Theatre | Roman and Jules | Ken Longworth

MUSICAL REVUE: Novocastrian writer and director Meri Bird, centre, with the 15 cast members of Roman and Jules. Photo: Daniel Armstrong
MUSICAL REVUE: Novocastrian writer and director Meri Bird, centre, with the 15 cast members of Roman and Jules. Photo: Daniel Armstrong

WHEN teenage boy and girl Roman and Jules accidentally meet in Newcastle, they are attracted to each other. But as they come from different communities and family backgrounds, their attempts to get together face hard-to-resolve problems.

Roman & Jules is a contemporary reworking by Novocastrian writer and director Meri Bird of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. It has a musical revue format, with the story largely being told through the delivery of 26 hit songs, many from popular musicals.

The opening song, Beautiful City, for example, was written for Godspell.  Others include John Denver’s Perhaps Love, Justin Timberlake’s 500 Miles, the Mills Brothers’ When You Were Sweet 16, Van Morrison’s Moondance and Singin’ in the Rain.

Roman & Jules is being staged by Theatre on Brunker at St Stephen’s Anglican Church Hall, Adamstown, from November 3 to 25.

This version of the Romeo and Juliet story focuses on young people, with the 15 cast members aged between 17 and 32. The performers, headed by Juliette Coates as Jules and Liam Bird as Roman, have impressively shown their talents in musicals such as Les Miserables.

The meeting between the title characters takes place at a Newcastle football match, where Wollongong and home teams are competing. The local team wins, leading to name-calling and a fight between young Newy and Gong supporters. Georgia Hicks-Jones, who plays Kiara, a member of the Newy gang, says that, like her, Jules initially stands her ground.

The Gong gang members, who came to Newcastle by train, decide to return again at weekends, to show the locals just how good they are at looking after themselves. And the fact that some of the other Gongs are, like Roman, attracted to a Newy girl, contributes to the choice.

Meri Bird says the play, like Romeo and Juliet, looks at the impact societal and family pressures have on young people’s sense of belonging and their concerns about forbidden love. Some of the young people, though, are defiant, with Dominic Lacey seeing his Gong character, Nick, as a goofy tough guy who gets away with things that others of his age wouldn’t, such as tap-dancing.

Other cast members include Peter Bird, Madison Clarke, Brent Hanson, Kane Kaiser, Brooke Littlewood, Maddy Mitchell, Rory Pollock, Jonathon Rae, Will Swadling, Georgia Taylor and John Thomas. Keiran Norman is musical director and Kiani Sansom choreographer.

Roman & Jules plays on Friday and Saturday, with dinner and show from 7pm ($45) or show only at 8pm ($22, conc $18).  There is a 2pm show-only  on November 19. Bookings: 4956 1263.