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What you need to know for 03/27/2017

‘Something Rotten!’ in Schenectady

‘Something Rotten!’ in Schenectady

Musical comedy (was it the first?) set in Shakespeare’s time
‘Something Rotten!’ in Schenectady
Rob McClure, center, as Nick Bottom in "Something Rotten!"
Photographer: Joan Marcus

The premise of “Something Rotten!” is pretty neat: Two brothers running a London theater in 1595 are desperate to do something new and creative to steal the spotlight from their chief competitor, a guy named William Shakespeare.

What they come up with, thanks to Nostradamus, is something called a musical, and the story behind that life-changing theater innovation from four centuries ago has been lighting up Broadway since March of 2015. To be clear, “Something Rotten!” is not historically accurate, but with 10 Tony nominations in 2015, who’s going to argue with John O’Farrell and Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick for using a little poetic license.

“It’s truly a very funny show, it’s original, and watching something that hasn’t been done before and is also a great show can be a lot of fun,” said Blake Hammond, who plays Nostradamus in the touring production coming to Proctors next Tuesday. “I went to the show when it opened on Broadway and had the best time. I laughed from start to finish, and told myself, ‘I have to do this show.’”

Preview performances
After 742 performances, the show closed on Broadway on Sunday, Jan. 1, and the national tour officially launches at the Boston Opera House on Jan. 17. Before that, however, the show will work out the kinks involved in its first road production by putting on eight preview performances over six days in Schenectady.

Hammond, whose Broadway credits include “Hairspray” and “The Lion King,” will be taking over the role of Nostradamus from Brad Oscar. But the three principals who finished up the show’s New York run, Rob McClure as Nick Bottom, Josh Grisetti as Nigel Bottom and Adam Pascal as Shakespeare, are reprising their roles on the national tour. Pascal is a veteran Broadway performer, having originated the role of Roger Davis in “Rent” back in 1996 along with playing Huey Calhoun in “Memphis” in 2011 and 2012.

“I am the soothsayer, Nostradamus, who Nick Bottom comes to for advice,” explained Hammond. “He wants to know what the next big thing in theater is going to be, and I tell him, ‘musicals.’ The writing is great, it honors all the traditional Broadway musicals before it, and it’s hilarious.”

Hammond is a native of Glen Rose, Texas who went on to get his BFA from the University of Texas in Austin.

“When I was 12 our little town did a Bicentennial production, an original production, about our own little community,” said Hammond. “I got a small part in it, and from there I just went on and got more involved.”
He worked in the Chicago area for a few years, and in 1988 landed a role with the national tour of “Jesus Christ Superstar.”

“I really was too young to be in New York at the time, so Chicago was a good place for a character actor like me to learn a few things,” said Hammond. “Then I did a national tour of ‘Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat’ for two and a half years, I saved a lot of money, and then I headed to New York. I didn’t have to take on a survival job. I really had the time to audition and see what might happen.”

Broadway resume
Hammond found plenty of work. His Broadway resume begins in 1997 with “The Lion King,” and since then he has performed in “On the Town,” “Kiss Me Kate,” “The Music Man,” “Hairspray,” “Elf,” “Sister Act,” “First Date,” “Living on Love” and “Hello, Dolly!” His personal favorite is “Hairspray,” in which for much of 2006 he played the role of Edna Turnblad.

“To play that role for 10 months on Broadway and see my name every day in the New York Times theater directory was really special,” said Hammond. “It was my first big starring role on Broadway, so that probably is my favorite.”

Hammond also had a lot of fun playing Uncle Fester in a national touring production of “The Addams Family.”

“That was also so much fun, and I would also love to play the part of Jean Valjean in ‘Les Miz,’ ” said Hammond. “To sing all those great songs would be wonderful. I know I’m not quite right for the role, and people tell me to play Javert, but that’s a little low for me.”

‘Something Rotten!’
WHERE: Proctors, 432 State St., Schenectady
WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, 1:30 and 8 p.m. Jan. 12, 8 p.m. Jan. 13, 2 and 8 p.m. Jan. 14, and 2 p.m., Jan. 15
HOW MUCH: $95-$20
MORE INFO: 346-6204, www.proctors.org

Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or bbuell@dailygazette.com.

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