9th October 2019

Review: & Juliet

Theatre Editor Jay Darcy reviews & Juliet, a jukebox musical reimagining Romeo & Juliet, ahead of its West End transfer
Review: & Juliet
Photo: Johan Persson.

& Juliet is the first jukebox musical to use a songwriter’s music (Max Martin). A reimagining of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, it asks, what happens when Juliet picks up the dagger and… gets a life?

The set (Soutra Gilmour) was majestic. From continental streets to multi-coloured chandeliers, it left nothing to the imagination – it threw in everything including the kitchen-sink! Hilariously, the show’s press event was held elsewhere because the theatre was taken over by set…

The cast of & Juliet. Photo: Johan Persson.

Whilst Miriam-Teak Lee (Stage Debut Award winner) is right that “anybody” could play Juliet, the casting of a black woman didn’t go unnoticed. How incredible to see an iconic character played by a BAME actor!?

Lee was born to be a leading-lady. Her performance of Katy Perry’s Roar was especially cathartic; she made it known she was in Hamilton

The cast was very diverse, including Melanie La Barrie, who played the nurse. At the press event she revealed, in contrast to the very different take on other characters, she was playing the “quintessential” nurse, though she would develop it, and, hell, did she! She was a real sasspot. Her relationship with Lance (2 x Olivier winner David Bedella) was tear-inducingly funny, especially when they mixed Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream and Ariana Grande’s Break Free. Also, La Barrie’s performance of P!nk’s F**kin’ Perfect was just that

I adored the addition of queer characters. May (Arun Blair-Mangat) struggles with their gender-identity. Their rendition of Britney’s I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman was a divine interpretation.

Tim Mahendran played Juliet and May’s love-interest, Francois. His gradual acceptance of his sexuality resonates with anybody who has struggled with identity. So, to thine own self be true

Wait, wrong Shakespeare play

The pair gave a fabulous rendition of Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl (the musical should be renamed & Katy & Katy & Katy again…).

I generally feel awkward clapping enthusiastically, worried I will appear obnoxious, but I clapped, whooped, sashayed, shantayed, vogued and partayed for these lovebirds.

Arun Blair-Mangat as May. Photo: Johan Persson.

Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife (though after the show, Shakespeare was her husband!) was the audience’s favourite character. Brit-nominee Cassidy Janson played Anne as insistent, defiant, and unashamedly feminist.

It is she who encourages Shakespeare to rewrite (and let her rewrite) his famous tragedy. They fight over the development of the play, both throwing curveballs (and plot twists) at each other (Act 1 ends with a Dynasty-style twist!).

Anne hilariously gives Juliet a queer best-friend, May, before inserting herself into the play as Juliet’s other best friend – April. Get it? April, May and July-et!

Shakespeare eventually gives in to Anne’s request, stating, whilst there will be more tragedies, there will never be another Anne Hathaway… Well, while that one won an Oscar, this one deserves an Olivier

Oliver Tompsett told me he wasn’t afraid of playing Shakespeare. He really made this iconic figure his own.

I unfortunately did not see Bat Out of Hell before it closed, so it was amazing seeing the fantastic Jordan Luke Gage onstage. He’s a real Romeo.

He was perfect as the vain, dumb playboy, who is very different to Bat Out of Hell‘s Strat – Jordan can seemingly do it all…

Whilst the audience stood beside Juliet as she put Romeo in his place (below her – it’s Juliet & Romeo now!), we all loved him really.

Jordan Luke Gage as Romeo. Photo: Johan Persson.

Oh, what else?! Lighting, sound, music – all superb! The costumes (Paloma Young) deserve particular praise for splendidly blending Shakespearean and modern fashion: hoodies, jeans, trainers, and corsets! A standout scene was the Dubois’ take on Backstreet Boys’ Everybody! Oh, I wish I had more words…

The only (small) fault is impossible to fix. The show masterfully transformed recognisable pop songs into emotional ballads, unsurprisingly prompting some laughter from audience members. Whilst this was fine at first, and I laughed too, it became tiresome and took away from the touching emotion of the songs.

This problem lies within the immaturity of some audience members, those people who still laugh at jokes the 17th time they’re uttered… Yes, they’ve slowed down and added meaning to Britney – 2 hours in, have you only just realised that, are you easily amused, or do you just want to be heard? ‘Cause ain’t nobody here to listen to you, Sandra…

I’ve seen (and reviewed) lots of shows, and I can honestly say that & Juliet is one of the best I’ve ever seen. So, go buyeth oneself a ticket to the hottest musical in town, before it transfers to the West End – or forever wish you had!

Or, go and see it in London for double the price (seats are as cheap as £13 here in Manchester!).

& Juliet runs at the Opera House, Manchester until 12th October, before transferring to the Shaftesbury Theatre, London from 2nd November.

Jay Darcy

Jay Darcy

Theatre Editor. Instagram & Twitter: @jaydarcy7. Email: [email protected]

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