No one is more deserving of a jaunty, high-octane musical than Mademoiselle Maupin, and so this one-acter celebrates the sword-fighting, opera-singing, understated queer icon that she was.
The life of Maupin, also known as Julie d’Aubigny, (Abey Bradbury) and her escapades are retold through comical, lyrical accounts. This tell-all biography-style piece may not be entirely historically accurate, but the events seen on stage are mostly all true.
There is a lot to appreciate in Bradbury’s production, starting with representation in the form of an incredibly likeable bisexual heroine. Her script is witty and well-paced, with catchy songs and rib-tickling choreography making the ninety-minute run-time fly by.
A slightly clumsy start gives way to a tight, tenacious performance from the troupe. As the story gets more chaotic- in the best possible way- every cast member derives maximum humour from their lines and actions using mannerisms, facial expressions and punchy deliveries that have the audience chortling throughout.
Covering flute, bass and saxophone among other instruments, Sophie Coward demonstrates comprehensive musical mastery as well as a flair for acting. She enjoys an amusing duet with Julie as Amelie in ‘Fine’, but Coward’s highlight comes in the form of playing Julie’s father in the hilarious, over-the-top fencing song ‘Repeat the Drill’.
Connor Simkins secures some of the biggest laughs as he confidently swaps back and forth between a variety of roles, conveying satire and slapstick through each and every one. Meanwhile, Grant Cartwright contributes a variety of convincing accents and an engaging stage presence to his characters but impresses the most as Julie’s new friend Thevenard in the song ‘In Paris’.
Sam Kearney-Edwardes lends their terrific voice to Marie, a potential love interest for Julie, and also entertains in other, more whimsical roles. In the front seat, Abey Bradbury captures the tumultuous emotions of Julie with finesse.
‘Julie’ makes full use of the small stage, where tap dancing, sword duels and opera renditions all take place. Outfit choices are also creative and effective as they make it easy to differentiate between characters played by the same actors- even if it’s something as simple as a fake moustache selfie prop.
While the story – like the lead herself – burns out at the end, this is still must-see.
Juicy, jocular, jubilant. Julie, you’re a fringe sensation!
‘Julie: The Musical’ continues at 53two, Manchester until 30th July with tickets available from https://www.53two.com/julie-musical
Reviewer: Scot Cunningham
Reviewed: 28th July 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★