The musical spoof about down-and-out Elizabethan playwrights inventing musical theater in the shadow of Shakespeare arrives at the Oriental on tour.
Combining the Bard-fan-baiting references of a Shakespeare in Love with a Mel Brooksian anachronistic period parody, this 2015 musical comedy arrived on Broadway without a traditional pedigree. Brothers Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick, respectively a songwriter with a background in contemporary Christian music and a screenwriter for animated features like Chicken Run, had no stage background, nor did collaborator John O’Farrell. Yet producer Kevin McCollum had enough confidence in their concept to take the show direct to Broadway without the usual out-of-town tryout.
Said concept is clever if convoluted: Elizabethan-era sibling scribes Nick and Nigel Bottom struggle in the shadow of theatrical rock star Will Shakespeare, until debt-saddled elder brother Nick gets the desperate idea to consult a soothsayer to preview the future of theater—and that future is musical. Armed with an additional, shoddy prediction about the title and premise of Shakespeare’s greatest hit, the Bottoms endeavor to rock London with Omelette: The Musical.
The result is a thin but entertaining lark, more a scaffold on which to hang allusions to both the musical-theater and Shakespearean canons; they’re smartly deployed, but if you’re not well versed in both traditions, you could be left immune to the knowing laughter around you. Still, in director-choreographer Casey Nicholaw’s busy staging, we’re well served by a top-notch cast, including Rob McClure and Josh Grisetti in fine Abbott-and-Costello style as the Bottom brothers, and Adam Pascal gamely putting a glam-rock spin on Shakes.
Oriental Theatre. Book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell. Music and lyrics by Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick. Directed by Casey Nicholaw. With Rob McClure, Josh Grisetti, Adam Pascal. Running time: 2hrs 30mins; one intermission.