If forms of entertainment about the entertainment industry have taught us anything, it's that it's always been really (really) hard to make it in the entertainment industry. The stakes are absurdly high, the rewards are few if any and the competition is fierce — especially if the competition is Shakespeare.
"Something Rotten!" cheekily explores a faux scenario in which aspiring playwright brothers Nigel and Nick Bottom are faced with a horrifying task: going head-to-head with William Shakespeare. Following Broadway acclaim (and several Tony noms and a win), John O'Farrell and Karey Kirkpatrick's musical comedy will kick off its national tour in the Hub on Jan. 17 for a run at the Boston Opera House through Jan. 29. We chat with Rob McClure, who stars at Nick — both on the upcoming tour and currently on Broadway.
"I have 12 hours a day of 'Something Rotten!,'" the Philly-based 34-year-old laughed. The show is currently in upstate New York, where the traveling production will rehearse and preview before hitting the road. "It's crazy to do one show with familiar faces, and then another with all new faces one after another."
McClure discusses his longstanding professional relationship with his wife, the hidden shows within this show and why we should have some sympathy for Nick Bottom.
McClure and his wife, Maggie Lakis, will co-star as a married pair in the traveling production, but it's not the first time they've shared the stage as love birds.
"We've been together 12 years and this is the fifth time we get to work together," he says. "We were laughing the other day because the roles when we play opposite each other have been maturing with us."
Those roles span "horny teens" in "Grease" as Frenchy and Doody to 20-somethings figuring out their lives in "Avenue Q." And for "Something Rotten!"? He notes, "Now we're playing a couple who have been married for a decade and are trying to build up a nest egg."
Musical fans should prepare to freak out because "Something Rotten!" is packed with hidden snippets of iconic scores and shows — references, chords, etc. — just waiting to be discovered.
"Truly, I'm still hearing new ones all the time," admits McClure. "I've been doing the show for eight months and suddenly I'll hear a bar of music between two sung phrases and it's like, 'Oh my god, that's 'Sunday in the Park with George.' It's genius at that level. If you have a base knowledge of musical theater, there are tons of jokes. But if you're a diehard, it's endless."
McClure says the Broadway cast keeps tabs on the references on two "big orange poster boards" backstage. Each time they hear a new reference, they run back and jot it down. "We've got over 50 right now," he adds. "And that's just within the song 'Musical,' not even the whole show."
Method in the madness
While Bottom finds himself in the sticky business of competing with a very smug and financially secure Shakespeare to pen the next great masterpiece — he finds himself competing with the fictional version of the icon to woo producers for cash, as well. And along the way, he makes some … questionable choices. But don't worry, they're still funny ones.
"His ego drives him beyond where he should go," McClure admits. "But he puts his faith in a lot of half-truths that lead him down the wrong path. I think at the core, it's his need to provide for his family that drives him to a path of desperation. He's not quite in the right place, but with 'Something Rotten!,' it's done with a lot of tongue-in-cheek."
If you go:
Boston Opera House
539 Washington St.