Does the world really need another jukebox musical? If you answered no to that question then you really ought to see & Juliet. This spirited reimagining of the Romeo & Juliet story suggests otherwise with an engaging script, great performances and a slew of catchy hits.
The Musical sets out to answer a simple question – what would have happened if Juliet had put the dagger down? The question is posed by Shakespeare’s long suffering wife Anne, and what follows is a bold and very modern retelling of the famous tale.
Not that Shakespeare immediately agrees to his work being rewritten. “The ending hath been writ” he protests, to the suggestion of a rewrite. “Yes, but the endings shit” lady Shakespeare replies, without skipping a beat. Fortunately for us, Anne wins the day, and Juliet is soon skipping of to Paris with her new buddies April and May (see what they did there?).
What ensues is a tale full of romance, comic mishaps, and thrillingly catchy pop songs. The latter come from the pen of one man hit machine Max Martin. The producers have plundered the hit maker’s back catalogue mercilessly so we are treated to a never ending series of the man’s biggest hits including Hit Me Baby One More Time, Oops I Did It Again, I Want It Back Again.
& Juliet features many great performances but none better than that of Juliet herself. Miriam Teak-Lee is a good actress but it is her singing that really lights up the production. From the actress’s opening number – Hit Me One More Time – it is obvious that we are in the presence of a real star, and Teak-Lee continues to deliver the musical goods throughout the two hour plus show.
Jordan Luke Gage also gives a good performance as Romeo Capulet. The story turns the character on its head so that Romeo is here depicted not only as a wimp but also as a bit of a bimbo.
When Shakespeare challenges Romeo on why he is not prepared to fight for his love, for instance, the young Montague’s reply is classic. “I’ve always been more of a lover than a fighter – plus, I’ve got no upper body strength”. Later, when Juliet challenges him about his womanising, is answer is equally as good. Romeo sighs, gives the object of his affections his best puppy dog expression, and then replies: “I’m a sexy young man with a tight body and a lot of feelings”.
Although the new production is incredibly engaging, & Juliet is certainly not perfect. The show sags noticeably around the middle section, there are one too many songs, and the actor playing Shakespeare lacks the necessary gravitas. Moreover, compared to the similar Six the Musical, which depicts the lives of the six wives of Henry VIII, the sexual politics in & Juliet seem shallow and contrived. However, the production more than compensates with its raw energy, verve and non stop hits.
& Juliet is a big, sassy jukebox musical which never pretends to be something that it is not. It may not be the smartest or best written production around, but if you are looking for good, old fashioned entertainment, with an interesting story, great performances and an almost perfect soundtrack, then this is the show for you.
& Juliet is booking at The Shaftesbury Theatre until the 24th of September 2022. More information about the musical can be found here.
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