A ‘Romeo and Juliet’ for anyone and everyone
If you want to get lost in the internet world of Shakespeare, set aside an hour or more and search “’Romeo and Juliet’ adaptations” online. The number of direct and indirect adaptations of the infamous tragedy is astounding, from the classic 1968 Zeffirelli film to Baz Luhrmann’s 90s hit “Romeo + Juliet” to 2013’s “Warm Bodies” (which, spoiler alert, puts a zombie twist on the love story).
While gearing up for Colorado Shakespeare Festival’s own version of “Romeo and Juliet”, we asked the CU Presents and CSF staff to pick their favorite “R&J” adaptations—plus a wildcard choice.
We invite you to settle in with your Netflix queue and catch up on all the classic (and not-so-classic) takes on the iconic play before joining us in the Mary Rippon Outdoor Theatre on July 7 for opening.
“Romeo and Juliet”: 1968 film, Franco Zeffirelli
“The Franco Zeffirelli version is still my favorite. All of the elements of that film, including the romantic Italian setting, the lush costumes (although the guys with skinny legs in two-toned tights always looked a little silly to me), the original music, and most of all the chemistry of Olivia Hussey and Leonard Whiting are so right. The leads were fresh and young, but still handled the text so beautifully and joyfully.” —CSF Managing Director Wendy Franz
“The Zeffirelli film is a classic, and most memorable to me because my middle school teachers had to get a permission slip signed for me to see it due to fleeting nudity. Not the double-suicide or the multiple murders, but the half-second of nudity in the bedroom scene.” —CU Presents Operations Director Andrew Metzroth
“Romeo + Juliet”: 1996 film, Baz Luhrmann
“’Romeo + Juliet’ all the way. I just glanced over at my bookshelf, and I even have the DVD of that film in French. ‘La plus grande histoire d’amour que le monde ait connue.’” —CSF Director of Outreach Amanda Giguere
“Like the true 90s kid I am, I live and die by Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Romeo PLUS Juliet.’ It was my first-ever introduction to Shakespeare and made it accessible to a kid from Indiana, setting me up to appreciate the classics in new and exciting ways for years to come. Plus, 90s Leonardo? Hubba hubba.” —CU Presents Public Relations Manager Becca Vaclavik
“’Romeo + Juliet’ is number one for me, as my mom and I watched the film on sick days or snow days. Who couldn’t love a Baz Luhrmann film, the aesthetic is everything.” —CU Presents Box Office Manager Christin Woolley
“The colorful and dynamic interpretation brings new meaning to high concept Shakespeare. Not just all the bright colors and glitter (or fantastic shoes), but we also get to see John Leguizamo wave a gun around with Leonardo DiCaprio in frame. Long live Baz Luhrmann and long live fever dream filmmaking.” —CU Presents Video Producer Madi Smith
“West Side Story”: 1957 film musical, Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins (based on the Leonard Bernstein musical)
“As a lover of musicals, I have to choose ‘West Side Story.’ The story is poignant and relevant, reminding people of the important things in life when they have become blinded, intentionally or not, to the humanity in other people.” —CU Presents Public Relations Assistant Corinne Baud
“’West Side Story,’ because it made a centuries-old story contemporary. Plus nobody can beat Natalie Wood.” —CU Presents Video Producer Jack Dorfman
“I have to vote for ‘West Side Story!’ The music is ingrained in my brain from listening to it endlessly as a youth, and it’s just an overall 10/10 show.” —CU Presents Social Content Creator Erika Haase
“Shakespeare in Love”: 1998 film, John Madden
“’Shakespeare in Love’ is an incredibly well-written film. Its compelling plotlines deftly interweave characters’ lives with references to Shakespeare’s works and strikes a lovely balance between comedy, romance and tragedy. It’s one of my favorite films of all time.” —CU Presents Box Office Assistant Elise Collins
“Romeo and Juliet”: Royal Ballet 1965, Kenneth MacMillan
“The whole work is a masterpiece of storytelling through dance and music—but Romeo’s final dance with Juliet, when he tries to repeat their dance in the garden with her lifeless body, is a testament to the limits of language to affect. I get emotional thinking about it. No written version has captured the tragedy and the irony like that final dance.” —CU Presents Marketing Manager Daniel Leonard
Staff Wild Card Picks
“Underworld”: 2003 film, Len Wiseman
“We can’t forget ‘Underworld’ with Kate Beckinsale (who’s got legit Shakespeare cred) and Scott Speedman. It’s vampires versus werewolves (clearly the next evolution of Capulets and Montagues) five years before the ‘Twilight’ saga AND it’s got Bill Nighy and Michael Sheen!” —CSF Managing Director Wendy Franz
“The story of vampires and lycans, two houses both alike in dignity. It might be a little bit of a stretch as far as adaptations go—but hey, one thing I’ve always maintained is that the Bard needs more vampires, so I’ll take it.” —CU Presents Video Producer Madi Smith
“Make Your Move”: 2013 film, Duane Adler
“The movie centers on two dance groups with a classic pair of star-crossed lovers. The movie has some incredible dance numbers and was certainly tailored to a preteen audience with the casting of Derek Hough.” —CU Presents Box Office Manager Christin Woolley
“Romeo and/or Julie”: 2016 book, Ryan North
“A hilarious choose-your-own-adventure book where you can pick which character you play as you work your way through the story. Great illustrations too!” —CU Presents Operations Director Andrew Metzroth
“Romeo and Juliet”: 1938 ballet, Sergei Prokofiev
“My parents used to play this record all the time when I was little and I decided that it sounded like scary monsters. So I created an interpretive dance about scary monsters. I still remember my signature move.” —CU Presents Marketing and PR Director Laima Haley
“West Bank Story”: 2005 film, Ari Sandel
“Okay, it’s an adaption of an adaption, but it’s a delightful short film (and a musical!) about competing Israeli / Palestinian falafel stands in the West Bank.” —CSF Outreach Director Heidi Schmidt
With so many options, it’s hard to pick just one! Be sure to add this summer’s CSF production of “Romeo and Juliet” to your growing list of favorite “R&J” adaptations.
Editor’s note: submissions have been edited for clarity and brevity.