By Alison Baumgartner
Garnering 10 Tony nominations, there is nothing rotten about the Broadway smash hit Something Rotten! coming to The Lincoln Center March 28-30.
Set in the height of Shakespeare’s fame, Something Rotten! follows brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom who are desperate to write the next big play. When a local soothsayer foretells that the future of theatre involves singing and dancing, they set out to write the world’s very first musical… even though they aren’t really sure what that means.
We caught up with Jennifer Elizabeth Smith, who plays Portia, a Shakespeare fangirl who must keep her love of poetry under wraps from her Puritan family. When she meets Nigel Bottom, she reads his poems and falls in love. Portia and Nigel share a deeper connection through their shared inability to be themselves—Nigel can’t write what he wants because of his brother’s ideas, and Portia can’t live the life she wants because of her family. “It’s about two people that lead secluded lives, who’ve never gotten to share their true feelings. It has such a great message,” says Smith. “To thine own self be true.”
Something Rotten! is The Book of Mormon meets Spamalot. In fact, the choreographer for both (and the co-director of The Book of Mormon), Casey Nicholaw, directed Something Rotten!. It’s a musical for people who love musicals, and for people who hate them—Shakespeare traipses around the stage as if he were a Backstreet Boy while Nick Bottom despairs how silly it is that people would just break out into song while breaking out into song himself. In short, Something Rotten! is just “old-fashioned frivolous entertainment, and a feel-good show that will leave you one-hundred percent happier”.
“Something Rotten! takes place in the Renaissance, but it’s told with a modern eye which makes it really unique and fun,” says Smith. “Even if you hated Shakespeare in high school, you’ll love ours.”
Fans of musicals geek out over the show because there are easter eggs all over the place. People who love to have a good time will just enjoy the spectacle. “It’s high-energy,” says Smith. “It’ll make you laugh, it might make you cry. You’ll definitely have a greater love for musicals and maybe even Shakespeare when you leave.”
“Something Rotten is the funniest show you’ll see all year. Hand’s down,” continues Smith. “You’re not going to know what to expect. It’s going to be a surprise second after second which makes it a great two-and-half-hour escape.”