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A Guide To Every Musical Reference in ‘A Musical’ From ‘Something Rotten’

As a story, “Something Rotten” runs on pure fun. There is nothing hard on the brain for audiences during this brash and boisterous production, which is now providing a wonderful escape from reality while on tour. In fact, the most a theatre nerd has to think during this enjoyable show is when “A Musical” rings onstage.

The punchy song, which lasts for almost eight minutes, holds 20 different homages to Broadway favorites from “Annie” to “Sunday in the Park With George.” Before you read this, give the song a listen, see how many references you can find on your own, then come back!

The following are all of the ways songwriters Wayne and Karey Kirkpatrick snuck in their nods to famous musical scores to make “A Musical” one of the biggest spectaculars in Broadway history:

1. ‘Avenue Q’

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Lyrics: “Some make you happy, some make you sad
Some are quite big, some quite small”

2. ‘The Fantasticks’

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Song Referenced: “Soon It’s Gonna Rain”

Lyrics: “Some are too long, someone just play the song”

In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Wayne Kirkpatrick revealed that the reference to “The Fantasticks” was accidental. He was playing a chord progression when his brother, Karey, noticed its similarity to one in “Soon It’s Gonna Rain.”

3. Les Misérables

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Lyrics: That sounds miserable
I believe it’s pronounced misérables”

4. ‘Nice Work If You Can Get It’

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Song Referenced: “Fascinating Rhythm” by George Gershwin

Lyrics: “Feel that fascinating rhythm moving to your feet
Feel your ass gyrating to that titillating beat
You slap your lap, then finger snap
That’s when you know it’s time to tap”

5. ‘West Side Story’

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Song Referenced: “Tonight”

6. ‘The Music Man’

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Song Referenced: “Seventy Six Trombones”

At this point in the number, ensemble members general march through center stage, donning costumes and props from the musicals they reference (such as this one).

Lyrics: “It’s a musical, whaddaya talk, whaddaya talk
It’s a musical, a Seussical? No a musical, with girls on stage”

7. ‘Seussical’

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Lyrics: “It’s a musical, whaddaya talk, whaddaya talk
It’s a musical, a Seussical? No a musical, with girls on stage”

8. ‘South Pacific’

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Song Referenced: “There’s Nothin’ Like a Dame”

Lyrics: “We’ve got snappy repartee
And the women are risqué
And the chorus boys are kinda gay”

In this section, several members of the ensemble cruise through with sailor hats.

9. ‘Chicago’

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Song Referenced: “All That Jazz”

10. ‘Evita’

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Song Referenced: “Buenos Aires”

11. ‘Rent’

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Song Referenced: “Seasons of Love”

Lyrics: Some musicals are very serious

12. ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’

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Song Referenced: “Superstar”

Lyrics: All the glittering musical, a musical”

13. ‘Sunday in the Park With George’

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Song Referenced: “Putting It Together”

This Sondheim tribute is so quick that you might miss it if you’re not paying attention! One measure from “Putting It Together” appears in the song.

14. ‘Annie’

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Song Referenced: “It’s the Hard-Knock Life”

This iconic one is pretty obvious! Karey and Kirkpatrick revealed to the Wall Street Journal that they had considered cutting the “Annie” reference because of the bulk of homages already in this section of the song.

Lyrics: “It’s a musical for us”

15. ‘Guys and Dolls’

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Song Referenced: “Luck Be a Lady”

16. ‘Sweet Charity’

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Song Referenced: “Overture”/”Big Spender”

17. ‘Hello, Dolly!’

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Song Referenced: “Hello, Dolly!”

18. ‘Cats’

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Song Referenced: “Memory”

19. ‘Sweeney Todd’

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Song Referenced: “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd”

20. ‘A Chorus Line’

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Song Referenced: “I Hope I Get It”

Perhaps the most recognizable, this reference closes the epic number!

Enjoy this read? Then you’ll love Joanna S. Kao’s interactive feature that allows you to reveal each reference while you listen!

Written by Robert Peterpaul

Robert Peterpaul is an actor, writer, and the owner of Robert Peterpaul Productions, which aims to inspire talent to follow their bliss. His career highlights include: working for NBC’s Access Hollywood and America’s Got Talent and, currently, for AOL’s BUILD Series, the Huffington Post, and his family’s foundation, the Thomas Peterpaul Foundation.

5 Comments

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  1. Actually, the “The Music Man” and “Seussical” references are kind of the same. The “Music Man” reference refers to “Rock Island”, the opening number. The “Seussical” reference obviously refers to the name of the show.

  2. When I saw this in Boston, the number “Something Rotten” killed everybody with all of the references. I loved it.

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