Adam Pascal calls himself a “self-admitted ignoramus” when it comes to all things Shakespeare.
The performer draws upon that lack of knowledge, plus his brush with rock-star fame, to sell clever songs such as “It’s Hard to Be the Bard” and “Will Power” in “Something Rotten!” The romp of a satirical Broadway musical, set in 1595, tells the story of the Bottom brothers, aspiring playwrights who attempt to compete with the oversized popularity of William Shakespeare.
In “Something Rotten!”, The Bard is as flamboyant as contemporary rock stars such as Freddie Mercury, David Bowie or David Lee Roth. But the character is also an arrogant goofball, and Pascal says his characterization draws upon the comedy of Monty Python characters, Stewie Griffin from “Family Guy” and Kramer from “Seinfeld.”
Pascal and two other Broadway principals (Rob McClure as Nick Bottom and Josh Grisetti as Nigel Bottom) headline the national tour of “Something Rotten!”, which plays at Salt Lake City’s Eccles Theatre Jan. 9-14.
McClure and Grisetti have a wonderful, comedic chemistry as the Bottom brothers, producer Kevin McCollum says. (McCollum’s musicals include Tony Award winners “In the Heights,” “Avenue Q” and “Rent," in which Pascal played Roger, the “One Song, Glory” wannabe rock star.)
McCollum says of Pascal: “He truly has a rock-star voice, and he has a swagger, and he has a great sense of humor about himself.” The producer compares the contemporary challenge of Roger’s “One Song, Glory” strivings to Shakespeare’s quest to write his next hit play.
Pascal played Roger in the off-Broadway, Broadway and London productions of “Rent,” as well as the Salt Lake City run on the national tour, reprising the role for the 2005 movie. Utah fans might remember his film debut as Eddie in 1998’s “SLC Punk” and his return in last year’s sequel, “Punk’s Dead: SLC Punk 2.” Pascal also created the role of Radames in “Aida” and returned to Broadway last season to perform in “Disaster!”
“I always thought I wanted to become famous, and then I kinda became famous, and now I am not,” Pascal says of his 20-year career as a performer. “I prefer not being famous, but of course what else would I say?”
For all the show’s comedy, even the jokes nod to the story’s roots, giving Shakespeare lines such as “I haven’t figured that out yet” whenever the character’s dialogue might veer from historical accounts, McCollum says.
Pascal says playing the world’s most famous playwright — costumed in a comedically sized codpiece — required him to practice the “bing, bang, boom” timing of musical comedy, and also required that he learned to tap dance.
“It’s a comedy, but it’s not comedy for comedy’s sake. It’s a human comedy. It hits a chord,” McCollum says. “As audience members, we’re all the Bottom brothers.”
“God, I Hate Shakespeare”
When • Jan. 9-14, 7:30 Tuesday-Thursday; 8 p.m. Friday-Saturday; also 2 p.m. on Saturday; 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday
Where • Eccles Theater, 131 S. Main St., Salt Lake City
Tickets • $44-$123, at 801-355-2787 (ARTS) or arttix.artsaltlake.org