- Gans, Andrew. ” Something Rotten! Closes on Broadway January 1″ Playbill, January 1, 2017.
- Gans, Andrew. ” Something Rotten! National Tour Begins September 19″ Playbill, September 19, 2018.
- “Songs” ibdb.com, retrieved January 27, 2018
- Hetrick, Adam (27 April 2015). “Something Rotten! Broadway Cast Album Being Recorded Today”. Playbill. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
- “Study Guide, pp 16ff” Archived 2016-02-20 at the Wayback Machine rottenbroadway.com, accessed February 23, 2016
- Stewart, Zachary. “review. ‘Something Rotten'” TheaterMania, April 22, 2015
- Stasio, Marilyn. “Broadway Review: ‘Something Rotten’” Variety, April 22, 2015
- *Something Rotten! at the Internet Broadway Database
- “Cast & Creative Team – Something Rotten”. www.rottenbroadway.com. Retrieved 2017-11-26.
- “Tony Nominations 2015: Full List”. Variety. 28 April 2015. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
- Cox, Gordon (23 April 2015). “Drama Desk Nominations: ‘Hamilton’ Leads the Polls (FULL LIST)”. Variety. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
- Clement, Olivia (11 May 2015). “Curious Incident Top Winner at Outer Critics Circle Awards”. Playbill. Retrieved 17 May 2015.
Something Rotten!, Something Rotten, brian d’arcy james, Christian Borle, John Cariani, Heidi Blickenstaff, Brad Oscar, kate reinders, brooks ashmanskas, peter bartlett, gerry vichi, michael james scott