Updated: Jan 17, 2020
I’ve always thought Romeo and Juliet was a terrible story. Of all Shakespeare tragedies I feel this is the worst and I’m unsure why it gets romanticised as much as it does. Boy meets girl, they fight with their families, four days later kill themselves. They’re teenagers in lust and maybe also trying to be rebellious. I also wonder if Shakespeare was trolling us as he starts the play with Romeo being wistful about Rosalind. It’s not the love story people think it is. It’s been done so many times and updated slightly each time but it’s such a tired story and productions never break away from that. Now, finally, there is an empowering remix that I can get on board with.
& Juliet starts with Shakespeare discussing the exciting ending he has chosen for his new play, Romeo and Juliet. After talking about Juliet using Romeo’s dagger to kill herself Anne Hathaway (Shakespeare’s wife, not she of Princess Diaries fame) asks, “What if she… didn’t?” Anne Hathaway then takes over the quill and this becomes the start of the musical, hilariously told through numerous pop anthems of the last 30 years.
As you may imagine with this set up there is a focus on female empowerment, with Juliet finally being able to take control of her own life rather than just following Romeo to her death. But it’s not just Juliet, each of the female leads learn how to take charge of their lives. This feeds into a recurring narrative of the musical of allowing people to be who they are. Early on you meet Juliet’s friend May (played sensitively by Arun Blair-Mangat) who I was worried would be the clichéd gay best friend, a character every new musical had a few years ago. But you quickly learn they are a fully formed character with their own strong character development and storyline. It’s great to see theatre supporting everybody to be who they are.
The music of the show is from the extensive back catalogue of Max Martin who has written some of the best pop songs from the last 30 years. We are treated to some of the most triumphant music, with songs from Britney to Katy Perry to Backstreet Boys. We’ve written before defending jukebox musicals (https://www.dresscirclereviews.com/post/in-defence-of-jukebox-musicals), especially where they can choose the songs and, while there is a small restriction on songs here, they’ve chosen fabulous empowering songs rather than crow-baring songs that don’t fit. I think they were conscious of this as in an interview they discussed songs they wanted in but aren’t there because they didn’t fit.
So much of this show is done well. The costumes are well though out with a fitting mix of Elizabethan outfits mixed with jeans and bomber jackets. The dialogue has this same mix with some rhyming couplets mixed with current slang. Ultimately this is a thoroughly modern musical. This is most apparent in Jennifer Weber’s exciting and powerful choreography which itself is worth the ticket price.
But no review of & Juliet can be complete without discussing the modern Juliet played by Miriam-Teak Lee. She has a phenomenal voice which seems tailor made for the part. She has an incredible blend of wide-eyed wonder for new experiences and a hidden strength, which builds up to allow her to make her own choices. She is an absolute star!
We were also thrilled to see Cassidy Janson. We last saw her in Chess where she was the shining light in an otherwise lackluster musical. It’s fantastic to see her here demonstrating her wonderful vocals and perfect comic timing. You cannot help but be charmed by her.
They're joined by a hugely talented energetic cast who make every moment a delight.
It’s exciting to have such a great new musical comedy in the west end. It already has a cult following since it’s run at the Manchester Palace. Anyone going to see this is not going to be disappointed. The only problem was we had trouble stopping ourselves from singing along!
We give this 4 Laura Michelle-Kelly stars. Don’t miss out on this triumphant new show – get your tickets here: https://www.andjulietthemusical.co.uk/