photo of stewart legere & kim harris by krista davis
For a great many of those who were coming of age around 1996 there was something iconic and alluring about Baz Luhrmann’s filmic adaption of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet starring Leonardo DiCaprio and Claire Danes as the star-crossed lovers. It was the stuff of sleepovers, teenage angst and zealous crushes. Yet, unlike many Shakespearean adaptations aimed at young people, Luhrmann’s film was quite faithful to the original text, which gave it a distinct theatrical quality and proved, in a way that seemed both seamless and definitive, that there is no reason this four hundred year old story should not be able to resonate in its own language to contemporary teenagers.
What is often lost in theatre productions of Romeo and Juliet is the fact that it is a story about two teenagers and the intensity and rashness of their emotions and their hormones, which govern every aspect of their lives. The spirit of the play is beautifully captured in the soundtrack to Luhrmann’s film, which now also proves a nostalgic portrait of the musical stylings of the mid 1990s for the same generation who once revered the film. On Saturday evening at The Company House Halifax-based musicians Kim Harris and Stewart Legere recreated the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack in concert for a large and utterly transfixed crowd. It was a beautifully evocative evening of music, showcasing Harris and Legere’s multi-talents in contending with a variety of different musical genres, but also it was a fascinating exploration of storytelling. Can the soundtrack of a Hollywood film adapted from a Shakespearean tragedy relay the famous story? What was so interesting is that the arc of the emotional journey of Romeo and of Juliet was there in a strangely, wonderful, esoteric, dramatic and captivating way.
From the sensual anguish of the Opening number “#1 Crush” by Garbage to the rapping in One Inch Punch’s “Pretty Piece of Flesh” there were so many rock star moments crammed into this evening it often seemed that Legere and Harris were flying. Stewart Legere had a particularly incredible rendition of Quindon Tarver’s “Everybody’s Free (To Feel Good)”, where he showed off his gorgeous boy band voice- kind of a mixture of Whitney Houston and a long lost Backstreet Boy. Guest stars Margot Durling, Heather Green and Melanie Stone were featured on several songs, but their harmonies with Harris on Tarver’s song was the most haunting and lovely. Jason Michael MacIsaac helped Legere and Harris put their own unique stamp on Mundy’s “To You I Bestow,” giving it a more folk rock flavor. Stina Nordenstam’s “Little Star” was also a beautiful highlight. Harris and Legere’s voices blend organically together and their adorable chemistry and sheepish laughter between songs ensured that the entire room feel madly in love with the both of them.
The eleven clock number came early in the set list when Kim Harris sang the guts out of the gorgeous, lush ballad “Kissing You,” which, fittingly, is the theme for the film. Her smooth, long notes and phrasing were laden with so much soulful emotion that the Company House was rendered entirely breathless even after she finished singing. In that moment Harris was Juliet floating on a cloud of love at first sight and we were all right there with her.
If Halifax is interested in forging its own Cabaret scene, a place for music and theatre to converge in a myriad of new and interesting ways, Kim Harris and Stewart Legere could become Halifax Cabaret stars. The Company House is the perfect venue for this type of endeavor- a common stomping ground for both the city’s music and theatre communities. The exuberant audience on Saturday night would have happily sat and watched Harris and Legere sing through the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack a second time. They could certainly turn this concept of theirs into a series. I, for one, am hoping for a Moulin Rouge soundtrack recreation next. Whatever these two choose to do, it is clear that both their stars are on the rise and Halifax is deeply enamoured already.