NEW YORK (AP) — Christian Borle and Brian d'Arcy James, two leading Broadway stars and former cast mates in the TV show "Smash," will head back to Broadway together in the sly new musical "Something Rotten!"
Producer Kevin McCollum said Thursday that Tony Award-winner Borle will play a dashing, arrogant and fraudulent William Shakespeare and that two-time Tony-nominee James will portray a rival playwright hoping to make his own mark in 1595 England as he stumbles on the notion of making the world's first musical.
"I love the idea of taking Shakespeare and putting him back in the day when he was competition, as opposed to this mythical creature that we all know and love and revere," said James, who has starred in the title role in "Shrek the Musical" and currently is preparing Lin-Manuel Miranda musical "Hamilton."
Borle, who won a Tony in "Peter and the Starcatcher" and was in both NBC's "The Sound of Music Live!" and "Peter Pan Live!" called the show "funny and smart and completely original. There was no question in my mind that I wanted to jump on board."
Previews begin March 23 at the St. James Theatre with an opening set for April 22. Tony winner Casey Nicholaw, the force behind "Aladdin" and "The Book of Mormon," will direct and choreograph.
The musical has music and lyrics by the brothers Wayne Kirkpatrick and Karey Kirkpatrick. Wayne Kirkpatrick is a Grammy Award-winning songwriter of such tunes as "Change the World" for Eric Clapton and "Wrapped Up In You" by Garth Brooks. His brother helped write such films as "Chicken Run" and "The Smurfs 2."
The show's book is by Karey Kirkpatrick and John O'Farrell, an author known for the books "The Man Who Forgot His Wife" and "The Best a Man Can Get." The new musical will mark the trio's first Broadway show and what emerged is a fresh and subversive but well-intentioned comedy with tap dancing and clever rhyming.
One of the highlights of the show is watching Borle as Shakespeare mangle some famous soliloquies by The Bard. Borle said he channels Kenneth Branagh in "Henry V," which he watched over and over while in college. "I'm pinching myself that this is happening," Borle said.
Borle and James had been in a workshop version in New York this fall, which went so well that a planned stop in Seattle to get the show ready for Broadway was dropped. Even James knew something special was happening.
"I was watching it and I thought, 'Oh my God. This is a workshop but this thing is baked. You might need to add a little salt and pepper in there, but I'd take this on the menu as is,'" said James.