& Juliet at Shaftesbury Theatre
The hugely anticipated musical & Juliet makes its debut at the Shaftesbury Theatre after a successful initial run at Manchester Opera House. A collaboration between composer Max Martin, author David West Read and a cast of hugely talented West End performers, the show delivers a vibrant celebration of unconventional Shakespearean form.
After an animated introduction of dancers and general musical glitz, we meet Shakespeare (Oliver Tompsett) and his long-suffering wife Anne Hathaway (Cassidy Janson). Reading through her husband’s newly written tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, the feisty and petulant Hathaway is insistent that he changes the disastrous outcome of his heroine to give her the chance to go and live her best life. Instantaneously, the house band spark up and the duelling spouses are exchanging witty, acrimonious harmonies to the Backstreet Boyz number I Want It That Way, until Mr Shakespeare finally relents and Juliet’s character is successfully resurrected.
Scene one of this newly adapted story sees heartbroken Juliet (Miriam-Teak-Lee) collapse at Romeo’s casket before running away from her stern parents to Paris, starting afresh with her two closest friends and loyal nursemaid, who then all end up embroiled in a chaotic mix of wrongful weddings, romantic liaisons and unexpected outcomes.
Lee is outstanding in her role as Juliet, a talent to behold with her perfectly pitched vocals and emotive delivery, whilst her non-binary best friend May (Arun Blair Mangat) is a refreshing casting addition, triumphantly taking centre stage in a beautiful ballad version of Britney’s I’m Just a Girl alongside the gentle and endearing character of future lover Francois (Tim Mahendran). The overtly seductive Lance (David Bedella) plays the role of Francois’s strict and hypocritical father, undermining his own path of marriage by betraying his late wife with Juliet’s bubbly nursemaid (Melanie La Barrie) and highlighting the impact parents can have on their children’s mental well-being.
The choreography from Jennifer Weber is seamless, with beautiful set design from Soutra Gilmour, and the supporting theatrical cast are just as polished. It’s a camp musical feast of well-loved pop anthems that slide perfectly into the & Juliet story, bringing together an unconventional cast whose underlying stories of female empowerment and gender fluidity seem strikingly current.
Photos: Johan Persson
& Juliet is at Shaftesbury Theatre from 2nd November until May 2020. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.