‘Something Rotten!’ is coming to the Durham Performing Arts Center April 4-9

The cast of the national tour of "Something Rotten!"
The cast of the national tour of "Something Rotten!"

Nothing’s as amazing as a musical! Those words are sung with aplomb in “Something Rotten!” — a musical full of homage to and jokes about musicals. And Shakespeare, too.

The Broadway show recently closed in New York, and the national tour that launched this season includes some of the original Broadway cast. “Something Rotten!” comes to the Durham Performing Arts Center April 4-9.

“Something Rotten!” producer Kevin McCollum has also produced “In the Heights,” “Avenue Q,” “Rent” and “Motown the Musical.” The idea for “Something Rotten!” was pitched to McCollum by someone he’s known for 30 years, Karey Kirkpatrick. The musical is about the Bottom brothers, who are competing with the celebrity William Shakespeare to make popular plays.

“I heard a version of ‘Welcome to the Renaissance.’ I said, ‘You have something here. A week later I was humming something to myself and realized I was humming ‘Welcome to the Renaissance,’” McCollum told The Herald-Sun in a recent phone interview.

“Being a producer — a lot is instinct. If you’re passionate about something, my job is to create the economics to make it work,” he said. McCollum said that the writing in “Something Rotten!” is so smart and that we need to laugh more than ever.

“I’m lucky to do something I love,” McCollum said, and he loves musicals. When someone pitches him an idea, he considers if it’s something he wants to see.

“Is it told in a way that’s surprising? We go to the theater to be surprised and see something really original, and I’m always looking for those surprises, and this is definitely it,” McCollum said about “Something Rotten!” “It takes a lot time and a lot of meetings but it’s about people.” He said that some people bring him finished shows, but he wants them instead to bring ideas and a couple of songs, because it’s easier to build the show when everyone is starting at the beginning together.

Whether an original show or based on something else, “a lot of working on the show is: Why is it on stage? Is it innately theatrical?”

“You have to always find the reason to be on stage,” he said. “Why is it on stage, and what is it about how we’re going to tell the story, the vocabulary we’re going to use.”

McCollum said that “Something Rotten!” is brilliant. “The title is a play on Shakespeare and also plays on the struggle to create something wonderful,” he said.

“It really is a story about celebrating the love of theater,” he said. There are at least 23 theater references in the production. But you don’t need to know a lot about musicals to enjoy it, either. There is plenty of Shakespeare and celebrity culture in it, too, and set in 1595, between Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” and “Richard II.”

Taking the show on tour means that everything has to be built in much more of a collapsible way without giving up the quality you had on Broadway, McCollum said. “It involves a lot of engineering,” he said, of the logistics of trucks, fit, loading docks, venues and differences in each city. “It’s a lot of Rubik’s Cube math I spend as a producer. The result is on Tuesday night when the curtain goes up, a lot of great people worked hard to get that show open in your town,” he said.

McCollum tries to see the show on tour every few weeks to see the cast, which changes with life events and daily life.

“We make the doughnuts daily,” he said. “It’s a full-time wonderful journey of making a show every night.”

Dawn Baumgartner Vaughan: 919-419-6563, @dawnbvaughan

GO & DO:

WHAT: “Something Rotten!”

WHEN: April 4-9

WHERE: Durham Performing Arts Center

123 Vivian St., Durham

TICKETS: dpacnc.com