Ohio Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ Gets a Nod in New Weezer Track
We all know that Shakespeare’s words are immortal. Now, the Ohio Shakespeare Festival’s production of “Romeo and Juliet” from several years ago has become the inspiration for the opening song of rock band Weezer’s new album, SZNZ: Spring.
It turns out Rivers Cuomo, Weezer’s lead singer and songwriter, saw a performance of OSF’s “Romeo and Juliet” on July 12, 2018, outdoors in the lagoon at Stan Hywet Hall & Gardens in Akron. , a night after the band performed at Blossom Music Center in Cuyahoga Falls.
Cuomo attended “Romeo and Juliet” with his wife, a special visit his assistant arranged for him in advance so Cuomo could watch the show without drawing attention to himself.
“She (the assistant) was asking for our help getting him in, don’t make a fuss about it, like he just wants to get out and not be Weezer,” said Tess Burgler, associate artistic director of the theater who played Juliet in the show.
Burgler recalls Cuomo having nice seats, but he and his wife spent most of the performance sitting on the grass.
Cuomo and his wife stayed after the show until the cast finished talking to audience members in a receiving line, then approached Burgler and Joe Pine, who played Romeo, as they were about to to leave. Cuomo was very complimentary about the show and spoke to the cast for about 10 minutes.
“He said how much he loved the show and he said how much he loved the Greenshow,” said Burgler, the fun musical parody the company performs before the show.
“He really loves Shakespeare. Like he’s a Shakespeare guy,” she said.
The next day, Cuomo tweeted that he saw a “great production of ‘Romeo and Juliet’ in Akron last night” and included a link to the Ohio Shakespeare Festival website.
Now, in a Friday interview with NPR’s Morning Edition, Cuomo explained how seeing Shakespearian production in an idyllic, wooded Ohio setting inspired the first song “Opening Night” on Weezer’s new album, SZNZ: Spring, released. Sunday for the vernal equinox. It is the first of four albums in the band’s SZNZ series.
“I just had this sketch in my notebook from a few years ago. We were on tour. It was actually in the summer: don’t tell anyone, but it was summer. And oh, I think we were somewhere way out in the woods in Ohio or something and there was a Shakespeare company playing I forget what play it was but I was there with my wife and we, you know, were laying under the stars and it was so idyllic,” Cuomo said on NPR.
“So the next morning, doing my morning pages, I just sort of described the scene, and then a few years later, I write SZNZ, like looking back in old notes, and that’s it, and I’m I was like, ‘Oh, that would be perfect.’ “
The track “Opening Night” from the new album, whose melody is directly inspired by Vivaldi’s “Spring” in “The Four Seasons”, specifically mentions seeing “Romeo and Juliet” under the stars. The original opening of the song begins with an acoustic English folk music sound with these lyrics:
“A Night Under the Stars, A Night Under the Stars, with Romeo and Juliet.”
“A night under the stars, a night under the stars. Have you ever seen this one?”
“Shakespeare makes me happy. Shakespeare makes me happy. So happy. And I’m happy to be with you.”
The final four phrases repeat before the song begins to rock Weezer-style, with the lyrics continuing to name Shakespearean characters from other plays that make him happy, including Hamlet and Falstaff.
“Theater is a very ephemeral art and that’s the point, isn’t it? You see it live and then it’s gone,” Burgler said. “If this is our little piece of immortality, the chorus of ‘Shakespeare makes me happy’, we’ve done our job well,” she recently told members of OSF.
Cuomo doesn’t name Ohio Shakespeare Festival on NPR but you can hear him talk about his idyllic experience at https://n.pr/3NfqHgX/.
After hearing Cuomo’s NPR interview on Friday, Burgler tweeted this on Ohio Shakespeare’s Twitter feed: “We are not referred to by name,
@RiversCuomo attended our ROMEO & JULIET 2018 and stayed to discuss how much he enjoyed his time with Ohio Shakes. Looks like a @Weezer
the song could be inspired by a summer night @stanhywet.”
Cuomo responded by liking his Tweet.
Pine, who was a huge Weezer fan in high school and listened to their music all the time, described OSF’s art-begets-art experience thus: “The idea that someone I consumed and enjoyed the art now came to see my art and I enjoyed it, and then now to take it a step further, and let that inspire more art of his for me to consume, that’s pretty cool.”
Art and restoration writer Kerry Clawson can be reached at 330-996-3527 or [email protected]