When one thinks of Shakespeare and his classic, beloved plays, Macbeth may be the first to come to mind, or perhaps Twelfth Night or Richard III. These and more are back on Broadway in a highly anticipated Shakespeare-filled season. Everyone knows of the story of Romeo and Juliet: Boy falls in love with girl, girl falls in love with boy, they become forbidden lovers and they both die passionate deaths. However, Broadway director David Leveaux brings simplicity and elegance to this classic tale of star-crossed lovers.
Orlando Bloom stars as the handsome and daring Romeo, opposite Condola Rashad, offering a beautiful, charming portrayal of Juliet. Bloom is suave and captivating as Romeo, stealing one’s heart and commanding the stage right from the start. His presence is exceptional and the dialogue rolls off his tongue ever so eloquently. Rashad is the quintessential Juliet in an honest and heartwarming performance. Her youthful depiction allowed for a clear contrast between the older appearance of her Romeo. The supporting cast currently includes Jayne Houdyshell as Nurse, American Idol season one contestant Justin Guarini as Paris and Chuck Cooper as Lord Capulet.
Without warning the show began with a blackout and crashing sound, resulting in audible gasps from the audience. Viewers were captivated immediately. The first few minutes were lived in excited anticipation awaiting Bloom’s first appearance, as audience members were eager to see his portrayal of a distinguished and iconic character in classic literature. If one is skeptical about Bloom taking the stage as Romeo due to his “Hollywood A-Lister” persona, or because he is seemingly too old for the role, reserve all judgments until seeing this production. As expected, his entrance delivered as he rode in on a motorcycle with all the power and presence one would expect Romeo to bear. This is the first of many thrilling and emotional moments in the show.
One of the highlights of the production was the iconic balcony scene. The chemistry between Bloom and Rashad was electric from the moment they met at the ball in the scene prior. This exchange contains some of the most distinguished dialogue which some will argue is Shakespeare’s best work. This moment onstage between two genuine, passionate lovers is indescribably beautiful; surely a moment that has to be seen for oneself.
A stark contrast to the balcony scene was the final encounter between Romeo and Juliet. It is during this scene that the true sense of the word “tragedy” comes into play. Romeo drinks his poison just before Juliet wakes up from her deep slumber. Romeo’s realization of Juliet’s “death” is enough to make any grown man cry. The outpouring of emotion felt from both Bloom and Rashad during this scene was striking. Additionally, the lighting during the speeches of both characters added intensity to the scene and heightened the emotional state of the audience. At this point, there was audible weeping throughout the audience. The show ends similarly to how it began- simply and elegantly.
While most aspects of this production were admired and thoroughly enjoyed, it is opinioned that the decision to have the actors perform sans microphones was a disservice to audience members. Sitting in the rear mezzanine, despite having a clear view of all the action onstage, much of the dialogue was lost. The heightened language of Shakespeare is difficult enough to comprehend on its own, so trying to decipher the words of the actors was distracting and frustrating. Fortunately, the story is much easier to follow when played out onstage as opposed to when simply reading the text.
Of the production, sophomore Gabby Cascio says, “This show is everything and more. Classic with the perfect amount of modern.” Bottom line: There is no reason not to see this stunning production.
Romeo and Juliet is playing now through Jan, 12, 2014 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre: 226 West 46th Street New York, NY 10036. Producers have implemented a special student and educator ticket policy for this show. 100 seats are reserved for each performance and can be purchased prior to the show at the box office or online for only $22.