A new musical loosely, very loosely, based on the classic Romeo & Juliet is raising the roof down (not literally) at the Shaftsbury Theatre.
‘& Juliet’ is the hottest and most unique musical to hit town this year. It takes bits and pieces from Romeo & Juliet and reshapes the story line, with excellent twists along the way, to give us a modern day, very modern day, love story that is unique, timely, explosive, and lots of fun. Based around the songs of Max Martin (you might not know his name but you sure know his songs, pop classics such as ‘Baby One More Time,’ ‘I Kissed a Girl,’ ‘Roar,’ the list goes on and on – songs that were sung by superstars such as Brittany Spears, N’Sync, Jessie J, Ed Sheehan, the list goes on and on) are reinterpreted here in ‘& Juliet.’
There is lots going on in this show, but thanks to the music and lyrics by Martin and Friends (this is what the program states) and cleverly intertwined with a book by David West Read, and excellent direction by Luke Sheppard, we get William Shakespeare (a natural Oliver Tompsett) and his love Anne Hathaway (an extremely talented Cassidy Johnson) writing the plot of the show while we watch the show (clever!). And the show within the show has Juliet Miriam-Teak Lee newly single after the death of Romeo. She also finds out Romeo had many many lovers. But she is still not deterred in her quest to find romance and quickly meets Francois (Tim Mahendran), the son of very rich playboy Lance (a brilliant David Badella who steals every scene he is in). Lance is very keen to have his son marry the beautiful Juliet. But Francois has never really ever been with anyone before and at the same time meets the dashing May (Arun Blair-Mangat), a man who likes the friendship of women but romance with men. So it all gets a bit complicated, especially when Romeo (Jordan Luke Gage) shows up! What a mess!
From beginning to end ‘& Juliet’ is high energy throughout, thanks to a cast who work very hard in scenes that are superbly choreographed to the nth degree (Jennifer Weber). And most of the songs in the show were major hits so you find yourself humming along – it’s like welcoming a new friend back into your life. But besides the music, it’s the cast who really bring this to life. Tompsett and Janson work so well together on stage, they really complement each other. Teak-Lee as Juliet can really belt out numbers, but it’s Badella as the dashing Lance so willing to give up his son in marriage to anyone who steals the show. His French accent, his facial expressions, and also his dance moves are just all so brilliant. Give this man an Olivier now!
‘& Juliet’ will be the most fun you’ll have at the theatre this year. And with a potpourri of hit songs in the show, ‘& Juliet’ is sure to last a long time.
Review by Tim Baros