Review Roundup: ROMEO AND JULIET Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
The new Broadway production of Shakespeare's timeless love story Romeo and Juliet starring international film star Orlando Bloom, making his Broadway debut opposite two-time Tony Award nominee Condola Rashad, officially opens tonight, Thursday, September 19, 2013 at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.
While Romeo and Juliet is the most famous love story of all time, this production - directed by five-time Tony Award nominee David Leveaux - marks the first time in 36 years that the play has been produced for Broadway. This version of the classic tale retains Shakespeare's original language but has a modern setting in which members of the Montague family are white, and the Capulet family are black.
The creative team includes scenic designer Jesse Poleshuck, costume designer Fabio Toblini, lighting designer David Weiner, sound designer David Van Tieghem, and hair designer David BrIan Brown.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Michael Dale, BroadwayWorld: Regrettably, it's the stage-long row of flames that rises from the floor and makes the occasional dramatic cameo that provides any kind of heat in director David Leveaux's soggy production of Romeo and Juliet. Despite the presence of some fine actors who manage to light some sparks here and there, this gimmicky rendering of Shakespeare's tale of adolescent lust gone tragic is curiously lacking in tension, passion, romance and, for some cast members, clear diction.
Ben Brantley, The New York Times: Mr. Bloom, in a first-rate Broadway debut, and the gifted Ms. Rashad exude a too-fine-for-this-world purity that makes their characters' love feel sacred...Yet, while the production features stunning columns of flame as part of its eclectic mise-en-scène, it never acquires the fiery, all-consuming urgency that "Romeo and Juliet" should deliver...Good as she is in the early scenes, Ms. Rashad doesn't yet have the vocal heft and variety to take Juliet into the echoing halls of tragedy...On the other hand, Mr. Bloom, famous for being handsomely heroic in the "Lord of the Rings" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchises, keeps surprising. For once, we have a Romeo who evolves substantively, from a posturing youth in love with love to a man who discovers the startling revelation of real love, with a last-act descent into bilious, bitter anger that verges on madness.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: Credit David Leveaux with trying to make Shakespeare cool, even if this uneven production sometimes misses the mark by falling in love with its visual effects...Bloom and his Juliet, the rising star Condola Rashad, sometime seem out of synch emotionally, but both give it their all, the stage veteran Rashad emerging better than her opposite, a relative theatrical novice...Bloom, a matinee idol, too often appears like a squinty, aging boy band member, while Rashad embraces a coltish, youthful impulsiveness. They are terrific when they kiss, and they do so with a frequency perfectly in synch by their characters' savage love. But when they're apart, the weight of these roles seems to push them down.
Terry Teachout, Wall Street Journal: Would that Mr. Bloom's big entrance led to something interesting, but this "R & J" is a slick, weightless assemblage of modern-dress trickery (Romeo wears a hoodie and jeans) whose conception is as stale as its been-there-seen-that décor and TV-movie music. From the low-impact knife fight to the brutally abridged tomb scene (what happened to Paris?), it proceeds systematically along its overfamiliar way, never missing a chance to be obvious. When the star-crossed lovers paw one another lasciviously at their first meeting, you can almost hear Mr. Leveaux assuring himself, "That ought to thrill the kiddies."
Marilyn Stasio, Variety: The kids are all right. That's the takeaway from "Romeo and Juliet," with movie heartthrob Orlando Bloom and ingenue stunner Condola Rashad as Shakespeare's star-cross'd lovers. The interracial casting of the feuding Montague and Capulet clans sounds bold, but has surprisingly little dramatic impact. The tragedy also survives its gimmicky update to modern-ish times. Bottom line: This enduring love story stands or falls on the appeal of its lovers, and the young stars bring a sweet passion - if no ear whatsoever for romantic poetry - to their immortal roles.
David Rooney, The Hollywood Reporter: The poster shot of Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad for Romeo and Juliet, clad in purest white and lost in each other's eyes on a bed of snowy linens, could be a perfume commercial. Let's call it William Shakespeare's Obsession. But the dreamy intoxication that such a heady fragrance might transmit is largely missing from David Leveaux's snoozy modern-dress production, along with poetry and heat. Bloom is the big name on the marquee and he makes a confident Broadway debut, roaring onto the stage on a motorcycle no less. But such contemporary trappings never quite amount to a distinctive edge.
Elysa Gardner, USA TODAY: Bloom is without question a graceful stage performer, and still looks pretty youthful at 36. But the gap between his suave Romeo and Rashad's breathless, girlish Juliet is glaring. They bring to mind less a couple of kids defying a harsh world than a really nice rock star and his groupie. Incidentally, in this staging, the Montagues are white and the Capulets black. Leveaux doesn't overtly make race a factor in the family feud, but there are subtle nods -- as subtle as anything here, anyway -- to cultural differences...for all its style and bluster [Romeo and Juliet] fails to produce a compelling connection between its stars or with the audience.
David Cote, Time Out NY: Chemistry is what you look for in the title pairing, and that's noticeably lacking here. Rashad is always lovely and effortlessly charming, but she's been encouraged to play up the textual fact that Juliet is a mere 13. Thus she's all dewy innocence and saucer eyes, line readings stuck too high in a girlish register. Bloom conveys a slightly older hipster (which gives the romance a provocative, asymmetrical twist), while embracing Romeo's foppish, self-loving side. We don't get many revivals of the classic on professional stages, so it's safe to say that Bloom's swaggering, matinee-idol Romeo will be the most engaging you'll see in years. But this is also the least erotically charged or sexually frank Romeo and Juliet I've ever attended.
