It’s not hard for Adam Pascal to be the Bard. The “Rent” star – he was the original HIV-positive rocker Roger when Jonathan Larson’s show opened on Broadway – swaggers and struts and sports an impressive codpiece as William Shakespeare in the hit musical “Something Rotten!” which opens March 21 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts.
The show is about two brothers – played by Rob McClure and Josh Grisetti, who also played the roles on Broadway – who are struggling in the theatrical shadow of a rock star Shakepeare. That’s where Pascal – who also has starred in “Aida,” “Cabaret” and “Memphis” – comes in.
He’s pretty happy about hitting South Florida at a time where the weather is a bit chillier everywhere else. And playing this bad-boy Shakespeare is an example of what he loves best about the theater.
“I love putting on a costume and changing my hair and speaking in dialects,” he says. “All that stuff excites me much more than playing leading men.”
Is being in a touring production harder than doing a show on Broadway?
For me it’s not more exhausting. I find it kind of fun to go city to city. After a week or two I’m ready to move on. It’s part of being a professional, being able to keep it fresh regardless of the external circumstances. And this is a company of actors you’d see on Broadway. People have misconceptions about equity touring companies. You’re seeing the same actors you’d see on Broadway.
What do you like best about the role?
I love the fact that every time I come on stage I get to be silly. Being silly is the dominant aspect of my personality! It couldn’t be more fun. He’s such a fun, goofy character filled with bravado and insecurity at the same time. As an actor I love to disappear as much as I can. That’s not to say I’m a method actor. I mean the way I look physically.
Is it difficult to take on a role someone else made famous (Christian Borle won a Tony playing Shakespeare in the original cast of “Something Rotten!”)?
I’m pretty good at taking an already existing role and making it my own. It comes naturally to me. I couldn’t copy something that someone else did. I would feel phony. Starting from Alan Cumming in ‘Cabaret,’ and seeing his version of that character and doing my own version of it, I’ve gotten good at it. Plus then in ‘Memphis’ and ‘Chicago’ and now ‘Something Rotten!’
What was the biggest challenge in playing Shakespeare?
I’ve never tap danced before, and I had to learn how to do this one particular scene. It’s been a big challenge. Learning choreography is one thing, but tapping is asking your body to move in ways it’s not used to moving. It feels completely unnatural to someone who’s never done it.
Why do you think musicals are still so appealing to audiences?
Music is the universal language. When it’s effective on a deep, visceral, emotional level, nothing affects a person more. A lot of people make fun of musicals, about that concept that people just break into song. But the reason it works is because human beings are hardwired to be viscerally affected by music.
“Something Rotten!” runs March 21-April 2 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, 201 SW Fifth Ave., Fort Lauderdale; $35-$150; www.browardcenter.org