In an era when all of the hype and attention were focused on their rival, William Shakespeare, two brothers — Nick and Nigel Bottom — were determined to write a hit play of their own.
When a soothsayer predicts that the future of theater is going to involve plays in which an actor suddenly breaks into song, the brothers plot to write the world’s very first musical.
Set in the 1590s, “Something Rotten” captured 10 Tony Award nominations including Best Musical when it opened in New York in 2015. What’s especially exciting is that three principal cast members who were in the show on Broadway will come to Dayton.
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A FAMILIAR FACE IN STARRING ROLE
Portraying William Shakespeare is Adam Pascal, who wowed students and faculty when he came to Wright State University in 2015 as part of a year-long program called “Musicals Rock.” Joe Deer, chairman of the department of theater, dance and motion pictures at Wright State, says he chose Pascal “because he is such an iconic Broadway pop star.”
Pascal, who began his career as a singer/musician in a rock band, got his big Broadway break in 1996 when a friend — Idina Menzel — suggested he audition for “Rent.” He was cast as the HIV-positive rock guitarist Roger Davis in the Off-Broadway, Broadway and London Productions of the iconic show and he was nominated for a Tony award for his performance. He went on to play the original Radames in Broadway’s “Aida” and appeared in “Memphis” and “Chicago.” In Dayton, he’ll play Shakespeare in all but two performances of “Something Rotten.”
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“Adam was one of the nicest and most direct master teachers we’ve had at Wright State,” says Deer. “He did a Pop/Rock audition workshop and was so open with students. He also did a question-and-answer session with Muse Machine students that was just perfectly tuned to their needs. The concert he gave was wonderful — just him and a guitar doing songs he’s performed on Broadway and that he just loves. We ended that event with him singing ‘Seasons of Love’ with all our seniors. It was wonderful.”
Deer says what’s fun about “Something Rotten” is that it starts with the idea of revised history — how things “really” happened as opposed to how we’ve learned about them in fancy theater-history classes. “So William Shakespeare is a Pop Star instead of the stuffy intellectual,” he explains. “It’s a delightfully absurd plot, filled with characters who are much more ambitious than they are smart or talented — except for Shakespeare! This is true musical comedy, with no pretensions of changing the art form. They just want to have fun.”
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YOU WILL LAUGH OUT LOUD 😂🤣
Pascal agrees, calling the show a fun frolic, a laugh-out-loud comedy.
“What makes it unique is that it’s an original idea not based on previous source material and that’s a rarity in the landscape of musical theater,” he explains.” It’s one of those rare comedies appropriate for the entire family…. as long as you don’t mind having your kids hear the word ‘s—t’ a couple of times. It’s incredibly funny with different layers of comedy that appeal to a broad spectrum of audience members.”
You don’t need to know anything about Shakespeare and his plays in order to enjoy this show, insists Pascal. “I’m not that familiar with Shakespeare and I avoided it all through high school,” he admits. “This character can be anybody. The fact that he’s Shakespeare is almost incidental. In this universe, he’s a pompous, arrogant, buffoon who is wildly successful at what he does.”
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He says his favorite songs in the production are those he can watch from the wings, such as the chorus number, “Musical.” His own big numbers include “Will Power” and “Hard to be the Bard.”
Pascal, who grew up in New York and now makes his home in Los Angeles, prefers being on tour. “I love going back to Broadway but the least part of it is being in the city. I didn’t enjoy living there. I enjoy the road —exploring new towns, new restaurants.”
Although he got his start as a musician in a rock band and still loves playing live music, Pascal says musical theater is a much better fit for him. “It’s where I’ve had the most success and where I feel most comfortable.”
What’s fun as a performer, he says, is the opportunity to be silly, over-the-top and brash. “To me there’s no more fun than getting to be in musical theater, especially in an incredibly funny musical. I would pay to do this!
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WANT TO GO?
What: "Something Rotten"
When: March 20-25. Performances at 8 p.m. Tuesday through Friday; 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday and 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday. Saturday matinee performances are signed and/or audio interpreted.
Tickets: $30 and up plus service fees. Student and military discounts are also available at Ticketcenterstage.com or by calling (937) 228-3630.
Related programming: "Background on Broadway" At 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday and at 1 p.m. Saturday you'll learn about the development, history and artistry of the show. This free event is held in the Schuster Center's 4th Floor Lobby. You must have a ticket to that day's performance.