Our weekly round up of this week's biggest new tours, shows and events.
Shaftesbury Theatre is a vibrant shade of pink now that & Juliet has set up home in the West End. The jukebox musical features songs from legendary songwriter Max Martin, who has written for the likes of Boyzone, Britney Spears, P!nk, Katy Perry and more.
Before coming to the West End, & Juliet premiered in Manchester for a month-long run in September and October 2019, drawing acclaim by critics and fans and encouraging serious anticipation for its transfer to England’s capital.
With a back catalogue of Martin’s iconic pop hits and a book by David West Read, Shakespeare’s most famous story gets a colourful retelling, starting at the end. Here’s what you need to know.
What is & Juliet about?
Will Shakespeare is about to open Romeo and Juliet’s first ever show and receives something no one wants the night before… changes to the script! Led by his wife, Anne Hathaway, the company seizes control of the story and turns it on its head.
In the play-within-the-play Juliet decides against following Romeo’s sticky fate and instead puts down the dagger and vows to fully live her life. She meets up with her two friends, May and April, and sets off to Paris to live it up in the city of love, with her faithful nurse in tow to make sure they don’t get into too much trouble. But Verona is hot on Juliet’s heels, with her parents determined to shut her up in a nunnery.
With intersecting love triangles, rekindled flames, and friendships on the line, there’s no telling where the story will lead.
Who is in & Juliet?
Miriam-Teak Lee plays the titular Juliet and takes Max Martin’s beloved songs to the next level. Her rendition of Britney Spears’ …Baby One More Time offers an enticing new take on the pop classic.
Oliver Tompsett and Cassidy Janson play bickering spouses turned reluctant co-writers William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway. Janson doubles up as Anne’s self-inserted character – and Juliet’s best friend – April.
Arun Blair-Mangat plays Juliet’s other best friend, May, with Francois played by Tim Mahendran. The role of Juliet’s nurse is taken on by Melanie La Barrie and her old flame and Francois’ father Lance is played by David Bedella.
Jordan Luke Gage plays Romeo.
What can audiences expect from & Juliet?
Rewriting the bard for a modern audience is not a new venture, nor are jukebox musicals packed with modern pop numbers. Yet, even with these familiar concepts, & Juliet feels like it is breaking new ground. David West Read refuses to see the original play as the be all and end all for the world’s most famous lovers, creating a unique twist on a familiar story.
Before anyone has spoken a word or sung a note, a distinct impression has already been left by Soutra Gilmour’s set design and Paloma Young’s costuming. True to & Juliet’s blending of the modern and the old, the same fusion is evident in every on-stage visual. Where else would you see a noble family crypt adorned with stencil graffiti or DJ decks in a room full of gilded stucco? Throw in doublet and hose paired with battered sneakers, or a velour jacket thrown over stays, and the story tells itself with just a glance.
Watch the & Juliet cast chat about the show during rehearsals:
And then there’s the songs everyone came to hear. & Juliet dares the audience not to sing along to every hit song, filling the auditorium from I Want It That Way to Oops!… I Did It Again. The song choices reflect the storytelling perfectly, such as the frustrated Juliet and Francois duetting on Overprotected. With I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman sung by the nonbinary May and F***in’ Perfect sung by Juliet’s nurse, the audience leaves & Juliet having found new meanings to old favourites.
Guiding the visual and audible spectacular are a truly stellar cast, not least Cassidy Jansen’s brilliant comic portrayal of both Anne Hathaway and best friend April. Miriam-Teak Lee delivers some of the show’s most spine-tingling moment with a vocal prowess largely unparalleled in the West End, a feat mirrored by the entire ensemble as & Juliet mixes comedy with a poignant message about self-acceptance and empowerment.
What else do I need to know?
& Juliet runs for approximately 2 hours and 30 minutes with a 20-minute interval at London’s Shaftesbury Theatre.
Tickets for & Juliet are available now through Ticketmaster.co.uk.