The Roots of Wharton's 'Rotten'

Mar 13, 2018

Broadway producer Kevin McCollum sits down with WKAR to talk about his show "Something Rotten" at the Wharton Center this week. A show which made McCollum do something he hadn't done since he produced RENT in the 90's.


Producer Kevin McCollum has worked with some heavy hitting musical theater creators. From Lin-Manuel Miranda and his first Broadway show, In The Heights, to the global phenomenon from the 90’s, RENT. A while ago, I sat down with McCollum to chat about the National Tour of his nine-time Tony Nominee musical which comes to the Wharton Center this week, Something Rotten. Although the show’s original title Shakespeare’s Omelet was one of the things McCollum nudged the creators into changing… but with a light touch.

"As the producer, part of being in charge is never being in charge. Sort of like Tom Sawyer getting everyone to paint the fence." explains McCollum. "I just felt because one of the plot points is the word 'omelet' and I didn't want to give away a plot point in that title and because Something Rotten is an audacious title to call a music, I just felt that it being a Shakespeare quote as well. I thought it led with confidence and humor and I wanted people to know we were a confident musical comedy that they were going to have a good time. And, you know, I've still debated if that's the right title, because, you know, especially for international tourists, if I was in Tokyo and I went and said 'What should I see?' and someone said 'Oh, go see It's Terrible,' I'd say 'Oh! Thank you!' I thought there was a language problem and I might not see it."

[Music from 'God, I Hate Shakespeare']

One of Kevin McCollum’s more recent projects, The Play That Goes Wrong meant collaborating with Hollywood writer/director/producer J.J. Abrams, but McCollum says producing these two mediums, film and stage are wildly different beasts.

"Well, you know, it's interesting." says McCollum. "In many ways, I think film is a lot easier to actually herd the cats because it's a specific period of time. Typically on Broadway, you need the cast to commit for a year. The other thing is how you run your business. I'm very aware that everybody chooses to show up every day. I always say about the theater is 'we make the donuts daily,' I think somebody else says that too. But I truly relate to that because it is truly about people showing up."

The musical, Something Rotten, in residency at the Wharton Center in East Lansing this week, had a few birthing pains which rose out of some meetings between producer Kevin McCollum & the musical’s co- writer Karey Kirkpatrick.

"He's always said he had a musical he and his brother wanted to write and then he finally said 'You know what? We never have time to finish it or write it.' I said 'Well, what do you mean?' He said 'Well, we have our careers...' and I was like 'Well, do you have 5 songs and an idea?' and he said 'Yes.' So I went to his house and he played, it's not the exact same version, but I first heard 'Welcome to the Renaissance' and they I heard a couple of other songs. My moment was actually a week later when I said to him when I first heard it, 'I think you have something here.' And then I went home and I was around the house, puttering around and I found myself humming this [humming melody] and....'What is that?' --- 'Welcome to the Renaissance.' The theme which is our first number of our show and I called Karey back and I said 'I haven't had a song stick in my head like this since 'Seasons of Love' in RENT, when I first heard it. So, I think I'm producing your show.'

[Music from 'Welcome to the Renaissance']

The musical Something Rotten runs at the Wharton Center all this week, which speaking of McCollum’s earlier venture, RENT features the original Roger, Adam Pascal in the role of Shakespeare. Tickets and more information about the show are both available at WhartonCenter.com