Orlando Bloom takes a romantic turn in Romeo and Juliet on Broadway

Coiffed elves and fledging pirates come easily to Orlando Bloom, but this year the actor will add star-crossed lover to his CV when he makes his Broadway debut in Romeo and Juliet.

The 36 year old is to play Romeo opposite Tony nominee Condola Rashad's Juliet in a contemporary-set production with an emphasis on race. The production, the first Broadway Romeo and Juliet in nearly 40 years, will open at the Richard Rodgers theatre on 24 August.

Director David Leveaux, who helmed the Beatles play Backbeat in the West End 18 months ago, is to cast white actors as the Montagues and black actors as the Capulets.

"The last thing we wanted to do was to do a sort of pompous, classic version of Romeo and Juliet," Leveaux told the Associated Press, "I'm just taking away all the wallpaper and mantelpieces, all the kind of pompous stuff we associate with grand Shakespearean productions, and try to go as simple as possible."

The director, a five-time Tony nominee, denied that he started out to impose "some conceptual frame" on the play, saying the prominence of race arose organically out of his central casting. "At the end of the day, if you're sitting in row E in a Broadway theatre, you either believe that these two people are in love and are invested in them or the play doesn't work," he continued.

Another high-profile Romeo and Juliet is due in New York shortly afterwards, with Elizabeth Olsen set to lead the Classic Stage Company's revival.

Bloom has performed some of Romeo's speeches before, as part of a 2011 Los Angeles Philharmonic orchestra concert that paired Tchaikovsky's music with some of the Shakespearean texts that inspired them.

The Lord of the Rings star made his professional stage debut six years ago in London, starring in a West End revival of David Storey's In Celebration, but cut his teeth as an active member of the National Youth Theatre as a teenager.

Leveaux said casting Bloom was obvious: "I was just so fascinated by his passion and his absolute boyish love of this language that I thought: 'Yep, that feels like our Romeo'."

Powered by Guardian.co.ukThis article was written by Matt Trueman, for guardian.co.uk on Tuesday 2nd April 2013 16.35 Europe/London

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