The works of Shakespeare — be it the comedies, the tragedies, or the histories — are revered and untouchable.
Unless, of course, you’re the musical comedy Something Rotten! which not only skewers the legend of the Bard but also tackles the holy tropes of musical theater and Broadway hits in general while simultaneously paying homage.
With its story of two brothers who are trying to make it in theater against the juggernaut of Shakespeare, Something Rotten!’s farcical romp was so strong that its pre-Broadway run in Seattle was canceled, allowing the show to go straight to the Great White Way.
Opening in spring 2015, the show hit the road just two years later and visits the Embassy Theatre next week.
Should have Seen this coming
Among those tackling some well-known characters is Greg Kalafatas, whose Thomas Nostradamus is the purported nephew of the well-known seer.
“This show is really appealing to me,” Kalafatas said. “It’s really a love letter to Shakespeare and to musicals and comedy. But if you hate Shakespeare, there is literally a song in the show called, ‘God, I Hate Shakespeare,’ so that song is for you. If you’re a fan of musicals, there are a lot of inside references and jokes that you’ll enjoy, but even if you don’t know anything about them, they’re still funny. The show is really well structured so that there are references that everybody will get.”
Kalafatas’s road to stage glory is slightly different than some. He was recruited in middle school for a high school performance of Kiss Me, Kate and enjoyed theater throughout high school, but he was in college before deciding that theater was the direction his life would take.
“I went to the University of New Hampshire as an undeclared liberal arts major,” he said. “I knew in high school that I still wanted to keep performing even if it was casually, so I applied to schools that had open theater auditions for non-majors.
“In my sophomore year, one of my professors was new, and since she didn’t know anyone in the department yet, it was great auditioning for her because everyone was pretty equal to her. I was cast in her show, and one day I was waiting for my Subway sandwich for lunch, and she came by and sat down and told me she thought I had what it took to make it. I declared theater as my major and have never looked back. I think I knew all along that’s what I wanted, but I just didn’t have the confidence. I just needed someone to believe in me.”
Taking in the countryside
Something Rotten! is a show that Kalafatas was familiar with before he first auditioned for the tour last spring.
“I actually saw the second preview on Broadway, and I was in the very front row,” he said. “I got into the digital lottery for tickets, and I don’t think anyone knew about it yet, so I got the tickets right away. I loved the show. It was totally my type of humor.”
And the Nostradamus character is also well suited to his talents.
“This role really allows me to do what I do best. I’m kind of a crazy character actor, and this guy is slightly unhinged. But he means really well.”
Kalafatas is no novice to touring productions, having also hit the road with The Drowsy Chaperone and The Buddy Holly Story where he played the Big Bopper. One of the things he most enjoys about the experience is seeing the country up close.
“I really enjoy seeing cities that you wouldn’t necessarily go to otherwise,” he said. “One of the first places we went was Madison, Wis., and there was so much going on. It has the state capital, and it’s a college town. It’s really a great city. It’s fun to have some pretty new stops along the way and be surprised by cities like that.
“We also drove from Tucson to Utah, and that drive from Arizona to north of Salt Lake was great with all of the mountains. It’s just fun to see how big the country is. And the theaters are all so different. Some places have older, historic theaters and some have really modern ones. So that’s a lot of fun to experience.”
Finding the fresh twist
What remains the same every night is the text and the songs and the actors who take the stage. But Kalafatas said that even that is fresh thanks to the changes around them.
“When you’re touring, every performance is different,” he said. “You have a different audience, a different theater, a different city. And we as a cast find little spots to make it new every time.
“We might add a little beat or do something different when we’re in the background of a scene, and that helps keep things fresh. Sometimes you just discover things in a scene you might not have before, and you say a line a little differently, and you’ll get a new laugh.
“It can be hard to balance keeping it fresh with doing it the same because it’s my job to do it the same. But when you’ve done something 160 times, you just look for those little moments.”
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