Richard Rodgers Theatre
226 West 46th St. between Seventh & Eighth Aves.
Tuesday - Sunday through December 8, $87-$142
The first Broadway production of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet in more than a quarter century might have fire, but it lacks sizzle. On Jesse Poleshuck’s relatively stark stage, which includes a large bell (hanging through the entire show), sand on either side, and a three-piece fresco that serves as a climbing wall, an artistic backdrop, and a doorway, the slick Romeo Montague (Orlando Bloom, in his Broadway debut) arrives on a motorcycle, making it clear from the start that this will not necessarily be a traditional version of the play. It’s love at first sight when he comes upon Juliet Capulet (Condola Rashad) at a party, but their families are sort of like the Hatfields and the McCoys, with a long history of not exactly getting along with each other. A fight ensues between the white Montagues and the black Capulets involving switchblades and chains, more West Side Story than Shakespeare, leaving several dead and Romeo in a heap of trouble. Meanwhile, Juliet flies high on a swing and later declares her love for Romeo on a balcony that juts out from the right like a deus ex machina. In addition, two horizontal poles occasionally show up, spitting out flames.
Directed by David Leveaux, who specializes in Broadway revivals (Nine, The Real Thing, Fiddler on the Roof), this version of Romeo and Juliet ends up falling flat, with only flashes of excitement, even if it does include one of the longest kisses in Broadway history. Rashad, who was nominated for Tonys for her first two performances on the Great White Way, in Stick Fly and The Trip to Bountiful, is too innocent and wide-eyed as Juliet, and the chemistry between her and Bloom, who is fine if not exceptional, never quite ignites. The always reliable Jayne Houdyshell is a powerhouse as Juliet’s nurse, Brent Carver makes for a caring Friar Laurence, and Christian Camargo has a blast as the wisecracking Mercutio, dry-humping everything in sight. The cast also includes Corey Hawkins as Tybalt, Conrad Kemp as Benvolio, Chuck Cooper as as Lord Capulet, Roslyn Ruff as Lady Capulet, Michael Rudko as Lord Montague, and Tracy Sallows as Lady Montague. Leveaux wisely avoids turning this into a story about race, even casting Justin Guarini, the son of an African American father and an Italian American mother, as Paris, Romeo’s rival for Juliet’s hand in marriage. (The previous Broadway production of Romeo and Juliet in 1986 had a multicultural cast led by Rene Moreno and Regina Taylor as the star-crossed lovers.) But the inconsistent and often confusing staging, along with little or no spark from the leads, leaves this Romeo and Juliet sadly lacking.