Love. Revenge. Death. Fire. And apparently motorcycles. This is what you get when you take Shakespeare's most famous love story and shake it up with a modern twist. I will be the first to say that in high school, Romeo and Juliet was never my favorite story. Growing up in a modern world where the idea of love and courtship has been reduced to texting, winky face emoji cons, and other technological advancements, it's so easy to write off the star crossed lovers as stupid, immature and selfish. However, David Leveaux has brought a light sweetness to the Broadway stage, which made me see the play differently for the first time.
The show starts off with a bang (no, seriously there's fire and everything) and the distinguished Friar Lawrence (played by Brent Carver) introduces the show. The moment, the show started I fell head over heels in love with the set. The use of muted colors, the mixture of afro-fusion and rustic Italian, made the shows overall feel modern, but not so much that it dilutes the original language of the Bard. I personally thought the set design and lighting were very clever and appealing.
Now, I must agree with the majority of people that say that the chemistry between Rashad and Bloom was lacking the hot passion that most were expecting. I would say that it's not so much fiery, but rather a slight simmer. The passion is dully brewing but never reaches a complete boil. However, there is a sweetness and playfulness between the two lovers which I found endearing and whimsical. It was like watching a dream, and I honestly didn't mind it. Condola Rashad (who I unfortunately, missed in Stick Fly and The Trip to Bountiful) cranks Juliet's innocence to 11 as her doe eyed gazes of wonderment makes her rash displays of love believable. She is docile, soft, and absolutely gorgeous. Did she knock it out of the park? Not exactly, but there is a charm to
Rashad's performance, which touched me. This is the same for Bloom whom I admit I have a soft spot for. After a few clunkers at the box office, he has been in dire need of a career boost. Despite what others may say, I think Orlando is a good actor (and lets be honest there are MUCH worse still working today.) When it was announced that he was playing the role of a young Romeo at the age of 36, there was an outcry coming from all over saying that he was way too old (completely ignoring the fact that older men have played the part before him.) The age is not a factor. Honestly, unless it really bothers you that he's in his mid-thirties, there is no way it can make a real difference. Bloom is still very youthful in his features, and he plays Romeo's naivety so well that you believe it. For his Broadway debut, I feel that he did a great job, and I would love to see him do more stage work.
However, these performances could not have stood alone. It is indeed the immense talent of the supporting cast which gives the show its sturdy backbone. The stand outs including Christian Camargo (Mercutio), Jane Houdyshell (Nurse), Chuck Cooper (Lord Capulet), Roslyn Ruff (Lady Capulet), and Justin Guarini (Paris). Seriously, if you see the show for anything, see it for this fantastic group of actors and actresses.
This show is Shakespeare lite. It's not going to blow the roof off the theatre. There are very few moments that are truly powerful (though the ones that are, are really fantastic.) The show is going to divide people, and I can see why anyone would say this show is empty. However, at the end I found myself welling up. For the first time, I finally saw the beauty within the tragedy and it really made me realize why this play is so loved. I truly did enjoy this show. If you're looking for a deep, dark story about two lovers with a fiery passion that would rival the sun then, sorry you're not going to get it. However, if you want to see a mild show full of sweetness, innocence, and an excellent cast then definitely check it out. B+
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