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BWW Review: ROMEO & JULIET: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD, VOL. 2 - A Masterful, Exhilarating Contemporary Take on A Shakespeare's Classic

Romeo & Juliet: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD, VOLUME 2/created & directed by Bradley Bredeweg/musical direction by Brad Hooks/choreographed by Chris Downey & SaraAnne Fahey/Prospect Theatre/August 20, 2016

Prospect Theatre's inaugural production, Bradley Bredeweg's ingenious rock musical Romeo & Juliet: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD, VOLUME 2, simply WOWS with its cast of triple-threat performers singing the hell out of cleverly-chosen pop songs while many times dancing up a storm. Creator Bredeweg tightly directs his high-energy troupe with a fast, smooth pace utilizing every available unused space in the room for his actors' immersive dramatics.

The basic plot of Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet has two young lovers from warring families attempting to prove love conquers all. But alas, a number of deaths sadly occur before the tale ends.

Bredeweg has inserted appropriate pop tunes that advance Shakespeare's script giving these songs totally new and different significance.

The titular couple Romeo and Juliet receive powerhouse vocal performances fueled with totally uninhibited and intense emotions from Alex Nee and Ashley Argota. Nee and Argota nail their duet of Whitney Houston's "I Have Nothing" in their balcony seduction scene. With their combustible chemistry so off the charts, their version of Pat Benatar's "Love is a Battlefield" so vividly, so easily express their realization of their doomed relationship. Their death scene solos of Benatar's "We Belong" will rip your heart out with both their individual rawness.

The heads of the opposing clans, Father Capulet and Mother Montague are most beautifully sung by Peter Allen Vogt and Julie Garnyé. Their voices astonish in their duet of Benatar's "Hell is For Children." Garnyé gets her solo moment to shine in Annie Lennox' "Broken Glass." Vogt commands the stage as the strong, tyrannical Father.

Brett McMahon as Paris (the husband Father Capulet has chosen for Juliet) soars recovering from his failed proposal attempt singing The Human League's "Don't You Want Me." McMahon howlingly duets with the equally matched A.J. Mendoza (as Tybalt) in Duran Duran's "Hungry Like a Wolf."

Nicci Claspell as Juliet's Nurse brings new life and oh-so-much feels to Tina Turner's classic "What's Love Got to Do With It."

Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" showcases Chris Chatman's pipes and MJ squeals as his Mercutio jokes around with Benvolio, animatedly played by Jordan Kai Burnett who stunningly breaks out into Janet Jackson's "Control." Burnett really sells her second act opening solo of U2's "In the Name of Love."

As Friar, the mediator/referee of the town, Jameson Moss effortlessly conveys a compassionate humanity in his many spoken lines, after opening the show with his very sturdy vocals in Benatar's "Out of the Ruins."

Kudos to co-choreographers Chris Downey and SaraAnne Fahey for their ultra-fun, super- athletic, very in-synced choreography ably handled by all, especially in the masked ball ensemble number of Prince's "Let's Go Crazy."

An essential element of Shakespeare, convincing fighting choreography from Nicole Reddinger gets nicely incorporated into the initial tumble of Montagues and Capulets in MJ's "Beat It," and, of course, in the lethal match between Tybalt and Mercutio. Lighting designer Justin Preston's flashing strobes greatly complement the stop-motion combative scenes.

Top-notch musical back-up from the Prospect Band, led by musical director Brad Hooks on keys; with Mark Concuan on drums, Sari Mellafe on guitar, Elmo Zapp on bass and Max Mueller on cello.

What a great show to introduce Shakespeare to the next so-hip, younger generation. You will definitely be hearing these songs in a new light.

Check out my Dinner & Show interview with Executive Chef Kyle Schutte on the wonderful dining aspects of Prospect Theatre.

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From This Author Gil Kaan