Romeo and Juliet, #TheBomb or #Bomb…

When it comes to love stories, none is more well-known than that of Juliet and her Romeo.  William Shakespeare literally wrote the book (or should I say play) on the notion of star-crossed lovers.  The adaptations of this classic are endless, yet the public never tires of the story of love gone awry.  So it goes that after 36 years, William Shakespeare‘s Romeo and Juliet has returned to the stage of the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

0306_Romeo&Juliet (c) Carol RossegDirector David Leveaux’s version of Romeo and Juliet takes Shakespearian English and injects it into modern setting.  Another added twist to the original plot is the subject of race – the Montagues are a white family and the Capulets are black.  Hollywood hottie Orlando Bloom and Broadway sensation Condola Rashad play the young, ill-fated lovers.  All these elements should’ve have produced results that were more explosive than a NASA rocket launch to the moon.  Instead, it was more the equivalent of high school chemistry nerds experimenting after class – yeah; there was a little smoke, but no real fire (except for the random bursts of fire on stage).

Although I wasn’t expecting Romeo and Juliet to declare their love on Facebook, I also didn’t expect the term ‘modern’ to be interpreted in such a banal fashion.  The set, which consisted of a ginormous bell, an elevated plank of wood for a balcony, and a wall that contained a Renaissance secco, was uninspiring and a poor match for the lush verse of one of William Shakespeare’s greatest works.  The first time Orlando Bloom appears on stage he is riding a motorcycle, and while that might be modern it is also clichéd.  At the Capulet’s soiree, I thought the choreography would carry an element of hip-hop or krunking, something other than the interpretations of African dance that were exhibited on stage. The nurse walking a bicycle to deliver a message to Romeo and the parkour climbing of the graffiti-ridden mural does add a nod to a more modern era; however these devices failed to deliver on such a promising idea.

0024_Romeo&Juliet (c) Carol RossegThe cast seem to hurry through the dialogue as if they were just trying to get it over with.  Shakespearean English is a mouthful, literally, but the pace was so rushed that some of the beauty of Shakespeare‘s poetry was lost in this interpretation.  While Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad certainly looked as if they had the potential to rival the flames that occasionally appeared on stage, their scenes together were undersupplied of the heat necessary for me to believe that these two would rather die than live life apart.  Brent Carver, Christian Camargo and Jayne Houdyshell’s portrayals of Friar Laurence, Mercutio and the Nurse were an absolute pleasure to watch and brought balance to this production.

Director Baz Luhrmann attempted a modern interpretation Romeo and Juliet on screen in 1996, back when I thought modern versions of Shakespeare were a sacrilege, and it actually became one of my favorite depictions of this classic love story.  Perhaps Leveaux should’ve taken a few notes from this film.  After 36 years, this Romeo and Juliet ascended to no grander heights nor did it plateau to a great theater low.  All and all it was steady and flat, just like the boards of the balcony – wooden and just plain regular.

Photos:  Carol Rosseg

F.A.M.E NYC Romeo and Juliet Ticket Giveaway

You didn’t have to read Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in high school to know that it is the most famous story of unrequited love to ever exist.  Countless renditions of this classic story have been told on stage and screen with 36 years passing since it’s been on Broadway, but this fall the story of the ill-fated lovers of Verona will be back on a Broadway stage once again.  Romeo and Juliet begins previews at the Richard Rodgers Theatre on August 24 and opens on September 19. This latest interpretation of Romeo and Juliet is directed by five-time Tony Award nominee David Leveaux and stars film star Orlando Bloom, making his Broadway debut, and two-time Tony Award nominee Condola Rashad in the lead roles.  Shakespearean English will be spoken; however the setting will have a modern aesthetic.

As this iconic love story is first introduced to us in school, Tixs for Students is running a special promotion: A limited number of $20 tickets for each performance are available for college students. Tickets may be purchased in advance either at the box office with valid ID or online, exclusively through TIX4STUDENTS.COM. Limit of two tickets per order; price does not include facility fee. Educators can also purchase a limited number of $20 tickets for each performance are available for educators. Tickets may be purchased in advance at the box office with valid ID.  PLEASE NOTE: Educator tickets are only available for purchase at the box office. Limit of two tickets per order; price does not include facility fee.

BUT YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE STUDENT TO WIN A FREE PAIR OF TICKETS TO SEE ROMEO AND JULIET!  All you have to do is leave a comment answering these two simple questions:

  1.  Who is Condola Rashads’ mother? (Hint:  She played Bill Cosby’s wife on an iconic ‘80s sitcom)
  2. Who played Orlando Bloom’s father in Kingdom of Heaven? (Hint:  He also played Zeus, father of the Gods, in the remake of Clash of the Titans and in the sequel Wrath of the Titans)

Comment as many times as you like to increase your chances of winning.  The winner will be announced on August 20 at 5 pm EST.  GOOD LUCK FAMERS!

