Romeo and Juliet and Becco

Orlando Bloom and Condola Rashad are the sweetest Romeo and Juliet
Romeo and Juliet is the first Shakespeare taught in school. We saw this black and white R&J, David Leveaux’s gorgeous production, at a Wednesday matinee full of school groups. You could hear a pin drop when Condola Rashad (Juliet) and Orlando Bloom (Romeo) kiss. They seem to be truly in love.

Jensen and Tracy Sallows after the show
Jesse Poleshuck’s contemporary set reflects their star-crossed passion and creates beautiful moving pictures — accented with a graffiti-tagged Fra Angelico painting, a screen of jumping flames, big balloons for a banquet, and touches of red (Romeo’s socks and shoes). The lovers are on fire, myopic and indulgent. We almost forget what’s to come: Juliet on a floating bed perched between life and death.

The audience was enraptured with Mercutio, Christian Camargo, a mesmerizing actor like a young Bill Nighy. Jayne Houdyshell adds welcome ballast and laughs as the Nurse, with a red handbag and a bicycle. (A lot has been written about Orlando Bloom’s entrance on a motorcycle, in a helmet.) Tracy Sallows as Lady Montague and Roslyn Ruff as Lady Capulet do so much with their parts. It’s hard not to fall in love with the entire cast.

An all-female Julius Caesar from London, presented at Ann’s Warehouse in Brooklyn is another stunner in this Shakespeare-heavy season, directed by Phyllida Lloyd as a comment on male behavior.

Clam linguini at the Becco bar

You might want to book if you plan to go to Becco pre-matinee, but last-minute seats at the bar are comfortable. A prix fixe with three pastas, appetizer and dessert makes this friendly Italian restaurant very popular, with a selection of wine at $25 a bottle. Handsome, theatrical waiters appear with platters, offering second helpings (which can be wrapped up to go). Since we were here a year ago, the prices have gone up slightly, but Becco remains a fun place to eat and one of the best deals on Theatre Row.

James Brown: Get On the Good Foot and Chez Lucienne

James Brown performed two hundred times at the Apollo Theatre and when he died, his body lay in state on its stage. It’s only fitting that James Brown: Get on the Good Foot premiered here. The Rev. Al Sharpton, who knew James Brown, introducing the show said classical music is all about “the four B’s”: Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, and Brown.

A huge dance company and various choreographers give expression to every facet of James Brown, from the romantic, to the political, to the humorous.  “I Got You (I Feel Good)” is a dance party in platform shoes, bell bottoms, and big afros. It’s absolutely delightful. One of the dancers portrays a sharply-dressed geezer on a cane, carrying and drinking from a “big cup”— something Mayor Bloomberg has tried to ban. 

“It’s a Man’s World” was so unexpected danced by a white, female, hip-hop artist, Ephrat Asherie. The political James Brown was there in another strong dance, choreographed by Abdel Salaam, to "Payback," which segued into "Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud."

Few of the dances used James Brown dance steps as he danced them. Balletic twirls and lifts are substituted when we would sometimes rather be watching a man in a bespoke suit. Considering how many strippers have performed to James Brown, it might not be inappropriate to have one dance kind of like that. Yet, if James Brown: On the Good Foot were to travel the country, the Tea Party would probably be converted to the notion of democracy.

It is doubtful that any theatre would have the impact and impressive acoustics that the Apollo has. Entering the Apollo beneath the brilliant marquee, to the sound of James Brown’s music, the audience was dancing in the aisles and in their seats. The Apollo has announced that there will be many more commemorative solo shows about musicians in its amazing history that transformed the world.   

Chez Lucienne vol-au-vent (or chicken pot pie)
Are we in Harlem – or are we in Paris? Bistro Chez Lucienne’s menus are really French: croque monsieur on the prix fixe lunch and croque madame for brunch. Mussels and frittes are served three ways. Vol-au-vent in wine sauce (pictured) is as tasty as it looks. It’s a well-managed restaurant with first-rate French chefs creating classic dishes. The owner named the restaurant after his mother in France. On Friday and Saturday if you order between midnight and 2 a.m. there’s 50% off. Jazz and R&B greats are regulars. Wearing G-clef earrings, Bobbi Humphrey was there when we were one evening.