MUSICAL REVIEW: & Juliet ★★★★
Shaftesbury Theatre, London
Grand Circle, Central Seating
Aside from those who have lived under a rock their entire lives, everyone will know of, or at least be familiar with Shakespeare's most famous piece of work, Romeo and Juliet. Set with two households at war with each other, this renowned tragedy initially was met with skepticism when it was announced that a jukebox musical was to be developed from an already overused stimulus. The fact of the matter is, & Juliet shouldn’t work, and most certainly should not be updated to include shoehorn in some of Music Producer’s Max Martin’s most recognisable and chatty tunes of the last few decades, with the likes of Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, Kelly Clarkson, and P!nk thrown into the mix… yet somehow, & Juliet has defied the critics, and myself especially, to become a production that not only makes every penny of your ticket price worth the experience and visually portrayed on stage, but leaves you utterly compelled and throwing in your headphones at the briefest moment after curtain call to relive the magic all over again.
The ultimate reason why David West Read’s Book works so beautifully is due to the clear care and compassion that resonates throughout the cast and creative team; Miriam-Teak Lee will astound and take you to another level as Juliet; her rendition of ...Baby One More Time, her entrance number as you will, will send chills down the spine, and even in the group numbers you will be drawn to the energy that she brings, which is equally matched against Tim Mahendran’s powerful vocals in Demi Lovato’s ‘Confident’ that battles against Lee’s rustic and determined ability to leave your jaw dropping for scenes to follow. Whilst Jordan Luke Gage’s arrival as Romeo onto the stage is maybe a little long overdue, Bon Jovi’s ‘It’s my Life’ soars through the auditorium and ricochets through the rood as the one star crossed lovers are meeting each other again for a moment that the whole audience have been longing for, and right when the moment arrives, you are not left disappointed.
It’s Bill Sherman as the Music Supervisor, Orchestrator & Arranger who deserves the credit for bringing the music to life in such a way that it feels fresh and unrecognisable when it reaches the stage; you’ll spend the first couple of notes from each song intro trying to figure out the rendition, with smutterings of giggles and laughs to those who have worked it out already, and feel excited to almost relieve a whole new way of hearing this iconic numbers we have grown to adore through our lives and shape ourselves from; Céline Dion’s 2000 ballad ‘That’s The Way It Is’ completely catipulates the powerhouse of Cassidy Janson in a way that only she can bring gusto and have you wiping away tears come the final note.
Director Luke Sheppard has done sheer justice in a mammoth task that only serves gratitude to the text presented in front of him, and makes sure that each performer on that stage confidently feels used and given a certain sense of achievement and purpose, whilst bringing the expertise of Jennifer Webber’s choreography to shape the whole production and make each number stand out from the other, giving us as the audience a whole array of mini movies within the songs that feel how just come straight out of hollywood and onto the West End Stage, with slick movement and precision to perfect timing. Elsewhere, Soutra Gilmour’s set deisgn will have you wide-eyed with beautiful features and ravishingly detailed locations, whilst Howard Hudson’s Lighting will transport you to another level of hysteria during Melanie La Barrie and David Bedella’s arousing mash-up of Katy Perry’s Teenage Dream, alongside Ariana Grande’s Break Free.
Overall & Juliet is a marvel of a musical that must be seen with little exposure to the soundtrack to gain the full effect of nostalgia and electrifying emotion upon leaving the auditorium afterwards. Whilst on paper the signs are all there for a spell of just another unprovoked jukebox disaster, & Jiuliet proves that it is far away in the opposite direction, and will I guarantee will see the team praised highly in the years to come at awards seasons.