“This is the perfect event for date night, or girl’s night, or really any night. “Romeo and Juliet “remakes are not a new thing; there are a multitude of different versions, from Baz Luhrmann’s “Romeo + Juliet,” to the musical “West Side Story.” What makes “Romeo & Juliet: Love is a Battlefield” stand out from the rest is its use of Pat Benatar’s angry, empowering anthems to expose the story’s raw sensuality. The lyrics correspond with the emotion and plot of the story so well, you could swear they were originally written for the show.”
“Who knew that the classic songs of Pat Benatar and Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet were a match made in heaven? “Romeo & Juliet: Love is a Battlefield” finds it home at the Rockwell Table and Stage—a gem with a definite vibe—dark, cool, and chic. ” – Julia Stier. neontommy.com
“Wow! Shakespeare meets Pat Benatar (with “a little love from Tina Turner”) as Rockwell Table And Stage presents their latest, Romeo & Juliet: Love Is A Battlefield, and Holy Bard Of Avon, what an electrifying evening of cabaret-meets-musical-theater alchemy it is!”
“…and if last night’s SRO Opening Night crowd’s cheers are any indication of what’s to come, Juliet and her Romeo’s “tale of woe” will be wowing audiences through the end of March if not beyond” – Steven Stanley. StageSceneLa.com
“A sterling production not to be missed. Shakespeare meets Pat Benetar in this awesome show that is performed cleverly utilizing a stage and the entire seating area including the bar. The directors and choreographers deserve awards for how this show is put together. The vocals are incredible and the entire cast is top shelf. This is one of our FEATURED events. GO!” – Performing Arts LIVE
Continuing the tradition of combining pop songs with a modern day story, Kate Pazakis has teamed with “The Fosters” creator Bradley Bredeweg on “Romeo & Juliet: Love is a Battlefield,”the latest mash-up that combines superstar playwright Bill Shakespeare and the songs of female rocker Pat Benatar (aka the Original Kelly Clarkson).
While the modern/sort of dystopian future-style setting of the show harkens back to Baz Luhrman’s 1996 Miami film retelling, the inclusion of Benatar songs from the ’70s and ’80s certainly gives the oft-told tale a new twist. It might not be necessary to have read the play, but a familiarity with the source material will help in understanding what’s going on.
For the most part, we have the Montagues and the Capulets fighting a turf war only to have one of their own fall in love with one from the other side. Those two are, of course, Juliet (“The Fosters” Ashley Argota) and her Romeo (Rustin Cole Sailors). The two meet when Romeo and his buddies sneak into a Capulet masquerade ball and fall swiftly in love. Of course, the families don’t agree with the match and forbid it so in the “kids will be kids” mode of plot devices, they keep seeing each other in secret, ultimately leading to a tragic end.
Musical director Brad Hooks takes some rather distinctively familiar songs and gives them enough of a twist to make them stand out. Some play fairly close to the originals, but it is when the harmonies fly and the arrangements veer from the originals that the music soars. “Hell is for Children” starts out a bit standard, but builds to a powerful duet that took the audience by surprise.
Similarly, slowed down versions of “Promises in the Dark” and “Shadows of the Night” are standouts. But it is the two leads of the show that have the best material to work with and the best vocal chops to make it worth your while to check out.
With Argotta’s rich, full tone and Sailors pitch-perfect scratchy rocker-voice, they are an oddly perfect match. When they get to their duet “We Live for Love” you are sold on their romance and their talent.
Truth be told the story can be so familiar, you sort of just anticipate the next Benatar track (with two Tina Turner tracks thrown in for good measure.) A few songs feel shoe-horned in, but for the most part the combo of Shakespeare’s dialogue and power anthems work. Just be warned this isn’t a party show.
When we see our two leads dead on the stage by the show’s end, you might be reaching for your bartender to give you another drink. But Pazakis has started to create a fun anthology of shows that is both familiar and fresh. Although with summer coming, perhaps we can get a story that’s a wee bit more upbeat than drug abuse (“Jagged Little Pill”), cancer (“Roar”) and double suicide.
“Romeo & Juliet: Love is a Battlefield” continues every Friday and Saturday night through March 28 at Rockwell Table and Stage, 1714 N. Vermont Blvd. in Los Feliz. For tickets or information, call 323-669-1500 ext. 20 or visit www.rockwell-la.com.
When I read these words in a promo for Romeo and Juliet: Love is a Battlefield, I bought my tickets with the intention of laughing at a simply ridiculous premise turned spectacle. I did not expect what I actually saw last night at Rockwell Table and Stage. There are so many different version of this timeless story. I thought they all had been done. And between the two drink minimum and the pre-show announcement that our side of the room would be the “Capulets” while the other side of the room would be the “Montagues”, I was looking for something silly; almost frivolous.
The setting is modern day. The Capulets represent Isreal, the modern Jewish state. The Montagues represent Palastine. The pounding pop beats of Invincible ramp up intensity as the two households (both alike in dignity) rage war on one another in a very-well choreographed fight sequence. “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”, they scream at one another. The fight breaks up as we see Romeo already torn with love. As he and Juliet flirt and fall in love, they tease each other with a sexy and playful rendition of Heartbreaker that ultimately leads them to declare “We Live For Love”. By the time that Romeo is singing “We Belong” over Juliet’s still and almost lifeless body (spoiler alert: she’s actually still alive), I am close to tears. The show itself is surprisingly well-done.
