Theatre Arts in the News Times 3/2/07
Home

Meet the Faculty

Theatre Alumni

Theatre Students

Email Alumni Info

Theatre Arts

WCSU Alumni Page

 

Well-sung rock tragedy

'Romeo and Juliet: A Rock and Roll Love Story' at WestConn
By Chesley Plemmons
NEWS-TIMES THEATER CRITIC

Above, Shawn Turner of Shelton and Sarah Ahearn of Norwalk star as Romeo and Juliet in WestConn’s production of “Romeo and Juliet: A Rock and Roll Love Story.” Below is the play’s ensemble cast.

Star crossed lovers. Tragic misunderstandings. Death. Sweet, sad and simple "" that's "Romeo and Juliet." When the new musical version of the Bard's beloved story at WestConn in Danbury sticks to the story's core, as it mostly does, touching theater flourishes. When the elegant simplicity of Shakespeare is swamped with mismatched excesses, as it too often is, even the most famous lovers in theater have to fight to keep the spotlight focused properly on their fateful path.

"Romeo and Juliet: A Rock and Roll Love Story" is the spring production of the Theatre Arts department at the university and the director, Professor Sal Trapani, has written a 15-song score for this ambitious exercise.

Trapani has pared the script to essential scenes and has incorporated many of the well known lines into his lyrics. It may be a slightly condensed version, but the essence shines through and most audiences will gladly trade off a few well turned phrases for the songs.

While I am not a musicologist, it seems to me this is a "rock musical," though I suppose the plentiful pelvis thrusting the actors indulge in justifies the additional "roll" in the title. Much ado about nothing!

The music has an essentially soft rock sound broken occasionally by belted ensemble numbers which harness the voices of the large ensemble cast. There is also a hint of New Age music in the haunting orchestrations played by the seven-piece orchestra under the direction of Peter Tamaro. The music continues to sound first rate in WestConn productions.

There is a cast of 22, headed by a trio of performers who bring appealing stage presences to the production as well as strong vocal talents.

Shawn Turner and Sarah Ahearn are easy to look at leads and would surely get the most votes for prom king and queen. They sing well and convincingly convey the awakening sexuality they both are discovering with dismay and delight.

Once their love at first sight has been established, most of the songs and the story are carried by them "" including the touching, understated crypt scene at the conclusion.

Backing them up with spirited élan is Chris Vater as Romeo's buddy, Mercutio. Vater seems the actor most completely at home in the skin of his character and he moves like a well lubricated dance hall lizard.

Others making noticeable contributions include Scott Condon as the irrepressible Benvolio, Drew Petrella as a Mickey Rooney like Balthasar, Ann Crupi as Tybalt (one tough gal), and Anthony DePoto as Juliet's father. Jean Billingsley scores as a harried, somewhat unkempt Nurse, as did Chris Sumrell as the unlucky in love, Paris.

Where the production goes astray is in the visual accessories assumedly added on to enhance the story. It almost looks as though the creative teams behind the costumes and more particularly the video projections weren't on the same page as the director.

What does work is Liz Popiel's simple set, a few balconies, some open stairs and wooden platforms -- basic enough to suit any locale. Patrick Laffin's costumes are wildly eclectic and seemingly inspired by the East Village grunge of "Rent." With a cast this big and everyone in different garb, the stage unfortunately looks like a costume warehouse rather than a particular place. And would Romeo, the son of the wealthy Montagues, dress like a street urchin? Laffin's work is truly imaginative but needs a cohesive touch.

That same complaint must be leveled at the videography of Adam Berlingeri. When it's right it's terrific, when wrong, thoroughly out of place.

The use of projections is always a risky business. How much will they enhance the stage action, how much will they distract?

Berlingeri has come up with some handsome, intriguing images "" ghostly figures falling through space and a captivating silhouette of the two lovers kissing. Travelogue like montages of buildings initially suggest that we are in Verona, where the story is set "" and the script continually refers to the city and its heritage. But then we find ourselves looking at the George Washington Bridge at night and the Manhattan skyline. Abstract images to accompany Vater's clever "Queen Mab" number are fine, but later funky ones seem forced.

Amy Jones gets credit for the well staged dance numbers and also for the vocal arrangements.

Audio problems still bug this auditorium when it comes to ensemble numbers. The words often turn into mush. Luckily most of the principals are individually miked and they come through with flying colors.

I couldn't find a valid reason for the director's decision to sexually cross cast certain parts. Having Ann Crupi play the bad guy in the pivotal fight scene makes Romeo and Mercutio look like bullies. John Estock's blonde wigged Lady Capulet defies explanation.

This "Romeo and Juliet" may lack the impact of other versions, but it is a sweetly told tale, one that will warm the hearts of every romantic.

"Romeo and Juliet: A Rock and Roll Love Story" plays through March 10 at the Berkshire Theatre in Berkshire Hall, WestConn midtown campus, 181 White St., Danbury. Performances are tonight, tomorrow night and next Thursday through Saturday at 8 p.m. Tickets are $17; $12 for seniors and non-WestConn students. WestConn students admitted free with valid ID. Call the box office at (203) 837-8732.

WestConn alumni couples are invited to attend tomorrow night's performance (March 3) preceded by a "Met and Married" dinner beginning at 5 p.m. in Warner Hall on the midtown campus. Tickets are $45 and include dinner and show. For reservations, call the Office of Alumni Relations at (203) 837-8290.

 

WCSU Home |  Theatre After Western Home | Search | E-Mail