christian borle

If Broadway Were a Nation, “Something Rotten!” Would Be Its Anthem

Something Rotten B-RollConsider Nick and Nigel Bottom our forefathers. Together with a ragtag crew of theater enthusiasts, they overthrow the burdensome British dramatic influence, invent the musical art form, and escape to America to allow the musical to flourish.

Of course, this is a fictive account of Broadway’s birth. But hey, The Aeneid is a fictional version of Rome’s founding and King Arthur probably looked nothing like Clive Owen. And I’m sure no one in the Second Continental Congress sang duets with John Adams. Our founders in Something Rotten! are two theatrical siblings in Elizabethan London looking for their next big hit. Nigel (John Cariani) is the playwright of the family while Nick’s (Brian D’Arcy James) role is similar to that of a producer. Their work, however, only meagerly survives in the shadow of the enormously popular Shakespeare (Christian Borle), a superstar rock god equipped with a metallic designed doublet, eyeliner, and plenty of swagger.  Facing financial ruin, Nick visits a relative of Nostradamus (Brad Oscar), asks what the biggest trend in theater will be, and gets to work on the world’s first musical.

And boy what a musical it is! Sorry, I mean Something Rotten!, not Nick’s musical. Nick’s soothsayer predicts that “Omelet” will be Shakespeare’s biggest hit (close enough to Hamlet), so Nick creates “Omelet the Musical.” It goes without saying that “Omelet” is terrible. Nick’s despair and lack of confidence in his and his brother’s creativity cause his failure. But Something Rotten! is the complete opposite of an uninspired, uncreative mess. It is a joyful, laugh-a-minute show, chock full with references to popular contemporary musicals, with a comedic energy we haven’t seen since The Producers and Spamalot first graced our stages.

Oddly enough, these comedic tour-de-forces (Something Rotten, The Producers, and Spamalot) are all meta-theatrical. Both Something Rotten and The Producers are about the making of a musical, while Spamalot is full of self-aware glitz and humor (think “Diva’s Lament”). I’ve written before about the joy inherent in making the audience complicit in theater, and this is certainly an enormous factor in these shows’ successes. These shows cater particularly to a theatregoing crowd, uniting our common Broadway knowledge and experience that make us a dependable fanbase.

Something Rotten B-Roll

But there’s also the fact that these shows are themselves textbook examples of great Broadway musical comedies. Something Rotten not only embraces the musical’s history and form, but it also practices it! There’s the colorful and ostentatiously exaggerated set (Scott Pask) and costume (Gregg Barnes) design, a hilarious and enormously talented cast, huge musical numbers (see “It’s A Musical”), and even an endearing side of romance. It’s the type of production that reveals how the musical is different from every other art form and how it came to occupy such an important and popular place in American culture.

Something Rotten! is something every musical theater lover should get excited about, if not revere. It is hilariously creative, over-the-top, and often heartfelt–everything that uniquely defines the musical form. It restores our faith in this land we call Broadway, may it forever reign.

For more thoughts on the show, click here to listen to our podcast!

Podcast 4 on ‘Something Rotten!’

Come fangasm with us.

For more thoughts on the show, read our review!

Five Ways to Heal After The Sound of Music Live

SOML left a gaping hole in our musical theatre hearts. Here’s how to mend it so we’re all good and happy again.

1) As if watching the Mother Superior singing “My Favorite Things” with Carrie Underwood (right after she tells Carrie Underwood that she shouldn’t sing in the convent BTW) wasn’t bad enough, then NBC had to go ahead and cut “Confidence.” But then again, would we have wanted to add it to the long list of songs Carrie Underwood butchered? Watch she-should-have-been-casted Broadway singer Sierra Boggess sing “Confidence.”

2) Christopher Plummer may not be fond of his role as the original Captain Von Trapp, but we sure are. Let’s just flip through Tumblr and Google photos of young (and old, imho) Christopher Plummer.

Me? Yes? Now? Immediately? OKAY

3) In a similar vein-

Julie Andrews. That’s really all that needs to be said.

But I’ll say more, just in case that name doesn’t strike horniness adoration into your wounded hearts. EVERYTHING this queen has done is FANFRAKKINTASTIC and in case you need a reminder of it, watch the original SoM, or Victor Victoria, or Mary Poppins, or her recent Colbert Report interview, or even the Princess Diaries. Or just enjoy gifs of her throwing shade on everything and anything.

