By Laura Latzko
What was William Shakespeare like and what did others think of him? Did he have any rivals? These questions are tackled in a humorous way in the hit Broadway musical Something Rotten!
Nominated for ten Tony Awards in 2015, the show debuted on Broadway in April 2015.
Something Rotten tells the story of Nick and Nigel Bottom, two brothers in competition with William Shakespeare, a rock-star like character. When a soothsayer foretells of the popularity of musical theater in the future, the brothers decide to produce the world’s first musical.
In the show, Rob McClure plays Nick Bottom; Adam Pascal, William Shakespeare and Josh Grisetti, Nigel Bottom. Autumn Hurlbert, an actress who grew up in the Tempe area, is starring as Portia, a Puritan woman who falls in love with Nigel Bottom.
As a professional actress, Hurlbert has appeared in the film Sudden Death!, the Broadway version of Legally Blonde: The Musical, The Sound of Music Live!, the Off-Broadway show Tomorrow Morning and the first national tour of Little Women.
Hurlbert took some time off after having her son, and Something Rotten is only the second show she has done since coming back. These days, she is traveling with her husband and son on the road.
She said balancing her work and personal lives while on tour can be challenging.
“Your kid doesn’t care if you’re up until two in the morning. He still wants to play at 7 a.m.,” Hurlbert said.
Hurlbert started with the U.S. tour of Something Rotten back in December and has been touring since January. She said the show’s message of “to thine own self be true” appealed to her.
The actress said the show has a strong message of “not falling into the trap of what everyone else thinks you should do or what you think everyone else should do but what really makes you happy.”
As Portia, Hurlbert gets to experience everything for the first time.
“I just get to be a lovesick idiot, and everything is new and wonderful. I take cues from my son because that’s how he experiences the world,” Hurlbert said.
Portia helps to set the events in the show in motion.
“I play a Puritan woman who isn’t allowed to read anything but the Bible, but you find out she does. She runs into a poet, the young brother, and she encourages him to write what his truth is, what he is passionate about, and really follow his heart,” Hurlbert said.
Hurlbert said the show parodies classic musical theater style and has similar satirical humor as Monty Python and the Holy Grail.
“We say that if you don’t know anything about Shakespeare, this is the show for you. If you know a lot about Shakespeare, this is the show for you. If you don’t know anything about musicals, this is the show for you. If you do know a lot about musicals, this is the show for you. It’s a beautifully-crafted musical…It’s really smart, but it’s also hilarious, makes fun of musicals and pulls back the curtain on how we see plays and musicals,” Hurlbert said.
Although it is set during the Renaissance, the show uses vernacular language from today and makes references to modern subjects.
The musical is also filled with references to Shakespeare.
In the production, the characters wear traditional clothing from the era. Hurlbert said it took some time to get used to wearing corsets, bustles, petticoats and heavy skirts.
“It’s a big adjustment to walk into the theater in your T-shirt and jeans and then put on ten pounds of costumes and a huge wig and be able to flit around with ease physically onstage,” Hurlbert said.
Through Sunday, November 5
2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Saturday
1 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. Sunday
ASU Gammage, 1200 S. Forest Ave., Tempe
$20 to $175 tickets, depending on section