'Something Rotten!' is a fast-paced mashup of jokes and references to pop culture, Broadway and Shakespeare
‘Something Rotten!’ is a fast-paced mashup of jokes and references to pop culture, Broadway and Shakespeare

Sometimes it’s just fun to have a celebration of things you love. The musical “Something Rotten!,” playing now through Feb. 19, at the Fox Theatre, is an unabashed party thrown in the honor of musicals and William Shakespeare.

That may seem like an odd combination at first, but when you consider all the world’s a stage, the pairing starts to make sense.

But the main intent of “Something Rotten!” is to have a good time, mixing in jokes, spectacle, and gentle ribbing of the subjects it holds so dear.

The story centers on a pair of less-than-successful contemporaries of Shakespeare, brothers Nick (Rob McClure) and Nigel Bottom (Josh Grisetti).

Nick is the more driven of the two, who longs for a hit not only to snag a little notoriety but to keep his creditors at bay and provide a better life for his hardworking, endlessly supportive wife Bea (Maggie Lakis).

Nigel is a sweet and sensitive poet who is more concerned with truth, beauty, and wooing the equally socially awkward Portia (Autumn Hurlbert), daughter of the strict and swishy Puritan Brother Jerimiah (scene-stealer Scott Cote).

The Bottom Brothers’ failure is set against the backdrop of the English Renaissance, where Shakespeare (played with rock-star flair by Adam Pascal) looms large as an arrogant sex symbol who boasts of his literary prowess in songs like “Will Power” and “Hard to Be the Bard.”

Once the stage is set, “Something Rotten!” kicks into high gear when a desperate Nick heads off in search of a soothsayer to give him a glimpse of the future of the theater, so he can come up with the next big hit.

It is there he stumbles upon the loopy and lovable Nostradamus (Blake Hammond), who is the nephew of the more famous (and competent) seer of the future.

Nostradamus sees a future where people line up around the block to see plays where the characters spontaneously break into song and dance. In “A Musical,” one of the more inspired numbers you’ll see in any show, Nostradamus — with a little help from the ensemble — walks Nick through all of the conventions and trappings of a musical, complete with little nods to some of Broadway’s more famous shows.

“A Musical” is so clever and so well executed that, at the song’s conclusion, the audience at the Fox gave such a lengthy and rousing ovation that seemed to catch even the cast a little by surprise.

From there on out, the show is a fast-paced mashup of jokes and references to pop culture, Broadway, and the works of Shakespeare, mixed with a lot of loving and knowing commentary on the tropes and cliches of musicals.

If you wanted to be a downer, you could argue “Something Rotten!” goes to this well a little too often, but when the cast is sharp and in fine form, the production bounces along with energy and purpose from the opening line to the final curtain.

This show is an absolute must-see for the lovers of musical theater and long-dead 16th-century playwrights. “Something Rotten!” gets it right, because if you’re going to applaud the joyous and entertaining legacy of the theater, you might as well do it while being as joyous and entertaining as you possibly can.

“Something Rotten!” is playing now through Feb. 19, at the Fox Theatre. For tickets call 314-534-1111 or go to metrotix.com.

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