'Romeo and Juliet': Orlando Bloom's Broadway Debut Released in Theaters for Valentine's Day
Starring opposite Condola Rashad, Bloom tells THR of sleeping "like the dead" after each performance of the production, filmed by Broadway HD and Screenvision.
Although David Leveaux's Broadway revival of Romeo and Juliet wrapped two months ago, Orlando Bloom is still reeling over the exhausting, yet simultaneously energizing, experience.
"Vocally, your breath, what it takes to put your voice out into a huge theater that we were in, and to sustain that for eight shows a week!" Bloom told The Hollywood Reporter in New York City last week. "And 120 performances — I never missed a show, which I'm really proud of. The first four weeks, I slept like the dead. I don't know whether it was my internal combustion of my lungs going, or just the adrenaline that was coursing through me, but I was surprised at how demanding and exhausting that was. Also, wonderfully fulfilling, but it would take me an hour to wind down, or sometimes more, and then I could sleep for 12 hours."
But Bloom's efforts will not go unnoticed now that the show has left the Richard Rodgers Theatre. A filmed version of the stage production hits theaters for Valentine's Day, so audiences nationwide can witness both Bloom's Broadway debut and his first time touching William Shakespeare's material since drama school.
Besides being an attractive date night option, the film can also double as an educational resource, Bloom hopes. "This language is historically something that we want to keep fresh in people's minds," he said, noting that 12,000 or more students took advantage of the student ticket program during the show's three-month Broadway run. "It's wonderful that having filmed it — literally, a friend of mine called the other day and said, 'I just read about this being filmed, when can I get a copy? My kid's studying it in school and I really want to give it to the class.' And of course, the added bonus: My son will get to see it one day."
After 37 years away from Broadway, the revival was rejuvenated with the bitter divide between the Montagues and Capulets being underscored by their different ethnicities — amid motorcycles, hooded jackets and an oft-scaled graffiti wall. The big-screen version zooms in so viewers can enjoy Bloom's childlike smirks, as well as Condola Rashad's animated facial expressions as she plays a magnetic Juliet.
"My concerns were — and I had to put these aside — that every single person that was coming to the play would have different expectations," said Rashad, who was watching the film version for the first time at last week's event. "We just had to do what we knew was the truth for us, and then hope that all the chips would fall where they were supposed to. Oddly enough, I started the production with a lot more abandon.… You can never relax into Romeo and Juliet."
Rashad, the Tony nominee set next for Fox's fantasy drama Hieroglyphs, agreed that the production was tiring. "It's like experiencing a hurricane eight times a week! Those two-show days were interesting — it feels like the character should only commit suicide once a day," she joked. How did she unwind? "We were on the best street ever, in terms of restaurants and bars. So every Sunday was 'Sunday Funday,' and we would just pick another bar to go, go out, drink margaritas and have a good time. We all got along, so we just got in trouble and it was great."
The Romeo and Juliet film version was produced by Broadway HD, in partnership with Screenvision and with seasoned producers Stewart F. Lane and Bonnie Comley at the helm. "We were looking for a production that would appeal to a theater-loving, movie-going audience … with a blockbuster star," said Lane of launching their cinemacast series with the Shakespeare play. The pair also produced the New York Philharmonic concert version of Company with Neil Patrick Harris and Patti LuPone.
Comley added that they're following the lead of the National Theater in London and the Metropolitan Opera, and will commit to bringing stage productions to movie theaters nationwide before they open, so the decision isn't swayed by critics' reviews or post-show chatter online. "They were trying to save the Metropolitan Opera, their audiences were dying off, and I think that when Peter Gelb came in and said, 'We need to get the word out, we need to develop new audiences,' they did all sorts of initiatives, including these digital productions," she explained of the wider appeal. "I think it was just so successful." The only major transition to translate the experience from stage to screen was using wireless microphones for the taped performance.
Whether onstage or onscreen, the entire Broadway experience has been a satisfying one for Bloom. "I certainly embraced the Broadway community as much as I could, and loved it. You just don't know until you try, right? I felt like I was at the foot of Mount Everest when I started rehearsal, and I really had that feeling of elation when we got into production. And I loved every moment of it.… It's a wonderful place to be at work, to be in New York City, a city that I'm now calling home and I love. To be on Broadway, I'm looking forward to doing more, I hope."
So will he be back onstage on the Great White Way anytime soon? "Actually, somebody just wrote something for me, which is very different, very interesting," Bloom told THR. "There were talks about doing it in London, which I would love to do — a little tour of the country and then bring it to the city. But I don't know how practical it is, so we'll see."
Romeo and Juliet hits select theaters on Valentine's Day. Tickets are available online.