What do you get when you take William Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and mix it with the music of Jeff Buckley? You get the Old Globe's staging of The Last Goodbye.
I recently attended a performance at the treasure that is the Old Globe and was fortunate enough to be seated in the front row. It was like being at a rock concert and getting the prized seats. Technically, it was a rock concert since there was a live band onstage at all times. I've always been a fan of Shakespeare, but, to be honest, I'm more of a musical-theater guy, so this was a match made in heaven. Yeah, I like show tunes -- so what? But these aren’t show tunes; it’s the music of Jeff Buckley.
I assume most people know the tragic love story of Romeo and Juliet, so let's talk about other elements of the show. First off, the costuming was amazing, and all of the main male characters had wardrobes reminiscent of the late '80s film The Lost Boys. The choreography and fight scenes were unforgettable, and I often thought one of the actors would end up in my lap (they didn't). The swords looked and sounded real to me. Sonya Tayeh, best known for her work on the television show So You Think You Can Dance, created the choreography/fight scenes and did an exemplary job. The show is directed by Alex Timbers, who has previously been nominated for two Tony awards.
The cast was great, but by far my favorite actors in the production are Hale Appleman, who played Mercutio, and Brandon Gill as Benvolio. No offense intended to the rest of them, though -- the entire cast was great and made an olde story new again. I'd also like to mention that Nik Walker is part of the ensemble. He played Booker in the La Jolla Playhouse staging of the Flaming Lips' Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots.
The stage was a work of art, but I missed some of the grandeur of it by being in the front row. My neck strained a bit to look up at Talisa Friedman (Juliet), but it was manageable. The faux stonework, the lighting, and the way actors would scale the wall to get to the second floor were all done with artistry. Since I did see a preview, some of the things I saw might have changed by opening night. Nothing I saw came close to requiring reworking. I can get lost in the moment and let my logic lapse, so I'm not as critical as most. People should just try to relax more and enjoy the ride.
By using Buckley's music, you might call it a rock opera a la the Who's Tommy, but the songs are touching, not bombastic -- so maybe it's a "pop-rock opera"? The music cohesively fits with -- and propels -- the story. For those who want to know all the songs used, here is a complete list:
- "All Flowers In Time"
- "Corpus Christi Carol"
- "Eternal Life"
- "Everybody Here Wants You"
- "Forget Her"
- "Haven't You Heard"
- "I Know We Could Be So Happy"
- "Lover, You Should've Come Over"
- "New Year's Prayer"
- "Opened Once"
- "Last Goodbye"
- "What Will You Say"
- "Witches Rave"
- "You And I"
Theater is alive and well in San Diego, folks, so try something new if you've never been.
The show runs through November 3rd. Tim Pyles, a longtime local who grew up in La Jolla, is the unofficial mayor of local music who hosts The Local 94/9 via FM94/9 every Sunday from 9 p.m. to 12 a.m. He also books local acts at the Casbah, hosts the weekly Anti-Monday League, books/hosts the monthly Maryjane's Underground at the House Of Blues and is an entertainment writer for Pacific San Diego Magazine. Check out his website thelocalpyle.com and and follow him on Twitter @thelocalpyle. You can reach him directly here firstname.lastname@example.org