Thankfully, the Shakespeare-invoking Broadway extravaganza Something Rotten! fails to live up to its name

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Whenever pop culture tries to adapt Shakespeare – whether it is a Hollywood film or interpretive novel – anxiety for my beloved Bard and excitement for endless possibilities war within my chest.

Naturally, when I first heard of the Broadway musical Something Rotten! those familiar emotions cropped up. After some research into the premise – Elizabethan playwrights Nick and Nigel Bottom war with Shakespeare to create the biggest stage success and subsequently create the first Broadway style musical – my excitement swelled.

During the production, tears of laughter streamed down my face, and by the end, I knew my former fears were unfounded.

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Rotten combines the best of Shakespearean and Broadway theatre into a story of ambition, romance, sibling love and creative intrigue.

While the treatment of Shakespeare is somewhat irreverent at times, audiences cannot help but love Christian Borle’s Tony-winning version of the Bard. With a culture obsessed with deifying Shakespeare, seeing a version that drinks, swears, lies, and cheats was refreshingly human.

Staunch Stratfordians might take offence at a Will that steals ideas and lines from fellow playwrights. But the production contains so many anachronisms it can hardly be mistaken for trying to present a historically accurate depiction of 16th century London – let alone one of literature’s most mysterious authors.

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Shakespeare homages apart, the musical numbers in Rotten allude to more Broadway hits than I could recognise – from Annie to The Lion King to Les Miserables.

Yet for all the references to both Shakespeare plays and Broadway musicals, Rotten remained thoroughly accessible and amusing to those unfamiliar with one, or both, of those worlds.

From the script to the music to the choreography, the production consistently surprised and delighted. More than once the actors were left awkwardly paused on stage while the audience erupted into applause at the end of a musical number.

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In the end, Something Rotten! offers three hours of irreverent top-notch musical and Shakespearean entertainment.

Something Rotten! is playing at the St. James Theatre on Broadway in New York City.

Go here for more information and to book tickets.

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