Romeo and Juliet, The Musical From William Shakespeare, the Terrence Mann-Jerome Korman rock opera, opens Aug. 18. The musical, which began performances Aug. 14, runs through Sept. 5 at St. Paul's Ordway Theatre.
Portraying the star-crossed title characters are Patrick Wilson (Romeo) and Irene Malloy (Juliet). Wilson and Malloy both made their Broadway debuts in the spring 1999 season, she as war wife Sarah McEwen in the short-lived The Civil War, he as part of the ensemble cast of the shorter-lived The Gershwins' Fascinating Rhythm. Wilson was "discovered" in New York as Jamey in the New York Theatre Workshop production of Paul Scott Goodman's Bright Light, Big City. Malloy played Swallow in the 1996 world premiere of Andrew Lloyd Webber's Whistle Down the Wind at the National Theatre in Washington, DC.
Also in the Romeo & Juliet cast are Matthew Bennett (Titanic) as Friar Lawrence, Candy Buckley (Off-Broadway's Communicating Doors, Whistle Down the Wind) as the Nurse, Mark Deklin as Tybalt, Rebecca Fay as Lady Montague, T. Mychael Rambo as Lord Montague, Thom Sesma as Lord Capulet, Abe Sylvia as Paris, Joe Thomas as the Prince, Joshua Wade as Benvolio, Therese Walden as Lady Capulet and Joe Wilson, Jr. as Mercutio. Included in the ensemble are Jennifer Gambatese, Bryan S. Haynes, Patricia Kenny, David Kent, Joe Langworth, Daniel Larson, Michael Lomeka, Aixa M. Rosario, Joni Michelle, Jill Nicklaus, T. Oliver Reid, J. Robert Spencer and Jenny-Lynn Suckling. Daniel Larson and Julianne Mundale are the swings.
The story of Romeo and Juliet is a very familiar one, oft adapted, including into the musical West Side Story. This version, however, does not feature lyrics by either Mann or Corman but a setting of Shakespeare's text to a modern rock score. In a released statement, Mann said he came upon the idea while reading Romeo and Juliet during tech rehearsals for a show he was doing. "I remember reading through the very first section when the thought came. What if you were to set the text of Shakespeare to music? I mean set the text, not do an adaption or make it modern, but take the actual text and set it to music."
Mann, a two-time Tony Award nominee for Les Miserables and Beauty and the Beast, created the role of Chauvelin in the first version of The Scarlet Pimpernel. He is the artistic director of North Carolina Theatre and has directed productions of 1776, The Sound of Music, Hello Dolly, Show Boat, Guys and Dolls and My Fair Lady. Korman, the musical director for the National Dance Institute, has composed for daytime television and conducted at the Kennedy Center, the White House and Lincoln Center. Mann also directs Romeo. Christopher d'Amboise choreographs. The son of famous ballet dancer Jacques D'Amboise and brother of performer Charlotte D'Amboise (Mann's wife), he briefly worked on the recent revival of On the Town before leaving the George C. Wolfe production because of artistic differences. D'Amboise was Tony nominated for his work in Song and Dance and spent 10 years as a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet.
Designing Romeo are Kenneth Foy (sets and projections), Ann Hould Ward (costumes), Mark Stanley (lighting) and Tony Meola (sound). Kim Scharnberg (The Civil War, Jekyll & Hyde) is the orchestrator.
Tickets are $55-$24 and are available by calling (651) 224-4222. The Ordway Music Theatre is located at 345 Washington Street in St. Paul and on the web at http://www.ordway.org.
In February 1999, Romeo received a sold out, 10-performance workshop production at Connecticut's Goodspeed-at-Chester with the same creative team. The workshop starred Miss Saigon's Deedee Lynn Magno as Juliet and Tim Martin Gleason as Romeo.
-- By Christine Ehren