4) Laura Benanti’s and Christian Borle’s Inner Monologue Before the Show Aired: “Yes! NBC has been kind enough to resuscitate our television careers!”

Laura Benanti’s and Christian Borle’s Inner Monologue After the Show Aired: “Never again, NBC! Never again!”

Type either one of those actors names into Youtube, and just watch. There’s a 99% chance that whatever you pull up will be golden.

5) Remember that while the show ultimately stunk, it did pull in over 18.5 million viewers. And hey, NBC decided to air a live musical for three hours in their prime broadcast schedule instead of their usual repeats of The Voice, and that’s a huge plus for culture. Let’s hope the huge ratings convince television networks to take chances on shows like this more often.

Why the NBC’s “The Sound of Music” Won’t Suck (As Told Through Julie Andrews GIFs)

When I first learned that karaoke contest winner Carrie Underwood was going to play Maria in a new televised version of The Sound of Music, I was none too pleased.

Not only is Carrie Underwood a karaoke contest winner pop star, she is a country pop star at that. Her cutesy twang might fly for an Oklahoma revival, but The Sound of Music is a whole ‘nother story. And we’d have to be subjected to a live telecast, with no opportunity for dubbing or a gentle autotune?

I’ll see myself out, thank you.

I mean, network and cable television already air the 1965 film multiple times a year. And no one can sing on the hills better than Dame Julie Elizabeth Andrews.

Come to think of it, I’m sure Julie Andrews would be available to reprise her role. She’s been ready to kick Mary Poppins’ ass for years now, so why not tackle The Sound of Music while she’s at it?

Then I saw the new teaser trailer for The Sound of Music, Live!

And found several surprises.

The supporting cast includes Broadway royalty such as Queen Audra Mcdonald, Archduke Christian Borle, Countess Christiane Noll, and Princess Laura Benanti. And then there’s the actor playing Captain Von Trapp: Stephen Moyer.

I have no idea if he can sing, but I am more than willing to find out.

Even Ms. Underwood sounds less twangy than I’d thought she would.

While nothing can compare to the original, I think we are in for a musical treat come December.

Sometimes a Broadway Closing is a Good Thing…

Space matters. Moving a show from Off-Braodway to Broadway  brings a certain institutional weight. It also triples (at least) the audience capacity and stage capacity of a Off-Broadway theater. It makes a meager, low-budget work of theater seem even more, well, meager and low-budget.
Perhaps this is because the space is so large, any production inhabiting it must also fill it. Spread itself around it. This is done either with ‘go big or go home’ sets and costumes, celebrity talent, a ensemble of fifty, exactly executed song and dance numbers… y’all get the point.

A move from an Off-Broadway to a Broadway stage is a bit like watching something first through the close-up lens of a telescope, and then turning it around to see the same object through other far far away lens. Suddenly, it’s not so fascinating. Well… unless that object is best seen from afar, like a successful Broadway musical, to appreciate its glittery, all-encompassing, panoramic, fantasticloveitude

Which is why the announcement that Peter and the Starcatcher was closing and moving Off-Broadway to New World Stages was really the best news ever for a Starcatcher fan.

Starcatcher started out at the New York Theater Workshop on a small, bare stage with an intimate audience of, ooooh let’s say, 200 people. To keep it simple– tremendous reviews, sold out shows, extensions, Sara fangirling, etc. Despite minimal props, lack of flashy song-and-dance numbers or large personalities, it filled its space with energy, wit, laughter, and creativity. As a small audience, it was almost like we were in on the shtick during the show’s many tongue-in-cheek moments.

Plus if you already thought Christian Borle was already weird-looking, try watching him from a few feet away

Like many Off-Broadway hits before it (Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson comes to mind) Starcatcher made the leap to the Broadway stage. Suddenly the same amazing show I had seen a few months before felt a bit too cutesy, too vaudevillesque, too, dare I say it… meh?  (The same thing happened to Bloody Bloody) It felt swallowed up by its environment. And I just couldn’t help thinking about the wonderful show I seen at NYTW, and then the awkward one I was seeing now.

If you haven’t see Peter and the Starcatcher, go get tickets for the New World Stages run starting March 18. Since I’m already in love with New World Stage’s other work (plus actual space is lots of fun) I’m sure Starcatcher will find its home there.




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