‘Something Rotten’ has fun with Broadway and The Bard

Rob McClure and the company of the new musical “Something Rotten.” Joan Marcus photoRob McClure and the company of the new musical “Something Rotten.” Joan Marcus photo
It’s always a treat to see a new musical comedy. Revivals are great in celebrating successful shows from the past, but an original musical with a new story, music, and lyrics can unearth fresh theatrical discoveries and create new favorites.

With a tip of the hat to Shakespearean times, the new musical “Something Rotten” is just what the bleak mid-winter of our discontent calls for. 

The year is 1595 and William Shakespeare is a rock star among the masses.  Brothers Nick and Nigel Bottom are frustrated playwrights who can’t break into the Bard’s hold on audiences.  Nick, in particular, hates Shakespeare for his preening ego.
Just when things look darkest for the Bottom brothers, a soothsayer has a vision: Forget sonnets. The next big thing in theater will involve singing, dancing, and acting, all at the same time.

This hot, new genre will be called a “musical.”  And so Nick and Nigel grab the opportunity to get ahead of the curve and write the world’s first musical.  All of this is met with disdain by Shakespeare, who wants the Renaissance all to himself.

What results is a boisterous, tap-dancing, self-referential homage to all that is Broadway.

Tony Award winner Casey Nicholaw directs and choreographs the production, following his success with “The Book of Mormon and “Aladdin.”  Music and lyrics are by Grammy Award winner Wayne Kirkpatrick and Golden Globe nominee Karey Kirkpatrick, with a book by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O’Farrell. 

Nominated for ten Tony Awards, the Broadway production just closed on New Year’s day. Now, the three leads, Rob McClure (Nick), Adam Pascal (Shakespeare) and Josh Grisetti (Nigel), are taking the show on the road.  The tour’s official launch happens here in Boston at the Opera House from Jan. 17 to Jan. 29.

Making his national tour debut in the “Something Rotten” ensemble is Daniel Beeman.  Originally from Omaha, he has performed at Kansas City Rep, Kansas City Starlight Musicals, and the Ogunquit Playhouse in shows ranging from “Sunday in the Park with George” to “Diary of Anne Frank” and “Les Miserables.”  Also of note, he has competed in The Irish Dancing World Championships.

Beeman began studying dance at the age of eight at a local studio. He also sang and was an avid swimmer.  Soon, an interest in Irish dancing emerged.

In a phone interview from his home in New York, he said, “I’m Irish from my mom’s side and my Grandma’s. I remember going to the Irish Fest in Kansas Cityand it being a part of our lives.  My mom had a VHS of ‘Riverdance.’  I remember I was watching it . . . and I told her, I want to do that.” 

He enrolled in an introductory class, later learning there were actual Irish dancing competitions. The bug had bitten, so he enrolled in more specialized training in 2003 and began competing in 2004. “That old 1997 VHS of ‘Riverdance’” started it all,” he said.”

With hard work, he went to the World Championships twice. One competition was held here in Boston, the other in Belfast. 

“(For Belfast), my mom and I were there for a week and a half . . . To get to compete in that sport in Ireland — it was just a very surreal experience . . . I didn’t make it past the semifinals, but just getting there was enough for me.”

Beeman majored in journalism in college.  However, he also loved the performing arts and would meet two mentors at Spinning Tree Theatre in Kansas City — Artistic Director Andrew Parkhurst and Managing Director Michael Grayman. “They kind of took me under their wings when I was in college . . . I learned so much from them.  How the business worked, auditioning . . . “

He relocated to Manhattan last year, where he happened to catch “Something Rotten” with the original cast.  “I remember just laughing from the second the curtain came up until the second that the bows were over.”

When auditions for the tour were announced, he thought, ‘God, I remember how much I laughed in that show and how much I loved it. . . . I ended up auditioning for it, and here I am . . . It’s kind of a crazy full circle thing.”

He said a national tour “was always something I wanted to do . . . To see the country and do a cool show eight times a week. That just sounded like a dream to me.”

As it happens, the tour’s route has added meaning for Daniel. “We’re going through my home town of Omaha (in May),” he said.  “And I’m going through Kansas City next summer, which is where I went to college and worked in the theater scene.  So it’s wonderful, not just to be able to do such a great show but do it in the towns that I love and that I have a really deep connection with . . . I’m humbled and really excited about it.”

So, as 2017 unfolds, Beeman is making new memories and living the dream of traveling the country and sharing a new musical with audiences eight times a week. 

One last question: Like Nick Bottom in “Something Rotten,” does he hate Shakespeare? Laughing, Beeman put it on the record, “No, I am not a Shakespeare hater.  I am a Shakespeare admirer!”

R. J. Donovan is editor and publisher of onstageboston.com.
“Something Rotten,” January 17 - 29, Boston Opera House, 539 Washington St., Boston. Info: 800-982-2787, or broadwayinboston.com.