NEW YORK: Orlando Bloom and Ian McKellen from both The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit trilogies are in town. Bloom is in the thick of performances for Romeo and Juliet, and in a week McKellen will begin previews for Waiting for Godot with good friend and Brooklyn resident, Patrick Stewart.
Romeo and Juliet is not only Bloom’s Broadway debut; it is also his first time to do a full-length William Shakespeare play (in 2011, he performed Shakespearean texts set to Tchaikovsky with Gustavo Dudamel and the L.A. Philharmonic).
He supposedly had plans of joining the Royal Shakespeare Company as an understudy but in 1999, after graduating from Guildhall, he took a detour, and was cast as some elf in an epic production about a magic ring.
Apart from being Legolas, Bloom is also known for being Will Turner in Pirates of the Caribbean. He also appeared in Cameron Crowe’s Elizabethtown, Ridley Scott’s Kingdom of Heaven, and Black Hawk Down.
Romeo and Juliet actually puts him in a place where he doesn’t have to deal with gigantic sets, an actor with gigantic lovability (Johnny Depp) or gigantic expectations for a box office return.
Romeo makes his entrance on a motorcycle on a very minimal stage that at times has a partly scalable wall of Italian Renaissance art as a backdrop. He wears a long sleeved white V-neck shirt, black belt, soft ripped jeans, a hoodie under a stylish gray jacket and dark red Doc Martens.
In the first act, Bloom quickly gets the audience wrapped up and amused in the declarations of the lovestruck Romeo for his Juliet (Condola Rashad), while Mercutio (Christian Camargo in a look that mixes the Ramones and Mick Jagger) tempers his pronouncements with cynical wit and humor.
While the second act doesn’t have the quick pace of the first, we get to see Romeo turn from starry-eyed to energized and hopeful and then to mad and despairing. Many scenes are greeted with applause or gasps—particularly one where he does a rather gymnastic move to exit from Juliet’s balcony.
I had to laugh when he had a shirtless moment and a section of the audience applauded exactly the same way they would have a well-done scene.
At the end of the performance I caught, he got a standing ovation.
After this run, I hope Orlando Bloom considers returning to the stage and doing yet another Shakespeare play. He’s revealed quite a knack for it.
Tickets for Romeo and Juliet are on sale until January 12, 2014. Performances are at the Richard Rodgers Theater. Orlando Bloom returns to the big screen as Legolas in The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug this December.