Reviewed by Katherine Damisch
Something Rotten! is the perfect addition to Chicago’s annual love affair with summer Shakespeare. This wacky romp tells the tale of the Bottom brothers, Nick (a not-so-subtle nod to Midsummer…then again, nothing about this show is subtle) and Nigel. Nick would like nothing more than to dethrone Shakespeare as the superstar playwright of the day with a hit play of his own. Nigel, a fan of Shakespeare and a great wordsmith in his own right, relishes more in the words and emotions themselves than any subsequent fame.
Starring as the fraternal duo are Rob McLure as Nick and Josh Grisetti as Nigel. McLure takes the reigns from the formidable Brian D’Arcy James. McLure does a great job with this cartoonish role, matching James’s energy and timing blow-for-blow. Grisetti actually has a better singing voice than his Broadway counterpart, playing the role with all the sensitivity and starry eyes of a young artist in love. The real surprise in this cast was Adam Pascal, taking over Christian Borle’s turn as William Shakespeare himself. One might be forgiven for being skeptical about the famed Rent star attempting to do comedy. However, Pascal struts around the stage in his sparkly doublet and guyliner, commanding attention wherever he roams. His rocker growl fits amazingly well with Shakespeare’s vocals, and it actually makes sense in the story’s context; he is the rock star of the Elizabethan era.
Of course, this is a very modern show that just happens to take place around the turn of the (17th) century. The musical theatre references in the number “A Musical” whiz by at about a thousand miles per minute; dedicated musical fans could probably go see this show multiple times and catch new ones with each viewing. In fact, the entire song is not to be missed, containing all the style, glitz, and humor worthy of any stage in Las Vegas. The cast may be wearing corsets and buckled shoes, but also appear on multiple occasions looking more like showgirls than peasants. Unfortunately, not everything is as updated as it should be; closeted gay male characters become the butt of several jokes, which we should be past as a society by now. Luckily, this wickedly quick script keeps the other laughs coming, making Something Rotten! a farce to be reckoned with.