Baton Rouge has a home team in the Tony Awards

Two brothers from Baton Rouge create 'Something Rotten'
BRHS yearbook photo of Wayne Kirkpatrick (Source: Lida Gibson)
BRHS yearbook photo of Wayne Kirkpatrick (Source: Lida Gibson)
Karey Kirkpatrick as Romeo at BRHS with Jamie Moore Higgs as Nurse. (Source: Sylvia Martinez)
Karey Kirkpatrick as Romeo at BRHS with Jamie Moore Higgs as Nurse. (Source: Sylvia Martinez)

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Baton Rouge Magnet High School can brag that its grads are nominated 10 times for a Tony award.

Karey and Wayne Kirkpatrick were at BRMHS during the 1970s and say their musical theater careers actually began then.

"My music theater background started right there, I did 36 shows at Baton Rouge High," said Karey.

Karey's brother Wayne said he was in the Baton Rouge High production of the musical "1776."

"We had a full orchestra because the school had an excellent orchestra. In fact, we also did a lot of writing in theater class. I think when I tried my hand at writing my first musical was at Baton Rouge High," said Wayne.

Their first musical together "Something Rotten" has taken Broadway by storm. There are reports of audiences jumping up for standing ovations in the middle of the show when a song thrills them. Wayne says when the show first opened, their dad lined up 100 people to come see the show.

"We saw people who they said were our cousins. I don't know for sure. But I also some people from our high school theater group. I looked at them and I felt like I was home again," said Karey.

Karey says people they've admired showed up to watch the show. That after shows, the famous come back stage to express their love. The two men have posed with Sting, Angela Lansbury and Helen Mirren. in fact, Mirren talked about the Kirkpatricks when she accepted an award this week.

"Helen Mirren mentioned our show when she accepted the Drama Desk just a few nights ago," said Wayne.

"She said it was so, 'blanking' good, I can't say the word she said, but she was not very 'queenly' when she said it," explain Karey about Mirren, who plays Queen Elizabeth II on Broadway.

Both these Kirkpatricks are accomplished. Karey was actually in Baton Rouge several years ago for the Red Stick Animation Festival for his work for "Over the Hedge," an animated picture he co-directed.

Karey's career began as a screen and songwriter for Disney Animation. He wrote "The Rescuers Down Under" and "James and the Giant Peach." He's made more than a dozen feature films including my favorite "Chicken Run" from the animators of "Wallace and Gromit." As well as  just to name a few.

Wayne Kirkpatrick has also been wildly successful in Nashville as a songwriter. He wrote "Change the World" for which he won a Grammy for Song of the Year, with Eric Clapton performing it. Wayne's Top Ten singles include Amy Grant's "Every Heartbeat" and "Good For Me," Garth Brooks' "Wrapped Up In You," Michael W. Smith's "Place In This World," and Little Big Town's "Boondocks," "Bring it on Home," and "Little White Church."

Wayne's a multi-formatted songwriter, having songs recorded by Bonnie Raitt, Faith Hill, Tim McGraw, Joe Cocker, Wynonna, Gabe Dixon, Nickel Creek, Trisha Yearwood, Babyface and Peter Frampton, among others. His songs have been featured in films such as "Almost Famous" and "Phenomenon," and television shows such as "Grey's Anatomy," "True Blood" and "Hart of Dixie."

Wayne and Karey told me via a Skype interview from New York City that writing "Something Rotten" took about 4 and a half years of intensive back and forth between Nashville to Los Angeles where Karey lives. They said in seeking a producer they had five songs and the idea and it all happened quickly after that.

I had been told by friends the Kirkpatricks have in Baton Rouge that it took $14 million to bring "Something Rotten" to its opening night on Broadway. When I asked the men about that, they laughed, "That's the producer's job is to find funding, and apparently there were a lot of investors. We are constantly meeting people after the show who say 'I helped fund your production'. Apparently many, many people helped get this show on the stage."

When asked what they remember most about Baton Rouge, they highly credit Baton Rouge Magnet High with offering the kind of start that really set them on fire. Sylvia Martinez, a long-time drama teacher at Baton Rouge High, was mentioned over and over again for her inspiration of the Kirkpatricks as teenagers.

They also say they miss the terrific food from Baton Rouge.

"The great food we grew up on in Baton Rouge," said Wayne says.

"If I want crawfish, I have to have it mailed to me basically," Karey added.

When wrapping up my interview, I asked them why the musical is named "Something Rotten." I had tried the title out on our receptionist at WAFB.

"Would you see a musical called "Something Rotten?" I asked. She said, "No. But if you told me it was by two Baton Rougeans, I might."

The Kirkpatricks say when they told their mother the title was "Something Rotten" she asked incredulously "Is that the one you'll keep?" because the title had been many things before that.

When others question the show title, one friend suggests it must be about Hamlet. Karey Kirkpatrick's face spreads into a wide smile, "Why yes, it is about Hamlet. But you'll have to see the show to find out why."

"Something Rotten" is showing at New York City's St. James Theatre, 246 West 44th Street. They're the "home team" to root for during Sunday's Tony Awards.

CBS and WAFB will air Broadway's annual awards program Sunday June 7th.

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