Arts

​Star of ‘Something Rotten!’ Richard Spitaletta talks favorite moments, being cast in tour

Spitaletta, pictured above with co-star Jennifer Elizabeth Smith, leads the touring cast of the Broadway musical.

The Broadway hit musical “Something Rotten!” stopped in Madison at part of the Overture Center’s Broadway at the Overture series. Set in 1595, the comedy tells the story of Nick and Nigel Bottom, two brothers looking to write a play bigger than that of their rival: William Shakespeare himself. When a local soothsayer predicts that the future of theater is singing, dancing and acting all at once, Nick and Nigel attempt to write the world’s very first musical. The Daily Cardinal sat down with Richard Spitaletta, the show’s Nigel Bottom, to hear about touring life, the casting process and his worst audition ever.

Daily Cardinal: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?

Richard: Yes! I am an actor based out of New York City. I majored in Musical Theatre at Penn State and graduated in 2016 and have been working since then. This is actually the third time I've toured before, but it's definitely the best touring production I've been a part of. I'm also a comedian. I do stand-up and sketch comedy in my spare time. I can't wait to come to Madison — I've heard so many awesome things about the city.

Daily Cardinal: It's super fun. Lots of good cheese and beer, so how can you go wrong?

Richard: I've been waiting, I've been waiting. Everyone is eating cheese curds, and I was like, no, I'm waiting till Madison.

Daily Cardinal: You can't eat cheese curds not in Wisconsin. So what is your favorite part of "Something Rotten!"? Do you have like a favorite part of the show?

Richard: I guess I have two. Is that okay?

Daily Cardinal: Yes, of course.

Richard: I’m not in "A Musical," but "A Musical" is the big production number and I am always kind of hiding in the wings, just watching it because it makes me so happy. It's such a great moment in the show. I play Nigel, who is Nick's younger brother, and my older brother is trying to come up with a new idea for a play because we need a hit, and we're in a tough place financially. He goes to a soothsayer and aks what is going to be the next big thing in the theater, and the soothsayer looks into the future and says it's going to be musicals. At first, Nick doesn't really understand, so "A Musical" is this big fantasy number where Nostradamus, the soothsayer, is having visions of musicals of the future. It is absolutely one of my favorite moments of the show to watch. And then my other favorite moment is the song, "I Love the Way." It's the song I sing to Porsche, my love interest. I feel like it's a very different part of the show where we see two people who have lived. They come from very different backgrounds, but they've lived very isolated, polarized lives and they connect over their love of poetry, and it's just essentially them geeking out for a couple of minutes realizing that there's someone else out there who loves poetry and literature as much as they do. So that's also my favorite moment of the show.

Daily Cardinal: What’s interesting is you can love Shakespeare or you can hate him, and it works both ways in the show.

Richard: I always think it's interesting that the second song of the show is "God, I Hate Shakespeare" because I think it honestly reflects probably what at least 50 percent of the audience really feels.

Daily Cardinal: Did you go into the show loving Shakespeare, or did you maybe have other feelings?

Richard: I don't know if I feel the way Nick does when he sings "God, I hate Shakespeare." I definitely have an appreciation for it just because having majored in theater and we had to study it and perform it. I think it's very interesting. I probably enjoy watching Shakespeare, performing Shakespeare, more than I just enjoy reading it. I feel like the magic of the genre is fully realized onstage.


"Shakespeare wrote it and Nigel sings it in the show: 'To Thine Own Self Be True.' You really just have to be true to yourself and understand the rejection is going to come but that you really are going to be more successful when you're being yourself."


Daily Cardinal: So you've done a few tours now. Do you have a favorite part of being on tour?

Richard: I just love the travel. It's really incredible. You end up in places that you probably would not have ever visited or had the opportunity to visit. It's also cool too when you have toured once or twice and then you end up going back to venues that you had been to already. It's almost like a network that runs throughout the country of touring houses where companies go and you see your friends names on the walls, or you see your name on the wall that you wrote two years ago when you were with a different show. I love the opportunity to see the rest of the country.

Daily Cardinal: Do you have any advice for college students who also want to pursue theater?

Richard: Yes! When you study theater in college, you're learning something that isn't necessarily structural, and it can be very difficult, and you can start making a checklist for yourself. I think it's very important to just think about who you are as a person, what you enjoy, what's different and unique about you and how you could use that to the best of your advantage. It's cheesy, but it's also true like Shakespeare wrote it and Nigel sings it in the show: "To Thine Own Self Be True." You really just have to be true to yourself and understand the rejection is going to come but that you really are going to be more successful when you're being yourself. And that's really what the whole show boils down to as well. All of the terrible things that happened wouldn't have happened if Nick had just acknowledged he was in trouble or had just not given in to the pressure and looked within himself.

Daily Cardinal: It's a message we all could use. Do you want to tell me about like your worst audition ever?

Richard: Sure. Oh man. I went in for this audition for people who had hired me before, actually, so I felt pretty comfortable. They asked for something funnier but they knew me pretty well, so they said, “Not this song because we know that's your go-to song. What else do you have?” I gave them like four different options and they finally chose one, but they asked me to do something very confusing with it. They said, “Can you do like the lyrical interpretive dance version of it, but also impersonate this celebrity and pretend you're in your room rocking out?” And I just kind of said, “Okay!” I did that and when it was over they just stared at me blankly, kind of staring at me as though I was insane. I was like, “You asked me for this!” It was pretty uncomfortable. I remember I called my mom and said, “I have no problem making a fool out of myself in an audition as long as I feel like they're going to support that.” But they just stared at me. I was like, "I'm uncomfortable, I should go."

Daily Cardinal: What was the process like of getting this role in the tour?

Richard: It was kind of stressful because I was away doing another show when I got the appointment for this. I really felt strongly that it was something I needed to go to. I remember thinking it's going to be expensive, but I just really felt like I needed to go. I had a good feeling about it. I needed to get there somehow. I asked off of one rehearsal and flew to the city, went to the initial appointment and then got a callback and had to ask for another rehearsal off. I went back to the city again and then had the final callback and then had another final callback a month later and was cast. It was worth it, but it was hard. It was six or seven hours travel days from Columbia, Missouri to get to New York City. It was a lot.

Daily Cardinal: But it all worked out.

Richard: Yes, it did work out. I'm really grateful. I just love the show so much.

Daily Cardinal: Do you have anything else you want to add?

Richard: I can't wait to come to Madison. It's going to be so much fun.

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