BWW Reviews: ROMEO & JULIET: LOVE IS A BATTLEFIELD Soars at Rockwell!
It's difficult for any production to take on Shakespeare, especially such a beloved classic as Romeo & Juliet, but "Love Is A Battlefield" is more than up to the challenge. Using the music of Pat Benatar, Tina Turner, and other powerhouse songs from the '80s, Romeo & Juliet manages to find an equal balance between Shakespearan text and contemporary songs. The two seemlessly blend into one another and while Shakespearan prose is spoken, it's hardly noticeable. The action, the configuration of songs lend themselves to creating a modern environment.
The choreography is a highlight to be commended. Rockwell does so many of these shows so well and I have stated this before but I'll state once more that these shows fit within this space. They're able to utilize every inch of the room whether the actors walk from the front to meet in the middle or they come from the back and lean against the surrounding walls, the action never stops, and the audience is always riveted. Many scenes stand out to me, but to use as an example, Love Is A Battlefield, sung beautifully by leads Corbin Bleu and Ashley Argota, embody the spirit of young love by playfully teasing each other, running from one side of the room to the other. They always catch up to each other, giving everyone in the audience a glance at the chemistry they exude, the clear connection Romeo and Juliet share. The fight scene between Capulets and Montagues at the beginning of the show should also be acknowledged for being extremely compelling. The audience was riveted as the action took place in the middle of the room and it truly was a musical treat to hear the mix of Invincible combined with Hit Me With Your Best Shot.
The score in this show is gorgeous. The arrangements really help to create that sense of modernity that Shakespeare can often lack. The music brings the text to life and the actors and singers involved are no small part of that process. Corbin Bleu brings his charm, energy, and enthusiasm to the role of Romeo. Romeo is meant to be charming. To find Romeo and Juliet believable, it has to be portrayed by actors who also convey lightness, innocence, but also heat and chemistry. Ashley Argota is a great Juliet with an incredible voice to match. She really takes control of every song without being too overpowering, commanding attention that I'll happily give. Jameson Moss serves as a wonderful Friar/Narrator who takes a starring role at the beginning of the show, using his compelling voice to tell the tale. Paris for the opening night performance was Andrew Priozzi who played badass Paris - the bad boy whose proposal Juliet very reluctantly agrees to. His harsh tones (fitting for the character) created a distinct divide regaring who to root for. Jeffery Christopher Todd and Joey Bybee play Tybalt and Mercutio and the heart absolutely breaks when both are slain, wonderful portrayals by both actors. Jordan Kai Burnett and Nicci Claspell are vocal standouts. Burnett plays Benvolia giving a stunning rendition of One Song (Song of the Lion) at the beginning of Act Two. Claspell plays the Nurse and the house erupts in earned applause as she belts What's Love Got To Do With It? with a great amount of heart and emotion. Peter Vogt and Kyra Selman play Father Capulet and Mother Montague, respectively. Their rendition of Hell Is For Children is not to be missed. Vogt has a rich bartione that serves the song so well and combined with Selman's lithe but powerful notes, it makes for one great duet.
The audience knows the story, knows how it ends, but you haven't seen the story told like this. Playing throughout the summer, "Romeo & Juliet: Love Is A Battlefield" is a must-see at Rockwell. Tickets can be purchased at: http://rockwell-la.com/
Photos by: Aimee Curameng
Cast of "Romeo & Juliet: Love Is A Battlefield"
Creative Team: Chris Downey, Kelley Parker, Bradley Bredeweg, Kate Pazakis, Brad Hooks
The women of "Love Is A Battlefield"
The men of "Love Is A Battlefield"
Cast and Creative Team of "Romeo & Juliet: Love Is A Battlefield"
Cast showing off show tattoos: "Live For Love"
Cast with Director Bradley Bredeweg
Bradley Bredeweg and Chris Downey with the cast
Kate Pazakis and Bradley Bredeweg
Creative Team with star Corbin Bleu