NEW YORK (AP) — Brian d’Arcy James throws some serious shade at William Shakespeare in the Tony-nominated musical “Something Rotten.” And it has paid off, nicely.
Playing the great Bard’s fictional adversary in the comedy set in the 16th century has earned James his third Tony Award nomination. But unlike his character, Nick Bottom, win or lose, James already feels victorious.
“It’s just as thrilling and exciting to be nominated because these things don’t happen every day,” James said.
Nominated twice before — most recently in 2009 for “Shrek the Musical” — James feels happy to be part of a show that earned ten nominations, including nods to co-stars Christian Borle and Brad Oscar.
Recently James sat down with The Associated Press to discuss his musical, laughing at Shakespeare, and his friend Jeanine Tesori, the composer of a rival musical, “Fun Home.”
AP: This is your third Tony nomination. Is being nominated enough?
James: It is, actually. I mean, the truth is it is enough. Again, this comes from having gone down the road a couple of times and knowing that you know having been nominated for a Tony twice and not having won doesn’t mean the door shuts and it’s over. It just means that is an amazing accomplishment, a feather to stick in your hat.
AP: ‘Something Rotten!’ is something really funny. How do you not laugh while onstage?
James: It’s hard not to, in fact, and I can’t say that I haven’t been snickering on the side or in full view sometimes… These actors that are inhabiting these roles are all extraordinary, from Gerry Vichi to Peter Bartlett, Heidi Blickenstaff, Brooks Ashmanskas, John Cariani. It’s like an all-star team of comedic actors who understand the function of their role, but more importantly, they’ve all been given this historical text and these characters have been so well drawn and individually created.
AP: Is it fun to poke fun at Shakespeare?
James: I love this aspect of the show… my character sings a song called, ‘God, I Hate Shakespeare.’ So for anybody who’s gone to see a play by Shakespeare and has been intimidated by the fact that they might not be able to grasp it or latch on to it as quickly as some other people, it’s nice to throw some pebbles at him… It takes away the mythic status and shows a guy really good at his job.
AP: What’s it like to be in a musical that hilariously pokes fun at the idea of a musical?
James: I like the idea of trying to imagine a world without musicals, especially in the show. My character is trying to create something that is better than Shakespeare… it’s a love letter to all musicals. Though we poke fun at it and say, in 1595, this is what’s coming down the road. We’re doing it because we absolutely love it. We wouldn’t be here if the musicals that preceded it didn’t exist.
AP: Musicals this season have been like an endangered species.
James: That’s the bad and the sad news, but the great news is that the difference of options that people have in terms of going to a musical this season are pretty extraordinary. You have very unique interesting shows. Our show is a great, big, classic, original musical comedy. You have ‘Fun Home,’ which is very interesting beautiful piece of contemporary issues. You have ‘An American in Paris,’ which is a beautiful ballet by Christopher Wheeldon.
AP: What are your thoughts on Jeanine Tesori, along with Lisa Kron, potentially being the first female duo to win a Tony for best original score?
James: I love Jeanine Tesori. I’ve worked with her many times. I was in her workshop production of ‘Violet.’ She was the musical director for ‘Titanic’ in the workshop stages. I worked with her very extensively on ‘Shrek.’ I love her music. I love the way she composes. I love the way she thinks about theater. There’s no stone unturned in terms of the sculpting that she does with the song and then those incredible melodic tunes…. I’m very chemically in tune with what she’s writing. I love it… She’s a real leader and she does it not only by how she works, but who she is.
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