Although I doubt it would be as huge a success without the incredible talent of the cast. Rustin Cole Sailors is perfection as Romeo. I would watch him do pretty much anything. Read the phone book? Yes. Pick his nose? Yes. Stare off into space? God, yes. His voice is just wonderful and he brings a lot of powerful emotion to the stage. Ashley Argota is maybe not quite as charismatic, but only marginally so. She is so damn likeable! Her voice really shines in her solo moments and I think she does a nice job conveying the confusion of a young girl being torn between love and family loyalty.
The vocal acrobatics don’t stop with these two. All the male members of the cast have rich voices, but it is Jordan Kai Burnett as Benvolia (instead of Benvolio) and Nicci Claspell as the Nurse who really wow us. Claspell presents a mostly outstanding version of What’s Love Got to Do with It? (Yes, they sneak in a little Tina Turner with the Benatar) and Burnett has so many moments that steal the show, it would be impossible to name just one or two or twenty.
As an ensemble, this group fully commits and gives their all to this story. The finale, an acapella rendition of Love is a Battlefield is simply one of the most impressive musical numbers I have ever heard. If this cast produced an album, I’d buy it in a heartbeat!
If I had anything to critique, it would be that the show itself could use more dialogue to further the story between musical numbers. I was surprised how well the songs tell the story, but for those of us who aren’t familiar with the tale (or who have simply forgotten the details since our 10th grade AP English Lit days), some guiding dialogue would be helpful. I would hope that a fully-staged production would include more to define the setting. It was clear in the first scenes that the two households represented the conflict in Palestine, but little was done to further that concept throughout the show.
This was a truly enjoyable evening. I would highly recommend it to any fan of the Bard or the Benetar!
“All the male members of the cast have rich voices, but it is Jordan Kai Burnett as Benvolia (instead of Benvolio) and Nicci Claspell as the Nurse who really wow us. Claspell presents a mostly outstanding version of What’s Love Got to Do with It? (Yes, they sneak in a little Tina Turner with the Benatar) and Burnett has so many moments that steal the show, it would be impossible to name just one or two or twenty.”
“As an ensemble, this group fully commits and gives their all to this story. The finale, an acapella rendition of Love is a Battlefield is simply one of the most impressive musical numbers I have ever heard. If this cast produced an album, I’d buy it in a heartbeat!” -Bicoastal Mama
Posted by: Heather
LA-List gets a lot of event announcements and “Romeo & Juliet: Love is a Battlefield” gets listed as one of the top in the city.
MUSICAL THEATER: Rockwell Table & Stage presents the show Romeo & Juliet: Love is a Battlefield. It’s an adaption of the Bard’s play—but with an added twist: Pat Benetar’s music. The show includes her songs like “We Belong,’ “Heartbreaker,” “Invincible” and “Love is a Battlefield.” Runs weekend through March 28. Tickets: $20-$45.
FOR THE RECORD: JOHN HUGHES (HOLIDAY ROAD)
If you grew up watching all those John Hughes movies like The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Pretty In Pink and Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Home Alone and Christmas Vacation, then you are going to love For The Record: John Hughes (Holiday Road). Performed by Broadway and Hollywood singers in the 360-degree dining and concert space at Rockwell in Los Feliz, this interactive show is your chance to sing along to the ultimate 80s soundtrack with a few holiday favorites thrown in for good measure. The show begins Thursday, December 6 and runs until Sunday, December 30. Weekly performances are Thursday-Sunday at 8pm. For ticket information please call (323) 661-6163 (ext #20) or visit www.rockwell-la.com.
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The greatest musical in the history of musicals. Ever. Of all-time.
Opening Fri, For the Record: Boogie Nights is an R-rated, totally live, musically driven tribute to Paul Thomas Anderson’s film lexicon, orchestrated by the same company that’s produced similarly minded odes to John Hughes, Baz Luhrmann, and the Coen Brothers, which should be more than enough background to make you want to Fargo. But just in case…
This’s the first to take place in the Rockwell Kitchen & Stage’s new, twice-as-big-as-the-shoebox-it-was-in-before space, which’s big enough to do crazily choreographed, in-character selections like a short-shorted Rollergirl-driven “Brand New Key” (from Boogie), an emotionally charged reading of Aimee Mann’s “Wise Up” (Magnolia), and even some selections from There Will Be Blood and Punch Drunk Love, w/ songs by Jon Brion, which should ALSO be enough to make you want to Largo. Just in case you’re all like “ugh, these’re all gonna be terrible singer-actor-dancer-wannabes looking for a break“, the cast is already, um, broken, w/ various members having appeared on Broadway in shiz like Les Mis, on TV shows like American Idol, and in movies including Death Proof – see, you should definitely, er, g…Tarantino.
Also amazing: they’ve even got a specialty hot dog menu w/ film-referencing franks, including the 10in “Big Diggler” and the mac-and-cheese-topped “Todd Porker”, as well as a party-pop-and-booze-filled Punch Drunk Punch, which’s, hello, just one more reason you should Faygo.