We know that musical theater is a gay pastime, but is it possible for a show to be “too” gay? “Something Rotten,” the smash Broadway hit now playing at the Broward Center, takes audiences back to the “gay ‘90s”—the 1590s.
From the opening fanfare of “Welcome to the Renaissance,” the show is a campy ode to Broadway musicals and the gay men who love them, so, no, it’s not possible for a musical to be too gay.
Two brothers, Elizabethan playwrights Nick and Nigel Bottom (Rob McClure and Josh Grisetti), struggle to create a hit. Stymied by the egotistical “rock star” William Shakespeare (Adam Pascal), Nick seeks out a soothsayer Thomas Nostradamus (Blake Hammond), who tells him the future of theater involves acting, singing and dancing—all at the same time!
Nostradamus breaks out into song and dance to demonstrate the power of a musical in a breakneck number that momentarily evokes or outright quotes great works from “The Music Man,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Annie,” “Cats,” “Phantom of the Opera,” “Rent” and a dozen other iconic shows. The theater queens in the audience quickly caught the joke.
Realizing “this bottom’s gonna be on top,”—and yes, the double entendre is intended, bringing giggles from the hundreds of gay men in the Au Rene Theater audience— Nick sets out to win over his brother. Unfortunately, their first attempt is a disastrously perky number about the plague, “Black Death.” When asked to hint about Shakespeare’s next hit, Nostradamus strikes out, suggesting a show named “Omelette” (instead of “Hamlet”).
Along the way, the talented and thoughtful poet Nigel captures the heart of the lovely Portia (Autumn Hurlbert), daughter of the limp-wristed Puritan inquisitor, who is gay as a goose and seems to lay a few eggs of his own.
The biggest treat of the evening was the rare opportunity to the see many of the last Broadway cast members on the Broward Center stage (McClure, Grisetti and Pascal), along with the original costumes and most of the set pieces, designed by Gregg Barnes and Scott Pask, respectively. (The Broadway production closed last fall.)
Pascal, who got his big break as the original Roger in “Rent,” is a steamy Shakespeare, especially in the rock concert number, “Will Power,” and “It’s Hard to be the Bard,” backed up by a quartet of equally sexy chorus boys in “guyliner” and codpieces.
The fast-paced plot gets a little bogged down in the second act as Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell’s book weaves together the requisite historical facts and actual Shakespeare plays. Once the cooking is complete, the show comes to an explosive climax—not the only one—with a chorus line of dancing eggs.
It’s hard to imagine a much gayer show and, in the hands of Broadway director and choreographer Casey Nicholaw and a talented cast of seasoned professionals, “Something Rotten” is easily one of the most entertaining shows to leave the Great White Way and land in South Florida in some time.
“Something Rotten” is being performed at the Broward Center in Fort Lauderdale through Sunday, April 2. Tickets start at $35 at BrowardCenter.org.