Broadway’s Romeo & Juliet
Perpetuating the filmed-on-stage-for-the-screen trend already seen with The Audience and Coriolanus, Broadway dips its toes into familiar territory this time with the Shakespeare tragi-comedy, and possibly the umpteenth adaptation of the classic text, Romeo & Juliet. 2013 was the time to adapt Shakespeare’s most famed play, evidently, with countless adaptations both on screen (remember the Julian Fellowes version with Hailee Steinfeld? Anybody?) and off-Broadway with Elizabeth Olsen.
This time, Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad, daughter of thespian Phylicia, take on the titular doomed lovebirds. The crowd applauds when dashing Bloom, clad in a hooligan-hoodie and jeans, makes his foray onto the stage is a testament to his celebrity status. He is surprisingly adequate, but here it is Rashad who excels, clearly inheriting her mother’s theatrical prowess imbuing the role of the star cross’d lover with doe eyed innocence and notably plays the famous balcony scene with great playfulness. Broadway regular Christian Camargo also gives a droll performance as Mercutio.
Perhaps beyond the interacial pairing (and overall racial division), director David Leveaux offers nothing new and as a result feels the play feels superfluous. Particularly compared to other recent Shakespeare productions such as the aforementioned Coriolanus both on the stage with Tom Hiddleston and Ralph Fiennes’ cinematic directorial debut, as well as an influx of bold interpretations – such as Julie Taymor’s audacious misfire, The Tempest – that either deviated from the original text to various degrees visually or had updated the sociopolitical issues to resonate with postmodern audiences.
But none of this is present here (except for the admirable colour-blind casting.) And that is the problem. It all feels a bit unremarkable even with the contemporary garb, which in itself evokes memories of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet, but maybe we have just become desensitised to the plethora of conventional Shakespeare ventures that there have been?
It is a piece of text that has been inexorably studied – and adored thanks to Luhrmann’s MTV generation angle – by countless teenagers that it just begs the question: have we just become jaded as adults by what is considered to be one of Shakespeare’s finest hours? Or are faithful adaptations just a little too unambitious for theatregoers? But despite this, it’s not an entirely unwelcome addition to the play’s repertoire. It just that is lacks the insight many of its predecessors had achieved. Or maybe, like many of its kind, the unmatched palpability of the live performance was diminished by its screen transition.
Broadway’s Romeo & Juliet is released nationwide on 1st April 2014.
Watch the trailer for Broadway’s Romeo & Juliet here: