The hit musical comedy ‘Romeo & Bernadette’ is back off Broadway and it’s more amazing than ever

The hilarious musical comedy of the Amas Musical Theater Romeo and Bernadette: A Musical History of Verona and Brooklyn made its critically acclaimed Off-Broadway debut at ART/NY in January 2020, when I first arrived reviewed (and I loved it) two months before the pandemic shutdown of theaters. Now it’s back off-Broadway for a limited engagement at the 555 Theater, and the artful blending of starrrrr-crrrrrossed young loverrrrrs’ iconic Shakespearean story with 1960s pop culture is even better than before. [Please note: for those of you who aren’t from Verona, the r is rolled; for those who aren’t from NYC, the r is silent – as you’ll learn in this sidesplitting show.]

Anna Kostakis, Troy Valjean Rucker, and Nikita Burshteyn. Photo by Russ Rowland.

When a Girl from Brooklyn is left in tears at a histrionic community theater production of Romeo and Juliet, the boy from Brooklyn who brought her in, and really couldn’t wait for the characters to “die already” but wants her to think he’s empathetic and smart so she’ll go home with him, makes a current 1960’s sequel to the story that keeps Romeo alive. Waking up 400 years later, having taken the sleeping potion, not the poison, Romeo sees the young tourist Bernadette Penza, who resembles his Juliet, and follows her through Verona (where she is vacationing with her parents) until Brooklyn (where you are from and have returned to).

The problem is her dad is a crime boss and she’s already engaged to wannabe mobster Tito and they’re in the middle of a war with the Del Canto family reminiscent of the feud between the Montagues and the Capulets (Brooklyn Guy WAS paying attention a la Shakespeare) and Del Canto’s son Dino took Romeo in after Tito attacked him in the street and “He talks weird, he’s from Europe” and “There’s more”, much more, and it’s all wildly clever and over the top . funny, while surprisingly managing to stay in line with the main plot points and moral of Romeo and Juliet.

Directed and choreographed with nonstop energy and laughs by Justin Ross Cohen, the wacky follow-up story, with script and lyrics by Mark Saltzman, makes ridiculous references to the common characters, themes, language and accents of those mid-century Americans. classics like Fat, The Godfather, the newlywedsY saturday night fever, making it less of a parody of real Brooklynites and Italians than of how they were portrayed at the time. It also features more than 20 animated numbers set to music adapted from traditional Italian songs and melodies, with top-notch arrangements, orchestrations and music supervision by Steve Orich and musical direction by Aaron Gandy.

Judy McLane, Troy Valjean Rucker (behind), Carlos López and Viet Vo. Photo Russ Rowland.

Returning original cast of ten: Michael Notardonato as Brooklyn Guy and Dino, Nikita Burshteyn as Romeo, Anna Kostakis as Bernadette, Carlos Lopez as her father Sal Penza, Judy McLane as her mother Camille, Zach Schanne as her fiancé Tito, Michael Marotta as Dino’s father Don Del Canto, Ari Raskin as Brooklyn girl and Bernadette’s best friend Donna, Viet Vo as Penza’s bodyguard Lips, and Troy Valjean Rucker in a raucous array of six male and female roles. : They masterfully perform all the wacky comedy, the characters. define speech patterns and powerful voices and dance. As outstanding as the entire company was in 2020, their overall stellar portrayals of now-familiar roles have become even more impressive and commanding over time.

Among the many notable highlights are Burshteyn’s rich tenor voice, Shakespearean diction, and polished demeanor; Kostakis’ ’60s-style high kicks and well-executed spins; Notardonato’s greasy demeanor and tips on how Romeo should dress and talk to fit in with 20the-Century Brooklyn; Vo’s amused expression on Lips’ unexpected appreciation of love; McLane’s song and dance with a trash can lid conveying Camille’s pride in her ancestry in Verona as a descendant of “The Swan Contessa”; and the harmonious trio of Marotta, Notardonato and Burshteyn in “A World Away”, with fragments of classic Italian songs that are perfectly adapted to the different characters.

Michael Notardonato, Michael Marotta and Nikita Burshteyn. Photo by Russ Rowland.

The highly entertaining performances are supported by a dazzling new array of period-style costumes by Joseph Shrope and hair by Daniel Lynn Evans that contrast the looks of Romeo and the century after and evidence Camille’s passion for shopping and Bernadette, and the expressive sound of Andrew Keister, the sound of Ken Billington. colorful lighting, and Walt Spangler’s clean and simple stage design evoking 1960s pop inspiration.

If you are easily offended by ridiculous characterizations, just fuhgeddaboudit. Romeo and Bernadette it is witty and fun-loving in its parody of past stereotypes, while affirming Shakespeare’s inherent message about the importance of love and harmony in avoiding tragedy.

Duration: Approximately two hours, including an intermission.

Romeo and Bernadette performances through Sunday, June 26, 2022 at Theater 555, 555 West 42North Dakota Street, New York. For tickets (priced $79-99), go online. Everyone must show proof of vaccination against COVID-19 to enter the building and must wear a mask at all times when inside.

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