Something Rotten!, A Very Potter Musical, and the Story of Satire on the Stage

Last weekend, I had the wonderful opportunity to see a performance of the new Broadway musical, Something Rotten!, with my family.  It was one of the funniest, wittiest, and most unexpected shows I’ve ever seen.  It was truly a theater nerd’s dream show.  And here’s why:

This show is for theater geeks what A Very Potter Musical is for Harry Potter fans.

This might seem like an odd comparison, but I really think that it rings true.  Here are just a few similarities:

The references

Just to clarify, Something Rotten! is a musical about two brothers who are writers during the Renaissance, and the arrogant, over-the-top William Shakespeare is their main competition.  In order to find out what the “next big thing” in theater will be, Nick, one of the brothers, visits a soothsayer who informs him that what’s coming next is… musicals.

Something Rotten

Nostradamus, the soothsayer, then begins a huge, full-cast, number combining references from almost every classic musical there is, from Phantom of the Opera to Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, from West Side Story to Avenue Q.  It’s an unbelievably clever number, and absolutely hilarious to anyone who is a big fan of musical theater (as you can see I am in one of my previous posts).

The rest of the musical is jam-packed with references to the operatic nature of Les Miserables and the weirdness of Catsand every single one has the audience shaking in their seats from laughter– a feeling all too familiar for a girl who’s watched all three musicals in the A Very Potter Musical series.

A Very Potter Musical is one of the best fan-made musicals–well, fan-made anything, really– ever created.  (It brought Darren Criss to fame.)  One of its best aspects is the constant flow of Harry Potter references.  The musicals (the original, the sequel, and A Very Potter Senior Year) bring up everything from Dumbledore’s questionable sexuality to Malfoy’s ridiculous attitude.  There are spells, creatures, and obscure characters–all of which can be recognized by a dedicated Potterhead on the other side of the screen.

Every character has his/her “thing”

The writers of both musicals have a similar approach to character: make each character have their own “thing”– typically satirical– to give a familiar yet amusing feeling to the audience.

In Something Rotten!, each character has distinct personality traits (that are more modern than Renaissance).  Nick Bottom, one of the writers, is stuck in his ways and trusts Nostradamus so excessively that he tries to produce Omelette: The Musical.”  His brother, Nigel, is as awkward as a geeky teenage boy; he’s constantly judging himself and revealing his low self-esteem to the point where his anxiety causes him to bend over, jerking as he says “No, no, no, no…”  Nigel falls in love with a Puritan girl who’s father is obviously gay yet tries desperately to hide it.  And Nick’s wife, Bea, is a 1590s feminist, dressing up as a man in order to get a good job.  (“By the year 1600, women will be equal to men,” she says with confidence.)

Likewise, each character in A Very Potter Musical has their own “thing.”  Harry is an arrogant jerk who takes all the credit for others’ hard work; Ron is constantly eating; Hermione is presumably hideous; Lord Voldemort and Professor Quirrel are practically in a romantic relationship; and Draco Malfoy is played by a flamboyant girl (the ever-talented Lauren Lopez).  Each character’s shtick makes quoting the musical even more laugh-inducing and entertaining.

The story beneath the satire

Though both musicals seem surface-y and not very serious, they still have well-thought-out storylines and deeper themes.  Something Rotten! reveals the importance of trusting family and doing what you love, not what you think other people will like.  It’s about being O.K. with failure and dusting yourself off after defeat.  A Very Potter Musical is about the triumph of good over evil and true friendship.  It shows how people should accept and support each other.

All in all, Something Rotten! was a fantastic show, and one reminiscent of my days watching A Very Potter Musical.  I had the pleasure of seeing Brian D’Arcy James (Nick) , Heidi Blickenstaff (Bea), and Kate Reinders (Portia) after the show at the stage door, and was a bit star-struck.  If only I could find a way to meet Darren Criss…

Heidi
Heidi Blickenstaff
Brian
Brian D’Arcy James

Have you seen Something Rotten! or A Very Potter Musical?  What did you think about them?  What’s your favorite medium of satire?  Let me know in the comments!

Thanks for reading!

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