Shakespeare Solved ®

Shakespeare Solved ® is a forthcoming series of novels that covers the Bard's entire life and work.

These novels solve the mysteries surrounding Shakespeare by transporting us back in time, to walk in his shoes, and see his world through his eyes.

Only when we see Shakespeare in his original historical context can we understand what his plays and poems really mean.

This blog explains some of my ideas and discoveries, to prepare for this series of novels.

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The University of Oxford's Bodleian Library & The Royal Shakespeare Company

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Thursday, May 21, 2015

Something Rotten! Shakespeare Musical

I just saw the new Broadway musical about Shakespeare called Something Rotten!

If you are anywhere near New York City, you must see it!

It's hilarious!

The musical just opened last month on Broadway and it has taken New York by storm, and the critics are raving about it.

Already, it has garnered 10 Tony Award nominations, including Best Musical, Best Score, Best Choreography, Best Direction, and three Best Actor nominations.

Here is a link to find showtimes and tickets:

Here is a brief video to give you an idea of the show:

The musical is set in 1595 London, and William Shakespeare is a glam rockstar playwright/actor with adoring fans everywhere who cry out his name whenever he appears.

But the problem is that the other playwrights are always left behind.

Playwrights Nick Bottom, and his brother Nigel Bottom are broke and they need to get a big hit and fast. Nick goes to a fortune teller named Nostradamus whose fortune sets off a chain of events that will keep you laughing the whole way through.

Nostradamus and Nick Bottom

I don't want to ruin the plot for you but let's just say that there are a lot of great songs, there's lots of fantastic dancing, and loads of really funny gags and jokes. And omelets.

I was very excited to see this musical so early on. The actors were clearly thrilled to be performing such a hit, and each and every one of them in the cast was at the top of their game. All of them dance and sing, and I was exhausted just watching them, but their positive energy was electric and infectiously fun.

There are tons of Shakespeare references, some of them are obscure but most of them are very accessible -- but they are all very very funny. The creators of the show, Wayne Kirkpatrick, Cary Kirkpatrick, and John O'Farrell do an outstanding job of making almost every single line of the show into a punchline. The audience and I were laughing nonstop.

There are tons of musical references, from just about every single musical ever to run on Broadway. If you like musicals, you will be laughing even harder.

The musical seemed like a mashup of Shakespeare, Monty Python (Spamalot especially) and Mel Brooks's The Producers but with lots more singing and dancing. 

Brian d'Arcy James plays Nick, and John Cariani plays Nigel. They are the heros of the show, and their journey from down and out playwrights to the greatest showmen in London, and rivals to Shakespeare, is simply hilarious. 

Nigel and Portia

They carry the story and their misadventures take the story in all sorts of directions, including one especially funny subplot when Nick's wife gets a series of jobs, and the star-cross'd love between Nigel and Portia, a Puritan princess.

I was especially pleased to see Brian d'Arcy James, a veteran stage actor, since I saw him two years ago as Banquo with Ethan Hawke as Macbeth.

Brian d'Arcy James as Nick and Christian Borle as Shakespeare

Christian Borle as William Shakespeare (almost) steals every scene he's in. He plays the Bard as a bad boy lounge lizard who craves and demands to be the center of attention wherever he goes.

His Shakespeare is sidesplittingly funny. I especially enjoyed it when he disguised himself as Toby Belch, an actor from York. Priceless.

Christian Borle as Shakespeare

I don't think his Shakespeare resembles the real Shakespeare at all, but I do think Shakespeare would enjoy all of the bawdy humour in this musical. It may come as a surprise to you, but Shakespeare frequently used sexual puns and other naughty lines to keep his audience entertained. When Hamlet mentions "country matters" to Ophelia, he's not talking about current affairs in the suburbs.

There are so many incredible performances in this show it's hard to single anyone out: Heidi Blickenstaff is great as Nick's wife and her journey into the workplace with men provides some of the funniest jokes in the show. Brad Oscar as Nostradamus has two amazing show-stopping scenes. Brooks Ashmanskas as Brother Jeremiah, a Puritan scold and father to Portia, almost runs away with the whole show as he battles the other characters and whose lines always veer into sexual double entendres.

Heidi Blickenstaff with Nick and Nigel

But again, every single actor was performing their heart out, and they made the entire show exciting and thrilling. It’s rare to see such a perfect piece of entertainment, and with every moment, I was eager to see more of what they had up their sleeves. Happily, I was never disappointed by the show. It kept surprising me, and making me laugh.

And I wasn't the only one. I can't remember an audience laughing so much and so loudly.

Casey Nicholaw, who directed the show and choreographed the dancing, deserves a great deal of credit for making this show one of the most entertaining musicals I have ever seen, and I truly hope that it enjoys many years of success. It really deserves it.

The songs are wildly inventive and punctuated with jokes throughout. There are several standout songs, including "God, I Hate Shakespeare" and "The Black Death" but perhaps my favorite is when Shakespeare sings "Hard to Be the Bard." 

Do yourself a favor and see this show as soon as possible. You won't be disappointed.



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