Romeo famously takes his own life after believing his beloved Juliet is dead. Shakespeare’s greatest tragedy culminates with Juliet awakening from her potion-induced sleep to find her Romeo dead at her side. Filled with remorse, she takes a knife and ends her own life. But what if Juliet takes a different route? What if she moves on and starts afresh? And so, the premise of brand-new musical & Juliet is set. With a book by David West Read and music by Max Martin (and friends), this is a celebration of 22 years of iconic pop anthems…Backstreet Boys, Celine Dion, Britney Spears, Bon Jovi, Pink, Katy Perry and many more.
With considerable hype leading up to this launch, there was a danger that expectations would be deflated by a cheesy jukebox musical. However, that concern was quashed from the opening second as this huge new show explodes onto the Opera House stage. Loud, sassy, vibrant, slick and hilariously funny this is an unforgettable evening. Luke Sheppard directs this faultless production with pace and emotion; Jennifer Weber’s high-energy choreography and Soutra Gilmour’s colourful, glitzy stage design adding to the quality of the evening.
Melanie La Barrie is hysterical as Nurse, Juliet’s faithful companion who can belt out a tune. Arun Blair-Mangat (May) tugs at the hearts as he falls for Tim Mahendran’s Francois - his version of Britney’s I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman a powerful moment of transgender insecurity. Oliver Tompsett (Shakespeare) and Cassidy Janson as wife Ann are excellent as the sparring duo in a jaded marriage, determined to re-write Juliet’s story in their own way, creating new scenes to change each other’s plots.
There are so many great moments and clever re-imaginings of classic songs (Katy Perry’s I Kissed a Girl and Pink’s F**kin' Perfect just two memorable examples), but tonight a star is born in the form of the stunning Miriam-Teak Lee as our hero Juliet. In one of the best musical performances I have seen, Lee takes the stage with confidence, control and comedic precision, her incredible vocal talent likely to make her an international star as big as those who recorded the songs she now owns.
Launched in Manchester; heading to London; destined for Broadway; & Juliet is THE big musical of the year. If music be the food of love, & Juliet will play on…and on…and on.
Dean Thomas-Lowde for Canal St Online
Opera House: Sep 10th-Oct 12th 2019 Tix here