When Josh Grisetti takes over for John Cariani as Nigel Bottom in Broadway's Something Rotten! on July 18, he'll be joining Tony nominee Rob McClure as the second half of Broadway's most dynamic duo: the Bottom brothers.
Like all big bros throughout history, McClure, who replaced Brian d'Arcy James as Nick Bottom last month, is already showing Grisetti the ropes — and the new stage-siblingship couldn't be working out better. When they're not backstage playing the Nintendo that McClure has set up in his dressing room, the pair is busy onstage putting their own unique spin on Shakespeare's most ineffectual fictional competitors.
Something Rotten! follows 16th-century writing partners Nick and Nigel Bottom as they struggle to achieve an iota of Shakespeare's success, with Nick eventually going behind his brother's back to consult the soothsayer Nostradamus (nephew to the famous one). But Nostradamus gets a few prophetic wires crossed as he tries to help Nick pre-empt the Bard in the creation of Hamlet, resulting in theatrical disaster and more than a few hilarious musical-theater references.
"We actually have a board backstage every time someone hears a new reference," McClure revealed, "because people are constantly finding ones that they didn't hear before." His personal favorite is Sweeney Todd, he said: "I like it 'cause it's hidden. I remember it was like my fourth or fifth performance where I was literally doing trenches with [costar] Brad Oscar, and I was like, 'What's that!?'"
But Grisetti can't pick just one. "All the references tickle me," he laughed.
Did you see the show before being cast?
Rob McClure: I saw it during previews and thought it was just utter madness firing on all cylinders. It is brilliant idiocy, if I may say that. It is just so smart in how silly it is.
Josh Grisetti: I also saw it in previews. I remember at intermission, standing up with the friend I was with and saying, I hope this runs long enough so that I can replace John Cariani.
Rob: That's awesome.
Josh: By the end of that first act, you were just so with the show…It's a love letter to the theater.
What's the most fun song to perform?
Rob: It's a three-way tie between "God, I Hate Shakespeare," "Musical," and "Omelette" because in "God I Hate Shakespeare" I get to full-on be Bugs Bunny. I am playing a million different characters in one song and explaining why I so loathe something. It's so fun to do…And I also get every straight man over forty on my side when I go, "I just don't get it!" I feel a bunch of husbands go like, "Yeah!"
Josh: "I don't get Shakespeare either, bro."
Rob: The reason why I have such a hard time deciding is because they top each other. "God, I Hate Shakespeare" comes, and then "Musical" tops that, and then "Omelet" tops that.
Josh: For me, I love doing "We See the Light." It's the only actual chorus number that I'm in…It's the only time Nigel is part of the fantasy world.
Did you guys get any advice from John Cariani and Brian d'Arcy James?
Josh: Oh my god, so much. One of the things you don't pay attention to with Nigel is how much of the show he carries around. He goes whole stretches where he doesn't leave the stage, and that whole time he's got this bag at his side that has a million props in it. And he's not the only one who goes in and out of the bag to get those props. So it's all strategic…and he has got it down to a science.
Rob: John Cariani also taught me that you can keep kettle corn in your codpiece during the show.
Rob: Brian was so gracious. I would ask him things and he would just say, "No, do what you do." And I was terrified because they're huge shoes to fill. And I actually said in an interview, "There is no way I'm going to be able to fill his shoes. I have to bring my shoes and hope people like them and admire his shoes." So I got to the theater and my sweet dresser, Jack Scott, who had read that interview, kept Brian's shoes, and framed them, and they're in this little display in my room. So every day I look at them with admiration and then hope that what I'm doing is worthy of them.
Josh, how's Rob as a brother so far?
Josh: A**hole. [laughing]
Josh: It's funny. There are key people in the business. People who every time you bring up their names, people go, "Ohhhh, I love him." And Rob has lived up to that reputation. My first day of watching the show, going backstage, first thing he does is come out and hug me and be like, "Welcome, here we are." It's just so familiar straight out of the gate.
Rob: I have Nintendo and Sega Genesis in my dressing room and invited him to play.
It's so funny, what I heard about Josh, every time that his name would come up, everybody I spoke to would say, "You guys have to play brothers." Fans at the stage door: "Have you seen It Shoulda Been You? Josh Grisetti. You guys have to play brothers in something." So I was thrilled to meet him. And I get what they mean. If we track our genetics far enough back, I'm sure—
Josh: There's probably some common [ancestor].
Rob: There's gotta be.
Of the two brothers, which do you identify with personally?
Rob: We've joked that we wanna do it like [Sam Shepard's] True West and switch every night.
Josh: I like the idea of it. For me, I think there's both in there.
Rob: For sure. I was actually really thrilled to get to try and play Nick because I had played sort of the "aw shucks" guy for a while. So when they called, I initially thought they were calling to ask me to audition for Nigel. And when they said Nick, I was like, "Oh? I have a chance to have some balls for once? Yes, please, please!" Because I do feel personally like more of a Nigel, but it's so fun to get to play that guy who kind of loses track of his priorities and chases the dream in a sort of reckless way.
Josh: I think most people from the exterior would think that I'm more of a Nick, because especially once I start dealing with people, I go into just sort of, "OK, let's get practical about this and this and this." But in reality, I'm actually more of a Nigel underneath that. I'm actually like, feeling my way through a lot of things.
Have you ever been in a production of Hamlet?
Josh: No way. No one would ever let me get close to Hamlet.
Rob: I wish. I almost played a Mercutio once. Almost. Scheduling didn't allow it. But I got close. Dammit.
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