Musings over the musical Romeo e Giulietta

Today’s been a pretty normal day, well normal for life right now which is anything but normal. 
The morning was spent sleeping, watching trashy television, playing sims, and drinking tea. (Did I mention that my old Sims 2 obsession seems to have returned? I blame lack of actual human company!) Oh, I also made the trip to Asda just to buy a vegetable pizza because, for some reason, they do the best vegetable pizzas around.
When I got in I saw a link to Romeo e Giulietta, the Italian version of the musical Romeó et Juliette by Gérard Presgurvic. Romeó et Juliette being a favourite musical of mine in French and Hungarian I was desperate to give it a go and so I sat down with some iced green tea and started to watch. What follows is a review that is even more disorganised than is my normal style!

Review

Wow. This thing is strange. I will come clean now and say that I don’t think that this director is quite to my taste, which means I have a negative view of the performance that others might not share. I eventually managed to settle into the performance a bit more although it never quite worked for me as a whole. My major problems were with the chorus scenes. ‘Verona’ for example, saw the Prince as a puppeteer and the cast as puppets, a great idea but the choreography just was too bizarre making it seem messy and amateurish. The problem is, this detracted from any other performers onstage and also broke up the atmosphere. Similarly, I had problems with quite a few of the characters but I put this down to the director as opposed to the actors themselves. If you read my character by character review below you’ll see that most of them were great singers, actors, etc at times which suggests the weakness isn’t theirs to own.
Something that I was very keen on was the use of multimedia, namely projections, to set scenes and atmospheres. The images/animations used weren’t overbearing. They were classy, elegant, and just what that moment needed. 
The costumes were okay. Most of them I really liked, some of them I didn’t. Like the French productions, they seem to have tried to blend period costume with some modern aspects and it works really well. I have to question the majority of the ball costumes, however, and it’s no wonder that Romeo got noticed considering he was wearing what looked like a gimp mask in a room full of animals!
Another thing that was of interest was the addition of speech that I don’t think was in the other productions. Of course, I didn’t understand a word but I think this is probably quite a good thing. I can’t comment on the translation of the production either but it can’t be worse than the translation used in the London production.
Favourite scenes
The balcony scene. The bit where Romeo leans on the pillar and it lowers to form a bridge (it looks better than it sounds) and Giulietta’s costume make it such a visually appealing scene!
The new duet between Lady Montecchi and Giulietta was perfect. To the tune of the song sung by the poet in the French version and happening just after Romeo is banished, I couldn’t understand a word but it worked so well for both characters. Genius.
Giulietta being found ‘dead’ (the first time) is a beautiful scene with the parents mourning as the Prince sings the Verona reprise. It’s really quite profound.
Favourite actors
Giò Tortorelli was perfect in his role, as far as I’m concerned, as I explain below. Silvia Querci also should get a mention as she was amazing in her solo!
Biggest surprise
Mercuzio was so different from how I view with character in my head yet he was brilliant, and one of the most engaging characters throughout. Tebaldo was also a major surprise as he seemed to have been turned into a pantomime villain. 

Characters and actors

Romeo – Davide Merlini
It took me a while to get used to Romeo but, I’ll be honest, it usually does take some time because Damien Sargue, the original cast Romeó, is Romeo in my brain. It doesn’t help that it seems like Merlini’s Romeo is quite similar to that of Sargue so comparisons were flying.
Guilietta – Giulia Luzi
I liked her from the word go. I think she was directed well and I liked her voice and presentation. I also liked her dresses but that says nothing about her as an actor!
Mercuzio – Luca Giacomelli
When Mercuzio is first introduced (at least the first time the English speaker noticed him!) during ‘Kings of the World’ he seemed to be playing quite a cold character rather like Philippe d’Avilla in the original French cast. This character interpretation isn’t quite my own but if an actor is good then I can enjoy it. However, during the Queen Mab song we suddenly saw another side to this Mercuzio, a fear and a confusion that echoed really strongly with the character. The more I saw of him the more I wanted to give him a hug.
Benvolio – Riccardo Maccaferri
I find it quite tricky to comment on Benvolio generally. He’s a bit of a nothingness within the plot and is really overshadowed by the other young men in the play. I had the added problem of lack of language which I think matters more with your understanding of Benvolio. However, Maccaferri was a very skilled singer with a soft voice, a soft face, and a seemingly soft personality (onstage) and therefore worked as the character very well.
Tebaldo – Gianluca Merolli
I didn’t like Tebaldo. I think you need a really good actor to get this role right (Tom Ross in my opinion manages 100% better in the more recent DVD than in the original cast recording because he’s matured as an actor). However, with Merolli’s Tybalt I don’t think this was the problem. The end of his first solo showed some real emotion and real vulnerability in an otherwise rough character so how come the character of Tebaldo was so meh the rest of the time? To be honest, I think this was more down to directing than anything else. Not to mention the fact that even in ‘It’s the day’, when he got a chance to show off vocally, I couldn’t enjoy it because the make-up was so distracting.
Principe – Leonardo di Minno
Okay, I can’t get over the yellow eye-shadow at the start; it was weird but wonderful. And then in ‘power’ there’s the moment with the cape when he seems to be channelling Dracula… As an actor, I think he’s quite tricky to judge because he’s mainly working alone with little actual interaction with other characters meaning that, again, language understanding becomes more important. He is however, quite scary and seems in control when he’s on the stage so I don’t think there are any complaints. He’s also got a powerful voice.
Lady Capuleti – Barbara Cola
I’ll get the major negative out of the way: her wig was really, really off-putting. Again, I had some problems with the way this character was directed. Cola, however, has a blooming amazing voice, and shows herself to be a great actress too in the rare moments she’s allowed to do so.
Lady Montecchi – Roberta Faccani
Faccani was a big surprise for me. She has this sweet little voice when talking to Benvolio at the start of the musical and then, when she first sings in ‘Hatred’, she’s suddenly got this coarse witchey voice straight out of Macbeth! 
Conte Capulete – Vittorio Matteucci
I liked him to start with. In particular, I liked the ball scene where he’s arguing with Tybalt (and goes to hit him, a moment I thought was very clever) while keeping up appearances. However, I couldn’t help but not detest him once we got into the second act. Okay, I felt sorry for him when he was singing his solo but come on, what a [insert expletive of choice]. Guessing this means that Matteucci is a good actor but I wouldn’t mind if his Conte Capulete jumped off a cliff. 
Nutrice – Silvia Querci
I didn’t like her character that much to start with, possibly because she was speaking and I was missing out on the nuances of the speech. Actually, the fact that when she was onstage she was surrounded by weird choruses with weird dance routines didn’t help either. However, when she performed ‘And now she is in love’ I was won over. That was truly stunning. Vocally she’s amazing and the emotion was so beautiful. It was perfect.
Frate – Giò Tortorelli
Possibly my favourite member of the cast. He was just right for the role which is something I’ve not felt able to say about any other cast. He seemed had a maturity of appearance and voice that made him seem kindly, worldly, and perchance a little disenchanted (even at the start of the production). His singing voice was lovely too.

Overview

Once you get over the weirdness this is a very strong interpretation. There is an exceptionally strong cast who all act and sing wonderfully even when there are directing choices that, I feel, detract. The chorus scenes seem to let it down but it’s well worth watching. I think that it’s probably a love or hate interpretation.
Since I first wrote this post the show has been taken down from the link provided (as it was on a TV catch up service) but I’m sure it will be around on the internet if not on DVD very soon.
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