Thursday, October 6

& Juliet – Shaftesbury Theatre

“What if Juliet didn’t kill herself?” is the premise of & Juliet, a fun, feminist retelling of Shakespeare’s famous love story. David West Read’s book reimagines what would happen when Shakespeare is persuaded by his wife Anne Hathaway to re-write the ending, bringing Juliet back to life for a whirlwind journey of self-discovery. With music and lyrics by Max Martin, Luke Sheppard’s production takes everything we know about Romeo and Juliet and gives it a glittery, pop-fuelled makeover that on paper sounds crazy but in reality, is quite the opposite.

With Max Martin and his collaborator’s extensive catalogue of songs, from Katy Perry to Ariana Grande, each number is carefully thought out, adding a new dimension as the plot moves along, which other jukebox musicals often struggle with. You couldn’t help but laugh each time a new song began, it was a nice surprise waiting for which pop classic or anthem would come next.

Paloma Young’s costumes offer a fresh take on classic Elizabethan attire, pairing corsets with glittery skirts and trainers, which sounds bizarre but is artfully done. The cutting-edge costumes, alongside Jennifer Weber’s hip-hop-inspired choreography, which was mastered by the high-energy ensemble, will leave you wishing you could join in.

Miriam-Teak Lee leads as heroine Juliet and is joined by Cassidy Janson as Anne Hathaway, Oliver Tompsett as William Shakespeare, Tim Mahendran as Francois, and Alex Thomas-Smith as May. Keala Settle makes her West End debut as Nurse, joined by Tom Francis whose taken over the role of Romeo and Julius D’Silva who now plays Lance.

Credit: Johan Persson

Lee won an Olivier award for her performance as Juliet and seeing her in action, it’s easy to see why. With her spectacular vocals and endless charisma, Lee commands the stage in every scene. From fist-pumping ballads to emotional solos, Lee’s energy is truly unmatched, transforming Juliet into a fiery pop sensation, and is a true crowd-pleaser from start to finish. Tom Francis does a brilliant job of keeping up with Lee as Romeo, his charm-filled over-the-top entrance certainly sets the tone for his hilariously flamboyant performance.

Alex Thomas-Smith shines as May, Juliet’s non-binary best friend who symbolises Shakespeare’s more fluid and radical depictions of sexuality and gender. Thomas-Smith’s rendition of ‘I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman’ was particularly powerful, with a few tears shed in the audience.

Oliver Tompsett and Cassidy Janson are enthralling from start to finish as husband-and-wife William and Anne, from their hilarious squabbling in ‘I Want It That Way’ to their more tender moments, they were a joy to watch. Janson truly showed off her triple-threat talent with her incredible performance. From her impressive vocals that received plenty of applause to her unmatched comedic timing, Janson is a force to be reckoned with.

Another crowd-pleasing performance came from Keala Settle as Nurse, Juliet’s protective yet outspoken confidant. Settle brought all the star power which earned her critical acclaim in The Greatest Showman. Seeing Settle in the flesh was truly a delight, her rendition of ‘Teenage Dream/Break Free’ alongside Julius D’Silva was a real standout moment of the show.

For those wanting another version of Shakespeare’s original, you may be a little disappointed, but for those looking for a clever and unique take on the story that’ll leaving you grinning from ear to ear, & Juliet truly delivers. A jukebox musical may not be your idea of a great night out, but this show will exceed your expectations and surprise you in every way imaginable.

& Juliet is currently running at the Shaftesbury Theatre; tickets can be purchased here:

https://www.andjulietthemusical.co.uk/

Reviewer: Gemma Prince

Reviewed: 7th April 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★

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