After amassing high praise and numerous Tony Award nominations on Broadway, the smash-hit musical-comedy “Something Rotten!” is making its Philadelphia premiere Feb. 27-March 4 at the Kimmel Center.
Set in the 1590s, the production follows aspiring playwrights Nick and Nigel Bottom, two brothers desperate to write their own hit play to compete with the theatrical rock star of the day, William Shakespeare, by creating something new: a musical. To that end, they enlist the talents of a local soothsayer, Thomas Nostradamus, nephew of the more-famous and successful seer.
Needless to say, things go hilariously off the rails.
Out actor Blake Hammond plays Nostradamus and, while it’s not one of the show’s central roles, the character with the swaggering role of Shakespeare destined to be is also remembered and talked about.
“They’re the two really great flashy character parts,” he said. “The leads, they have the work of carrying the show, so they don’t always get to have fun. Me and Adam Pascal, who plays Shakespeare: We come on to the stage and have a good time. That allows us to be a little more out there and have fun.”
Hammond added that while Nostradamus’ visions aren’t always the most helpful or accurate when it comes to the Bottom brothers’ aspirations, his heart is in the right place.
“There’s nothing sinister about him,” he said. “He isn’t really crazy. He really is a soothsayer but someone could think that is crazy. But he doesn’t feel he’s crazy. He’s not necessarily always right with what he sees but he’s very interesting. He’s a very unusual character and I love playing him because I was given free range to be as out there as I wanted to be with him. I certainly look crazy in the role with the hair and makeup.”
Hammond said the show is something special and audiences don’t have to know — or even like — the worlds of Shakespeare, musicals or theater to enjoy it.
The show has heart, but it’s really about the comedy,” he said. “It’s very fast-paced. It has its moments of heart and love but that’s not what the show is about. It’s this crazy guy who is trying to write a play to beat Shakespeare at his own game. It’s wacky, fast-paced fun.
“If you love Shakespeare, there are a lot of great references for it. If you hate him, we make fun of him as well. So both sides get their enjoyment out of it. You also don’t have to know anything about Shakespeare to have fun at this show. If you don’t love musicals, you would still love this show because it’s still a very funny show. But there are also two amazing production numbers in the show and they bring the house down every night. These numbers are as good as it gets. There’s nothing like them. So that’s a great artistic achievement right there.” n
Broadway Philadelphia presents “Something Rotten!” Feb. 27-March 4 at the Kimmel Center’s Academy of Music, 240 S. Broad St. For more information or tickets, call 215-893-1999 or visit www.kimmelcenter.org.