First, a message from my 17-year-old self: Oh, my God! Oh, my God! I was in the same room as Orlando Bloom! Breathing the same air! Oh, my God! I saw him act in person! Ahhhh!
Back to being 27 years old: As you can probably guess from the giant photo of a poster above, Orlando Bloom, he of elves and pirates, he of the endless (literally) volume(s) of fanfiction I produced from ages 17 to 19, is making his Broadway debut in Romeo and Juliet as, well, Romeo.
Truth is, I haven’t really been following Bloom’s more recent career moves, but I heard about this play going up and had to see it. Shakespeare? Check. A play I already know and studied in school? Check. Orlando Bloom? Hells yeah!
So I went, with my frequent Broadway partner in crime, my friend Jess, and saw it. I’ll get to that in a minute.
Just an aside, for those who might want to set a story in New York City but don’t live here: a great place to set a scene of futile desperation or utter frustration is at a subway station with a stopped train that hasn’t moved in twenty minutes, trains going ahead on the express track, and announcements that “there is train traffic ahead of us,” then “there is a situation at Queensboro Plaza,” then “there is a smoke situation in a tunnel between Manhattan and Queens,” then “there is a track fire near Queensboro Plaza.”
At which point, there is a mass exodus to a stop eight blocks away in hopes of catching one of those trains that was running past the held-up train. Yeah. And I pay a $2.50 fare per ride for this crap? With more fare hikes coming?!
I used to think Romeo and Juliet was romantic, up until I studied it in school. It was the first Shakespeare play I read in high school, in ninth grade. Of course, it’s also oft-quoted, well-referenced and has been filmed, so of course, I remembered it.
Thing is, I didn’t realize how much of it was so vulgar. In school, the emphasis was on the story (They’re young, they grow quickly in love, tragedy strikes. What can we learn from this, hormonal teenage class?) and the poetry (But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?). But from watching a performance, I learned that many of Mercutio and Benvolio’s lines are sex jokes.
Also, Shakespeare definitely wrote credible teenagers. I saw points where Juliet tried to be sensible (What satisfaction canst thou have tonight?) and a scene where Friar Lawrence had to talk Romeo off the edge (what a different play it would be if Romeo had stayed with Friar Lawrence and things had turned out a bit mellower). Romeo is angry and ranting and raving in this version after killing Tybalt. Both are immature, but caught in a violent cycle with their families’ hatred.
Also, the second act is plot-plot-plot until Romeo finds Juliet in the tomb. Where be the pretty poetry? It’s like Shakespeare realized he needed to get everything in.
And yes, I still think they’re stupid teenagers, despite the star-crossed lovers thing.
This version was interesting. The Capulets are black (with Condola Rashad playing Juliet). The Montagues are white. The reason for their quarrel is not mentioned. The costumes and setting are modern day (Orlando Bloom’s entrance on a motorcycle was quite something), but they retained Shakespeare’s original language.
As much of a fangirl as I was back in the day, I knew that Bloom came across kind of stiff in his earlier parts. On stage, however, I believed him as a young man in the throes of a violent conflict and a deep infatuation. I mean, yeah, he gets a bit scenery-chewy in act two, but still. He’s angry, so I’ll forgive that. Also, the man has not aged.
Condola Rashad, a two-time Tony nominee, was sweet, innocent and definitely playing younger as Juliet. The balcony scene was adorable! Juliet getting the news of her impending marriage from her Nurse was hilarious.
Also, Christian Camargo as Mercutio was fantastic. During intermission, Jess looked him up on Imdb. We overheard the people behind us talking about this actor’s credits as well.