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Critics divided on Orlando Bloom's Broadway debut as Romeo

Cast member Orlando Bloom poses during a photocall for the film "Zulu" at the 66th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes May 26, 2013. REUTERS/Regi
Cast member Orlando Bloom poses during a photocall for the film "Zulu" at the 66th Cannes Film Festival in Cannes May 26, 2013. REUTERS/Regi

By Patricia Reaney

NEW YORK (Reuters) - British actor Orlando Bloom scored mixed reviews on Friday for his Broadway debut in a modern-day, interracial remake of "Romeo and Juliet," William Shakespeare's classic tale of doomed, young lovers.

Bloom, the star of Hollywood blockbusters "Lord of the Rings" and "Pirates of the Caribbean," plays Romeo opposite Tony-nominated stage actress Condola Rashad in the David Leveaux production that opened on Thursday night.

The New York Times praised Bloom for a "first-rate debut" but other critics were less enthusiastic, saying he lacked stage presence.

"For once, we have a Romeo who evolves substantively, from a posturing youth in love with love to a man who discovers the startling revelation of real love, with a last-act descent into bilious, bitter anger that verges on madness," the New York Times said.

The newspaper was equally approving of 26-year-old Rashad's performance, describing it as "incandescent with virginity."

"You see why Romeo, who's been around and packs a knife, would fall hard for a girl who is so palpably untarnished," it added.

The Hollywood Reporter noted that at 36, Bloom should be too old to play Romeo, but it said that his boyish good looks and classical training served him well in the role.

"Looking lean and athletic in a torso-hugging white Henley, ripped jeans and cherry-red Doc Martens, Bloom gives his screen fans plenty to swoon over, including a brief shirtless scene that will set lots of hearts racing," it said.

STAR POWER BUT NO PUNCH

Although the production packs Hollywood star power and Bloom's performance was fine, the New York Daily News thought the actor did not have what was needed to really pull it off.

"No 'Romeo' to Die For," screeched its headline.

"Bloom speaks Shakespeare's poetry capably. But he lacks the gravity to really grab you. Together, he and Rashad are warm, not hot," it added.

A lack of stage presence was also a problem for the New York Post which said Bloom was "game but merely competent - and less than that when he expresses anguish."

Variety said the interracial casting of the feuding Montague and Capulet clans sounds bold, but added it delivered little dramatic impact.

The trade publication also took issue with the play's staging.

"Romeo makes his noisy entrance on a beast of a motorcycle. Juliet delivers a pensive soliloquy from her precarious seat on a swing," Variety said.

"The ones who really suffer from this strange resistance to Shakespeare's lyricism are Bloom and Rashad, who do good work when they're not hanging from a scaffold or scaling a wall, and deserve a better chance."

Bloom is one of several Hollywood stars appearing on Broadway. James Bond actor Daniel Craig and his Oscar-winner wife Rachel Weisz will appear in a revival of Harold Pinter's "Betrayal" next month, Denzel Washington and Diahann Carroll will star in "A Raisin in the Sun" next spring and comedian and actor Billy Crystal will appear on stage in "700 Sundays" later this year.

(Editing by Mary Milliken and Mohammad Zargham)

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