& Juliet: Theatre Review

I don’t write theatre reviews for everything I see but I felt compelled to write one about & Juliet because a new, original West End musical doesn’t open very often and because I want to urge you all to see it too.

The concept is very simple. What happened if Juliet didn’t kill herself at the end of Romeo & Juliet? It is a play within a play, beginning with William Shakespeare (Oliver Tompsett) and his wife Anne Hathaway (Cassidy Janson) arguing over his ending and Hathaway taking over the quill and rewriting it, sending the new and empowered Juliet (Miriam-Teak Lee) on a journey to Paris with her nurse Angelique (Melanie La Barrie), non-binary best friend May (Arun Blair-Mangat), and April (Hathaway, writing herself into the action).

To be honest the plot isn’t the strongest or tightest and could have been trimmed down. It’s very threadbare in the beginning but it becomes exciting with the introduction of Francois (Tim Mahendran) – a new love interest – and the unexpected return of Romeo (Jordan Luke Gage) just before the interval. That’s when it really gets going.

You almost forget about the weaknesses in the plot because the cast and the musical numbers – of which there are many – are so brilliant. This is a jukebox musical featuring the songs written by Max Martin (if don’t know the name, check out his insane songwriting credits on Google) and heavily uses Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys, with a fair bit of Katy Perry and Ariana Grande too. If you’re into pop music and these artists then you will have the most fun with & Juliet. The way some of the songs have been repurposed to convey a new meaning is very clever and at times very, very funny.

Although the overall plot is weak, the dialogue is decent – particularly between Will and Anne – and I laughed out loud a lot and even cheered! Even though this is Juliet’s show, each of the main characters gets their own storyline and musical number. The show is also very inclusive, with a diverse cast, black lead, and LGBTQ relationship taking centre stage.

Lee has a powerful presence, infectious energy and an amazing voice. I had an issue with her accent though. Sometimes she would sound British and other times she would be American. This also came up during some songs – the majority of the time they sounded like their original American version but had a few anglicised words that were jarring.

My favourite performer was Janson, who was brilliantly written as Hathaway and had the most terrific, powerful voice for such a small person. She is also the true heart of the story.

& Juliet is a lot of fun and a truly entertaining night out. You’ll come away beaming, singing the pop songs and wanting to listen to them all when you get home. Go see!

& Juliet officially opens at the Shaftesbury Theatre in London tonight 

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