“The way he feigns humility when all he does is gloat
The way he wears that silly frilly collar ‘round his throat
The poster child for why no one should ever procreate
Let me make a shorter list so I can give it to you straight:
Every little thing about Shakespeare
Is what I hate!“
– Nick Bottom, Something Rotten
I am so excited to finally talk about this musical, I have been so patient for so long and I’m obsessed with it so it was a real effort. I wanted to get the general intros done first before the good stuff and now that time has arrived!
Something Rotten! is a musical comedy with a book by John O’Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick and music and lyrics by Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick. It’s also from the director of Aladdin and the co-director of The Book of Mormon. The show describes itself as a mash-up of 16th century Shakespeare and 21st century Broadway and tells the story of brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom (Brian d’Arcy James and John Cariani), two playwrights in 1595 stuck in the shadow of Will Shakespeare (Christian Borle) who is a rock star of the Renaissance. When soothsayer Thomas Nostradamus (Brad Oscar) foretells the next big thing in theatre, the Bottom brothers set out to write the world’s very first musical!
The show recently celebrated being on the stage for a year but I discovered it randomly on Tumblr a few months ago; I hadn’t even heard about it but from then on I was hooked. I searched the internet for as many clips and recordings I could find of the songs and within an hour I was so far down the rabbit hole of obsession I had found out all I could about it, was contemplating buying the soundtrack, and had reblogged and shared everything I could find in the tags.
With a small selection of music under my belt I proceeded to play it practically on repeat for days. After dragging myself away from it for a few weeks I was lured back because the songs were playing over and over in my head. I discovered that the entire soundtrack was on Spotify so that’s what’s been coming out of my speakers for the past week. Nonstop. It’s fabulous.
What is wonderful about this is not only are the songs ridiculously catchy and very funny, but the musical also does a brilliant job of sending up what life may have been like for Shakespeare with fans mobbing him and asking him to recite famous sonnet lines. He becomes the superstar of the Renaissance.
Shakespeare is a cocky and brilliant playwright and Nick Bottom is trying his hardest to become even a little bit as popular as Shakespeare. There are beautiful songs and heartfelt moments and hearing part of Sonnet 18 put into a rock song format is pretty awesome, not to mention the cracking song about how to make an omelette and the upbeat number on the Black Death.
Something Rotten! has so many fantastic numbers but one I love is where it mocks and celebrates musicals themselves. It’s a song filled with in-jokes and references and it is hilarious listening to musicals being explained to someone who’s never seen or heard of them before.
Even if all you get to hear is the cast recording you really get a feel for the story which is the joy of musicals, you can enjoy it without having to see the show, even though I’d give anything to be able to see it. I’ve included a bunch of links below including a few videos of performance which give you a sense of just how awesome it is.
Also, because fun facts are fun, in one of the songs, Right Hand Man, the phrase ‘in a pickle’ is used, but this was not actually coined in this form until Shakespeare wrote The Tempest in 1610.
Links and Bits
Bottom’s Gonna be on Top (On The View)
Welcome to the Renaissance (Show recording)
A Musical (At the Tonys)
God, I Hate Shakespeare (Lyric Video)
Hard to be the Bard (music video)