Stuart King

Review: & JULIET at the Shaftesbury Theatre

& Juliet the Musical Maintaining its freshness and bubbly energy with a recent cast change, the jukebox musical & Juliet (which has occupied the Shaftesbury Theatre on and off, since November 2019) looks set to continue wowing it’s Prosecco guzzling audiences well into the future.

Mr Hit Factory Max Martin — the Swede who produced and wrote hits for mega-pop sensations like Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Ariana Grande and Katy Perry among others — has reworked a multitude of his well known toe-tappers into a re-telling of Romeo and Juliet updated by the writers of Schitt’s Creek and delivered with gusto from a distinctly feminine perspective. It’s brash, colourful, frothy and fun with some clever nods at Shakespeare’s original, a dash of funky feminism and a sprinkling of woke themes to ensure connection with a millennial audience.

Delivered with lanky swagger by Oliver Thompsett, Bill the Quill (as this reviewer’s generation referenced The Bard in years gone by), has smugly completed his epic tragedy of love and loss, only to have his spunky and unabashed wife Anne Hathaway point-out its fundamental flaws (Cassidy Janson stealing the show with her coquettish interjections, oodles of subtle comedic stage craft, powerful ballads and genuine acting chops). Anne cajoles her rarely-seen husband into deconstructing the work, then sets about helping him re-write the ending so that Juliet gains a new lease of life and is given options, just as Anne wishes for herself. As she embarks on her revised life journey to Paris (ticking-off another in-joke), Anne’s Juliet surrounds herself by an eclectic troupe of variously identifying pals and gets to decide whether her Romeo (Tom Francis) deserves another try when he’s resurrected from the dead, or to pursue a different guy (Tim Mahendran as François) who although willing to marry for his father’s approval, may just have alternative leanings he is inclined to pursue with May (Alex Thomas-Smith). The whole spectacle is as daft as a tutu-wearing traffic warden in clogs, but it is also unashamedly rousing, has great pace and the tongue-in-cheek humour genuinely entertains throughout.

The scene changes suitably match the frenetic pace of dialogue and plot twists which herald another recognisable hit every few minutes but, it would take the most churlish of curmudgeons to resist being swept-up by the party atmosphere and the entire spectacle is easy and entertaining.

Miriam Teak-Lee cuts a rebellious dash as Juliet finding her own way in the world and learning to love herself and live with her choices. Keala Settle as her Nurse, rekindles an earlier romance with Julius D’Silva as Lance and together they offer some older love interest and comedic spectacle to balance the more earnest espousals of four-day-old romance and marriage.

It’s hardly Shakespeare (and yet it is)! Go figure… and enjoy.

& Juliet Tickets