Matt Windman, AM New York: The real battle at the new Broadway revival of "Romeo and Juliet" has nothing to do with Capulets and the Montagues. It's actually between Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad, the show's young, photogenic leads, who are offering flavorless performances full of fakery, and the adult actors in supporting roles who wipe the floor with them...Bloom, after making a bafflingly cheesy entrance on a motorcycle, gives an empty, uninteresting performance marked by shrill line readings. Rashad wears Juliet's naïveté like a mask that prevents her from offering any other facial expressions. At least she's graceful.
Robert Kahn, NBC New York: There's plenty of heat emanating from David Leveaux's production of "Romeo and Juliet"...The opening scene, pitting rival cousins Benvolio (Conrad Kemp) and Tybalt (Corey Hawkins) against one another in front of a graffiti-marked wall, could well introduce the contemporary "West Side Story." An engine revs offstage, and a helmet-clad rider storms in on a Triumph Scrambler motorcycle. It's an entrance that totally works for Bloom, popular star of "The Lord of the Rings" and "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchises...Rashad, often barefoot, plays Juliet as a portrait of innocence and naivete, with eyes that widen in Bloom's presence...There is chemistry here, though for me it seemed to peak early on...During the famous balcony scene, I confess I began to wonder if this all might just be about hormones. The debonair, at-ease Bloom seems to overpower Rashad from here out. Blame it on the strategic wielding of a sun tattoo on his stomach ... or his nuanced performance.
Linda Winer, Newsday: Alas, these lovers are not just star-crossed but so mismatched that they could be from different galaxies in director David Leveaux's busy-with-brainstorms but broad and surprisingly unmoving production. Bloom -- more famously the elf prince and a Caribbean pirate -- makes a dashing, appealing, if not exactly youthful Romeo. He has a flashy entrance in ripped jeans on a motorcycle that, ask not why, is never seen again and he catapults from a playful romantic to a doomed one with a winning grace. It hurts to have to say this, but Rashad -- who has much-deserved Tony nominations for "Stick Fly" and "The Trip to Bountiful" -- is not a natural Shakespearean. Her voice has little variety, and she basically has two expressions -- happy and not.
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: There's fire aplenty in Jesse Poleshuck's visually striking design, but none ignited by the lovers, more ill-matched than star crossed...Bloom, 36, seems a bit old to be hanging out with the gang, let alone to be this callow. I was watching a good actor laboring against a director's two-dimensional construct: Bloom couldn't possibly have chosen to be so flat and uninflected...Yet Leveaux seems intent on underscoring the difference not only in their ages but in their levels of maturity. Condola Rashad, 26, an actress who has been nothing less than hypnotic in other roles (most recently in "The Trip to Bountiful") is sentenced to wide-eyed innocence...
Brendan Lemon, Financial Times: Leveaux is a highly intelligent director but for the life of me I couldn't find much meaning in the objects that waft semi-symbolically throughout the performance...there are spectacular bursts of fire, generating more heat than Bloom and Rashad, apart from a passionate first kiss, manage to do...I cannot complain about the panoply of acting styles here; uniformity of performance usually means monotony of performance. It is, in fact, the jolting difference between Rashad and her nurse, the ever-valuable Jayne Houdyshell, that invests their scenes with aliveness. The disparity between Rashad's timidity and the power of Chuck Cooper, as Lord Capulet, also drives the performance. Christian Camargo, so disturbingly good as the title character's older brother on TV's Dexter, brings a similar eerie intensity here to Mercutio.
Joe Dziemianowicz, Daily News: Bloom throws himself thoroughly into the role of the lovestruck Italian - ticket-holders get to see him shirtless, climbing walls and flexing his gymnastic abilities. More importantly, he speaks Shakespeare's poetry capably. But he lacks the gravity to really grab you. Together, he and Rashad are warm, not hot. If Romeo and Juliet don't blaze, why bother?
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: The most mesmerizing of the lot is Christian Camargo. As Romeo's disenchanted, provocateur pal, Mercutio, he languidly delivers his razor-sharp lines. It's as if the character was fatigued by life itself - yet he energizes the stage whenever he's on. And he doesn't even need to ride a motorcycle.
Robert Feldberg, Bergen Record: With any revival, there's the question of what re-thinking of the play has spurred a new production. In this case, it's hard to find a reason for restaging "Romeo and Juliet" - and, as it turns out, lots of reasons not to.
Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: Unfortunately, the biggest sparks on stage at the Richard Rodgers Theatre come from giant black fire-spouting tubes that move in and out of view. There is precious little chemistry between Rashad and Bloom, making the all-consuming passion that would undo both their noble families a matter more of conjecture and assertion than anything demonstrable. It's a shame, because both are talented actors who aren't daunted by the Bard's poetry.
Scott Brown, Vulture: In the absence of all suspense - though not of pacing, which is fairly fleet, almost brisk - the show is taken over by spotlight supporting roles, most notably Jayne Houdyshell, who steals the show as Juliet's nurse. Houdyshell is, of course, a brilliant stage performer, but when the Nurse runs off with yourR&J, chances are it wasn't secured properly in the first place. Mercutio's another matter: As the only brilliant person in this rather dull crew of partisans, prigs and puppy-lovers - and thus the only crazy person, as well - he's designed to walk away with the whole shootin' match. Christian Camargo doesn't disappoint: A skinny-jeaned, leather-jacketed apparition, he's like some Billyburg poseur driven mad by the dawning recognition of his waning powers of bullshit. As a verbal duelist, Camargo's the very butcher of a silk button - he speaks in short stabbing motions, milks nothing, hits everything, jumps back before he's worn out his welcome.