Sunday, July 14

Julie: The Musical – The Other Palace

A French-Opera-singing, sword-fighting, bisexual convent arsonist sounds like a character you’d meet in an especially bizarre dream after one too many espresso martinis. But life is often stranger than fiction, and this multi-hyphenate wonder was a very real person: Julie d’Aubigny, to be precise.

Born in 1673, Julie had a particularly storied existence, and while some of her tales have been lost to history, many of her adventures are well-recorded, from romantic trysts with nuns to illegal duels (often with multiple men at once), to a prestigious career as an opera singer.

So it’s no surprise that this legendary figure is the inspiration for a suitably quirky show: Abey Bradbury’s Julie: The Musical, playing at The Other Palace after a successful UK tour and sell-out run at the Edinburgh Fringe.

In this production, Julie is played with high-octane energy, charm, and comic timing by Sam Kearney-Edwards. Making up the rest of the cast is Melinda Orengo, Zachary Pang, and Abey Bradbury themselves, each portraying several of the characters Julie encounters throughout her extraordinary life — while also playing multiple instruments.

The cast are absolutely brilliant, with equal parts gorgeous vocals and knee-slapping wit. Even in the couple of moments when something went slightly wrong, this talented bunch styled it out hilariously.

Julie: The Musical is a show-within-a-show, with Julie simultaneously crafting and narrating her own story, and it cleverly incorporates meta moments and plenty of fourth wall-breaking.

Photo: Ben Wilkin

The humour absolutely shines in this performance, leaning into modern-day references (I practically howled with laughter as a character auditioned for the Paris Opera House with a rendition of Jojo Siwa’s ‘Karma’), excellent physical comedy, and an embrace of all things camp.

As for the music, Julie: The Musical is packed with catchy and memorable songs influenced by a wide range of genres, from glam rock to indie pop, creating a very fun sonic blend that perfectly reflects Julie’s one-of-a-kind life story.

Alongside a richly detailed set designed by Becky Cox, the cast are accompanied by an abundance of wacky instruments and props to help tell the tale in an appropriately quirky way.

The show is at its strongest when it leans into its charmingly madcap nature, with some of the more pared-down, vulnerable songs leaning a tad too much on clichés in their lyrics. 

While generally very well-paced, Act Two feels like it hurtles towards its end quite suddenly without letting the dramatic tension build enough for a truly satisfying emotional payoff, but the final moments have enough tenderness to soon draw you back in.

Unabashedly queer and high camp, this refreshingly creative production is an incredibly fun and joyous exploration of what it means to write your own story and live an ‘unnormal’ life.

Reviewer: Olivia Cox

Reviewed: 13th June 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.