& Juliet at the Shaftesbury Theatre
& Juliet is the newest jukebox musical to hit the West End and it does so in the form of Max Martin’s pop anthems. We meet Shakespeare and his wife, Anne Hathaway. Anne is determined to change how Juliet;s story is told so we meet Juliet at Romeo’s deathbed and rather than taking her own life she uses this to springboard into a new one! We follow her to Paris and to new romances and friendships.
The story itself is fun and unashamedly cheesy. The book is full of girl power references and witty one liners, especially those that referenced Shakespeare’s other works.
The music however is the highlight of the show, it is jam packed full of mega pop hits which took me back to my teenage years right up to more modern songs. The song choice with Max Martin’s back catalogue available to you are vast and therefore they can sit nicely into the plot and often do so with their tongue firmly in their cheek.
The songs ranged from Backstreet Boy’s ‘Larger Than Life’ to Britney Spear’s ‘Baby One More Time,’ and from Katy Perry’s ‘Roar’ to Every time a song started there was a huge wave of nostalgia that was utterly embraced by both the cast and the audience alike. The songs however were arranged in ways that despite being written a decade or so ago they felt fresh and relevant. Part of this was due to the new arrangements and part of this was due to modern choreography by Jennifer Weber.
The cast themselves all suit their parts remarkably well. Mariam-Teak Lee brings sass to the part of Juliet and Jordan Luke Gage turns Romeo from one of literacy’s great romantic heroes to someone that you would tell your girlfriends to avoid, but still manages it with cheeky charm. Juliet is also given a group of friends and Arun Blair-Mangat as May provides a standout performance as he replaces Juliet as the star crossed lover in this story.
Oliver Tompsett and Cassidy Janson take on the role of Shakespeare and his wife Ann. Janson sent shivers down my spine with her rendition of ‘That’s The Way It Is’ and who knew Tompsett singing Backstreet Boys was the thing my life was missing. Janson and Thompsett work brilliantly together, sliding from narrators and back into Juliet’s story with huge irony and even bigger fun.
I also have to mention the show aesthetic. The costumes by Paloma Young have a remarkable fusion of period Shakespearean costumes such as corsets combined with modern touches such as bomber jackets and DM boots. This combined with Soutra Gilmour’s set with moving projections really put the look of the show on a par with that of a music video.
& Juliet succeeds where so many of its predecessors have failed, it knows exactly what it is and is unashamed about it…..so cheesy it makes it cool again and with an uber talented cast, & Juliet ticks all the boxes.
& Juliet is playing at the Shaftesbury Theatre, For tickets visit their website.