Something Rotten! on Broadway Delivers Non- Stop Laughs

Something Rotten! on Broadway

I didn’t know much about Something Rotten prior to the watching the Broadway play and I actually preferred it that way because every moment was such a treat. The laughs are non-stop from beginning to end with subtle pop culture references throughout. You don’t need a lot of Shakespeare knowledge prior to the show to enjoy all of the references about him. The play has something for everyone with great dance numbers, fun songs, romance, jealousy, and lovable characters. Trust me when I say that you will love it!

Something Rotten! on Broadway

The Plot

Direct from Broadway, Something Rotten! is a “big, fat hit!” (New York Post). Set in the ‘90s – the 1590s – this hilarious smash tells the story of Nick and Nigel Bottom (Tony nominee Rob McClure and Broadway’s Josh Grisetti), two brothers who are desperate to write their own hit play while the “rock star” Shakespeare (Tony nominee Adam Pascal) keeps getting all the hits.

Something Rotten! on Broadway

When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theatre involves singing, dancing and acting at the same time, Nick and Nigel set out to write the world’s very first MUSICAL! With its heart on its ruffled sleeve and sequins in its soul, Something Rotten! is “The Producers + The Book of Mormon x The Drowsy Chaperone. Squared!” (New York Magazine).

Something Rotten! on Broadway

A Sneak Peek

Creating the completely new Broadway musical Something Rotten!

Most Broadway newcomers don’t get their first show produced by Tony Award-winner Kevin McCollum, and they don’t typically land Tony-winner Casey Nicholaw as their director-choreographer. But brothers Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick and British comedy writer John O’Farrell, the creators of the Tony Award-nominated Something Rotten!, aren’t like most Broadway first-timers.

Growing up in Louisiana, the Kirkpatrick brothers fell in love with musical theater, appearing in high school shows and going to what’s now the Baton Rouge River Center to see touring productions of Broadway hits.  In 1983, Karey Kirkpatrick saw his first show on Broadway, My One and Only, starring Tommy Tune and Twiggy, at the St. James Theatre – the theater that’s now home to Something Rotten!.

Careers took the brothers and their Something Rotten! collaborator O’Farrell in different creative directions – Karey to success as a screenwriter, songwriter and director, with credits including The Rescuers Down Under, James and the Giant Peach and Chicken Run; Wayne to acclaim as a Grammy Award-winning songwriter (Eric Clapton’s Song of the Year “Change the World” and Garth Brooks’ “Wrapped Up in You” are his); O’Farrell to multifaceted success in the UK as a comic novelist, columnist and TV/film writer.

Something Rotten! on Broadway

The seeds of Something Rotten! were sewn in the mid-1990s when Karey, who now lives in Los Angeles, and Wayne, who calls Nashville home, would get together for holidays or catch up by phone.

“We were big history buffs.  It started with, ‘Wouldn’t it be funny if Shakespeare’s London were a lot like what Broadway was in the 1930s?’” Karey says. “Then it was, ‘What would it be like to be writing plays in the shadow of William Shakespeare, after Romeo and Juliet just opened?’”

“We thought of two writers,” Wayne says. “What if one went to a soothsayer? Then somewhere along the way it was, ‘What if the two writers were brothers? What if the soothsayer’s name was Nostradamus, but he wasn’t the Nostradamus? What if he was a senile, bad soothsayer, his nephew?’ Eventually it was, ‘If we’re going to do this, we should really get serious about it.’”

The brothers buckled down, and in 2010, Karey reached out to his friend Kevin McCollum, producer of original hits like Rent and Avenue Q.

“We called Kevin and said, ‘What do you need?’ He said that Avenue Q was three songs and an idea,” Karey says. “He came to my house and we pitched him five songs and the idea. He said, ‘I think you’ve got something here.’”

Karey brought in O’Farrell, whom he’d met on Chicken Run, to help write the show’s story. The brothers crafted the music and lyrics, eventually writing more than 50 songs. What they had, after plenty of revisions and a multi-year developmental process, is a buoyant musical set in Shakespeare’s day that imagines the creation of the very first musical.

Something Rotten! centers around Nick and Nigel Bottom (the last name comes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream), brothers desperate for a hit in Elizabethan London, where William Shakespeare is a rock star-like god of the stage lately given to cribbing plots.

Something Rotten! on Broadway

Nick’s wife Bea, a can-do gal in the style of Shakespearean heroines who cross-dress to get things done, tries to help. Nigel falls for a pretty Puritan named Portia, whose daddy strongly disapproves. Unreliable soothsayer Thomas Nostradamus, nephew of the Nostradamus, looks into the future and tells Nick that theater’s next big thing will be – tahdah! – “musicals”, where people sing, dance and act all at the same time!

Something Rotten! is laced throughout with humor for Shakespeare aficionados and musical theater geeks.

Something Rotten! on Broadway

But as O’Farrell observes, “If it works as a musical for people who don’t know musicals or Shakespeare, then I’m happy.  It’s about show business and putting on a show. Just doing that in Tudor times gives it an extra spin.”

“I think it doesn’t matter how much you know,” says director-choreographer Nicholaw, whose other current Broadway shows are Aladdin and The Book of Mormon. “My nieces and nephews say it’s their favorite show that I’ve done, and they don’t know any of the references.”

Something Rotten! on Broadway

For the no-longer-green creative team, Something Rotten! has been a challenge, an education and a joy, an experience they still savor as the touring production plays cities all over the United States.

“This was by far the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but [it was] so rewarding to sit in a theater and watch all these amazing contributions from people who took it beyond our idea to create this magical, happy experience,” Wayne says.

Don’t Miss Your Chance to See

Something Rotten! 

February 21st – March 5th

Performance Schedule

Tuesday 02/21 7:30PM
Wednesday 02/22 7:30PM
Thursday 02/23 7:30PM
Friday 02/24 8:00PM
Saturday 02/25 2:00PM
Saturday 02/25 8:00PM
Sunday 02/26 1:00PM
Sunday 02/26 6:30PM
Tuesday 02/28 7:30PM
Wednesday 03/01 7:30PM
Thursday 03/02 1:00PM
Thursday 03/02 7:30PM
Friday 03/03 8:00PM
Saturday 03/04 2:00PM
Saturday 03/04 8:00PM
Sunday 03/05 1:00PM


You can purchase tickets online from Broadway in Cincinnati.


Aronoff Center for the Arts 650 Walnut Street, Cincinnati, OH

More Info

For more information visit the Broadway in Cincinnati website.

You can connect to Something Rotten! on their website.

Photo credit: Jeremy Daniel

Disclosure: I received tickets for review purposes. All opinions are my own. 

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