To learn more about Romeo and Juliet, check out the following sites:






Jordin Sparks Reignites In the Heights

Or at least that was the title I envisioned in my head as I strolled in the misty rain to catch the Sunday matinee at the Richard Rodgers Theatre.  So imagine my surprise when I was told Ms. Sparks would not be playing the role of Nina as I had greatly anticipated.  Disappointed, I pouted to my seat, sat down and waited for the curtain to rise.

In the Heights blew onto Broadway in 2008 like a breath of fresh air tempered with a hint of Sazón.  Lin-Manuel Miranda, the show’s creator and the first incarnation of Usnavi, shined a spotlight on the Manhattan neighborhood of Washington Heights and struck gold.  The mix of salsa and hip-hop set to an orchestra was a concoction critics ingested well.  The show won four Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Original Score, Choreography and Orchestration.   The cast recording won a Grammy Award for Best Musical Show Album.   In November 2008, Universal Pictures announced plans to make a film adaptation of In the Heights with Kenny Ortega slated to be the director.  By January 2009, the musical had recouped its $10 million investment and began a national tour in October.  On August 2, 2010, the production marked its 1000th performance.  The whirlwind of success of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s ground-breaking homage to his childhood community ushered in a new era on Broadway and paved the way for musicals that fused more vibrant genres of music and choreography such as Fela! and Rock of Ages.

Since its debut, several members of the original cast have left the show.  Miranda’s last performance on Broadway was in February 2009.   Lin-Manuel is the heart and soul of this musical and with the replacement of several cast members I wondered had the show lost its mojo.  Jordin Sparks would undoubtedly make a great addition.  The “American Idol” winner has great vocal range and is guaranteed to fill seats just from her fan base alone.  But with the musical’s newest cast member sitting out this performance, would the show just be a ghost town filled with espiritus of what used to be?

Once the curtain rose, I was pleased to discover that the spirit of In the Heights is still bursting with energy and is as entertaining as the original incarnation that debuted on Broadway over two years ago.  The torch was well handed from Lin-Manuel Miranda to Kyle Beltran who now plays Usnavi, the narrator who owns neighborhood bodega.  His portrayal of the character is sensitive, funny with a sick flow and cadence that does justice to Miranda’s lyrics and is sure to keep the audience heads’ bopping.  Gabrielle Ruiz was an impressive Nina.  She was so convincing that I almost forgot that she was the understudy.  Clifton Oliver is irresistible as Benny; one can not help but root for him to win Nina’s heart.  Olga Merediz is sensational as Abuela Claudia, the neighborhood matriarch.  Her performance is both endearing and captivating.  And although Merediz is a scene stealer, Andrea Burns commits highway robbery on stage as the vivacious salon owner and barrio gossip Daniela.  With a beautiful voice and hilarious one-liners, Burns transforms a busybody into one of the most engaging characters in the show. Rick Negron and Priscilla Lopez shine as Kevin and Camila Rosario, Nina’s parents.  Their portrayals exude pride and integrity and are relatable to anyone in the audience that has known hard times or experienced parenthood. 

The book by Quiara Alegria Hudes was slightly slammed when In the Heights first debuted.  Critics have called the book “overstuffed and oversimplified” and “sentimental and untruthful.”  I find these critiques to be inaccurate.  In fact, I thought the book to be an authentic portrait of life in an inner-city neighborhood.  I know cast In the Heights well.  I am familiar with people who dream of scoring a big hit playing the lottery, desire to move somewhere different, gossip at the neighborhood beauty parlor, struggle through hard times while trying to hold a family together and watch their neighborhood change as decades, generations and traditions change.  Where I am from there are a mixture of salsa, hip-hop, house, reagge and R&B blasting from the windows of cars rolling down the street, the bodega on the corner services the needs of the residents of the block and around the corner I can get my touch-up, manicure and laundry done.  If there is anything to criticize, it would be that book was not a big enough leap for those that may have grown up in a similar environment.  People go to Broadway to escape their everyday lives; it is hard break away when your reality is onstage staring back at you.

Essentially it is the music and choreography that draws an audience to a musical; the reality that is woven into the story only adds to a stellar production.    At times I wanted to jump on stage, roll my hips and heel, toe right along with them.  The songs are memorable; I find myself humming them sporadically.  “No Me Diga” and “Carnaval del Barrio” are audience pleasers and “Paciencia y Fe” (Patience and Faith) is a showstopper. I wish I could provide 96,000 reasons to go see this musical, but I can only offer three – great music and lyrics, likable characters and high-powered dance moves.  After two years and counting, In the Heights is still a winner.

Photos:  Joan Marcus