|Adam Pascal and the cast|
photo by Jeremy Daniel
by Jennifer Haaland
Big Broadway name Adam Pascal is headed to ASU Gammage next week as history's greatest bard in the national tour of the wildly hilarious and popular musical comedy, Something Rotten!. The William Shakespeare role he plays won actor Christian Borle a Tony Award in 2015, and Pascal shared with Phx Stages how a famous guy playing an even more famous guy thrives on the Broadway show's national tour circuit.
Based on the premise that two brothers, contemporaries of Shakespeare's in 1595, can't get their own plays off the ground because The Bard of Avon keeps knocking hit shows out of the amphitheatre. Something Rotten! foretells the age of musical theatre. The brothers set out to write the first play ever to include song and dance in an attempt to crawl out from under Shakespeare's--in this case, Pascal's--omnipresent shadow.
"Actually, the good thing about playing William Shakespeare is you have poetic license," Pascal began. "Nobody really knows what his personality was like. You can kind of take it any direction you want. In our show, he is an arrogant, obnoxious, but hopefully likable, jerk."
Alongside playing Shakespeare as a "a kind of likable bad guy that you hopefully love to hate," the role lets Pascal explore his rock star wannabe roots. He is a huge fan of celebrities like Freddie Mercury and David Lee Roth.
"I always wanted to be that kind of a front man who held the audience in the palm of his hand because he was so charismatic," said Pascal, who grew up playing in rock bands. "But I was never like that. It just wasn't who I was. So, me getting to play this part is sort of me getting to be that rock star. It's been such a huge joy to get to do that, and to do it in a comedic atmosphere."
Having originated roles on Broadway (Roger in Rent, Radames in Aida), Pascal now seems happily content to have stepped--with his own signature boots--into this tried and true 'Rotten' role. In New York, he did likewise with aplomb in shows like Cabaret, Memphis and Chicago.
"Quite frankly, taking over a role is much easier than starting from scratch. The process for creating an original role in a musical could take years. That's a huge commitment on the part of everybody involved," Pascal said. "It's my preference to take over for somebody who has already done all of the heavy lifting. As somebody who has a family, it's much more productive for me to get a job where I know the work will be for a specified amount of time. If you're in a new musical, you could open and close in a week."
Beyond the job logic, Pascal lobbies for taking over a role for a couple other reasons, too. An exciting pace and sheer enjoyment both play into the equation.
"I've never had more than two weeks to prepare for taking over a role. You're talking about the difference between potentially years and a couple of weeks to get a show ready," he said, landing his preference squarely on the shorter time span. "I've also always found it's kind of fun to watch somebody else and then from that, make it my own thing."
Returning his focus to his family, Pascal noted that technology like FaceTime has made touring all the more feasible and enjoyable for him. He talks to his family, two teens and his wife, every night while he's on tour. Having moved them all from New York to Los Angeles years ago, he appreciates the road scene even more.
"If I'm going to see my family, it's actually easier for me to be out on the road than it is for me to be in New York City. On the road, I'm almost always closer to them. And the time zones are better, too....whether I'm catching flights or just wanting to keep in touch," Pascal said.
Those flights, or real face time opportunities, especially with his wife are crucial, according to Pascal who said, "We try to set a three week limit" on time without each other. For the stretches in between the family visits, he's thankful for his decidedly un-rotten cast-mates.
"As a company of actors you form a pseudo-family," said Pascal. "This is probably the tightest group of people that I've ever worked with, in terms of everyone's affection for one another."
"God, I Hate Shakespeare" will likely be a favorite number blasting through Gammage's speakers come next week. All while choking with laughter, doting on the tight-knit family feel and swooning over the Broadway vibe, we'll get to love hating Pascal's rockin' Shakespeare, too.
CLICK HERE for more information on SOMETHING ROTTEN! at ASU Gammage, which runs October 31st to November 5th