Broadway audiences don't always take to movie stars. But Orlando Bloom is more than a pretty face. He is also a stage actor with the chops to carry off one of history's classic roles.
Yes, at 36, he is a little old for the star-crossed teenager, as is his Juliet, Condola Rashad, at 26. But they are equally matched and very good, even if devoid of chemistry, in an aggressively odd production of "Romeo and Juliet" at The Richard Rodgers Theatre.
Romeo enters on a motorcycle, wearing ripped jeans, work boots and a few necklaces. He and the rest of the men are in modern dress. The women, however, wear flowing long dresses and shawls, intended to take us back in time. Why the men are in one century and the women in a non-specific distant one is distracting.
A whole lot on the stage is distracting, which is a shame when you have a genuine movie star who happens to be a terrific actor, a two-time Tony nominee as Juliet, and a supporting cast that includes "Twilight" and "Haven" star Christian Camargo, strutting about as Mercutio.
"American Idol" Season 1 runner-up Justin Guarini plays Paris, who is supposed to marry Juliet. This role is now so small -- much of the play has been trimmed -- that there is very little for him to do.
The set's mainstay is a beautifully done fresco of Renaissance profiles with graffiti layered over it. And over that is a rock-climbing wall.
There's sand on the ground, and fire shoots out of columns that rise as a curtain. The famous balcony scene is done on what looks like a suspended wooden pier. Now that might sound like too much, but add a bell roughly the size of the Liberty Bell, and it goes over the top.
So the choices are odd. But directors, in this case David Leveaux, need to reinterpret Shakespeare. Add having seen a non-gender specific "Romeo and Juliet" in which they wore kabuki makeup, leather bondage and discipline costumes, this was positively tame.
Bloom ("The Lord of the Rings" trilogy, "Pirates of the Caribbean" series) is so natural, speaking as if he always talks in iambic pentameter. He and Rashad are committed to every moment. Still, despite some very long and probing kisses, there is no spark there.
Rashad ("Smash" "Steel Magnolias"), who earned Tony nominations for each of her last two plays, is intense and easily holds the stage against Bloom. And scenes with her nursemaid,Broadway vet Jayne Houdyshell, and Juliet's parents, the formidable Roslyn Ruff and Chuck Cooper, are all well acted.
Nothing is made of Juliet being black and Romeo being white. It's still about the Capulets versus the Montagues.
But even that age-old feud never feels like enough. There's just not enough passion and if there is one emotion that should fuel this play, it is passion.
Photo/Video credit: Carol Rosegg