As we enter the year that marks 400 years since the death of Shakespeare it seems only fitting that one of the big hits on Broadway at the moment is a new comedy musical celebrating him as some kind of mega rock star. Clad in leather and with a swagger that makes all of the rooms inhabitants swoon it is Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick’s clever lyrics that say it best that “he could write a real bitchin’ play”!
This is one of those rare laugh out loud shows that only comes along once in a while. With genuinely witty lyrics and some absurdly catchy tunes there is tap dancing, show girls and lots of Broadway asides that make this a real riotous night. Laced with affectionate musical nods to a slew of big Broadway hits throughout this wickedly enjoyable nonsense there is very little not to like.
The book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell centres around the second rate and mildly jealous yet secretly admiring competition to Shakespeare in the form of Nick Bottom. Desperate to write the next big hit and match the stardom of Shakespeare, Nick along with his brother Nigel are seeking inspiration for the next success. Local Soothsayer Nostradamus takes a bleary peek into the future for Nick and sees the next big thing will be musicals. Never a truer word said in jest! So off we go on the whacky journey to create a musical in 16th century London, and its a hoot.
Brian d’Arcy James as Nick has the right measure of being hapless yet endearing, his dry delivery of the comedy matched only with his clear showmanship when it comes to the big song and dance numbers. His brother is less endearing in the form of John Cariani and his whiny voice as the drippy Nigel. Unfortunately the comedy here runs pretty thin and borders on the irritating rather than the funny.
Christian Borle almost slides across the stage with sleaze in a comically bravura portrayal of the Bard. Clad in leather with groupies dangling off each arm he is the epitome of modern stardom made all the more ridiculous in the show’s mock Tudor setting. Comedy clout too from Brad Oscar as Nostradamus clearly enjoying every drunken moment of being on stage.
Support is faultless across the board with an energy and an affection from the entire company that is nearly as infectious as the Plague (that has an entire song devoted to it). This is a comic salute to the genius of Shakespeare as well as to the musical itself. Its a massive hit!