Ole Bill sure could have used an editor. It’s been awhile since I’ve read ROMEO AND JULIET, probably not since my freshman year of high school, and I had forgotten that the script doesn’t end immediately after the tragic demise of our young lovers. Instead, people continue talking, explaining what happened like villains in a bad James Bond movie. It was exhausting to watch.
And it has to be exhausting for these fine CCM Acting students to perform, given that many of them sit on stage for the entire play. Director Brant Russell has done an excellent job of overlaying his modern vision sense of humor over the almost three hour production. Most of his ideas work well and those that don’t are admirable in their creativity and ambition.
The best thing about this show, though, is that the direction does not get in the way of the performances. Romeo, played by senior Spencer Lackey, is a chilled out romantic. His Juliet, Katie MacDonald, delivers some of the best monologues in the piece and her professional-quality performance stands out. So does the work of Katie Langham as the Nurse. I didn’t doubt for one moment that she knew exactly what she was saying, despite the sometimes difficult and cumbersome old English. She lit up the stage from her pre-show speech and it continued throughout the show. Landon Hawkins, Josh Reiter, Annie Grove, Mickey Tropeano, Owen Alderson, and Claire Combest all turn in noteworthy performances, too.
What was perhaps the most fascinating part of the show for me was the curtain call. After taking their bows, the cast knelt and were joined on stage by an army of technicians and stage hands. CCM is known for making stars out of its students but I was grateful for the reminder of how many non-performers also learn how to do extraordinary work in the theatre arts.
I’m not the world’s biggest fan of Shakespeare, a fact that often separates me from others in the community. Still, I appreciate good storytelling and ROMEO AND JULIET certainly is chock full of that. And CCM tells that story very well. It’s a great way to start the season.
Up next at CCM: THEY WERE YOU, a brand new cabaret from Aubrey Berg featuring the work of Jones and Schmidt. Also this fall is A CHORUS LINE and MIDDLETOWN. Click here for more information.