Liberty Stage's Simone Williams pulled off perhaps her most ambitious production yet with a star-studded rendition of the soundtrack from Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo & Juliet. Many of the audience remembered the movie and the music from the 90s and dressed up accordingly.
The stage is full, with a 30-piece orchestra, an 18-voice choir, a 5-voice boy choir which comes and goes, and a host of local musicians forming the band stage front, all kept in synch by enthusiastic conductor Mark Dennison (with a painted black cross on his back!).
It’s unusual to hear a concert of a movie soundtrack, with just the music, much of which comprises orchestral interludes. But the show makes it easier by projecting both scenes and dialogue from the movie onto a big screen stage centre. And bringing more intimacy to the performances with a roving camera on stage projecting close-ups and rear views of the artists to that same big screen. It’s busy but it works, and the audience ooh ahh and applaud whenever the young De Caprio appears on screen playing the modern-day Romeo in the modern fantasy version of a Los Angeles torn in two by the violent hedonistic feud between the Montagues and the Capulets. Only the interspersed dialogue reminds us that it’s Shakespeare.
A Shakespeare that rocks, with a soundtrack from the 70s, 80s and 90s.
What else? Well, there just happens to be a few kiwi stars helping proceedings along. Shihad’s Jon Toogood bouncing around the stage early in the piece, with Milan Borich (Pluto) leading The Montague Boys, part song, part rap before Jon joins in with the One Inch Punch song Pretty Piece of Flesh. Radiohead is in here as well, with Milan singing Talk Show Host.
Laughton Kora is a class act with his startling stage gear and soulful voice. Probably the star of the show. Dave Gibson from Elemeno P joins the fray, with able renditions of the more obscure songs from Butthole Surfers and Mundy; opera singer Isabella Moore adds a touch of soaring soprano class with Ipu Iagaaia on tremendous tenor, and, wow, here is Gin Wigmore, sassy as ever, with a little obvious bump, bringing both punk and cabaret to a host of songs which you will know, by Garbage, The Cardigans (anyone remember The Cardigans?), Nina Nordenstam, and the classic 70’s disco hit, Candi Staton’s Young Hearts Run Free.
This is all about the music, we all know the story, and as the soundtrack pours out, the images on the big screen remind us of the underlying tragedy of star-crossed lovers which is Romeo & Juliet.
It’s big, bold, not brassy but stringy, but it’s a lot of fun, and very well done.
There’s another show tonight (Sunday), and I reckon you ought to be there! Some seats left, so rock on down to The Civic in Auckland for a fantastic night! Tickets available at Ticketmaster.