‘And you’re gonna hear me roar’ – & Juliet the musical Review

The theatre world is a wonderful blend, a world where the classics and long running hits exist side by side with screen to stage adaptations and musical biographies. 2019 saw an influx of Broadway transfers proving popular in the West End, and as nice as this was to see, it felt as if the bright lights of theatre land were calling out for something new, something different, something exciting. And that’s exactly what we got when &Juliet arrived at The Shaftesbury Theatre after a run in Manchester.

The show focuses on the idea of what if Juliet didn’t kill herself, what if her famous tragic ending was actually just the beginning? We are introduced to William Shakespeare as he is putting the finishing touches to his new play, only for his wife Anne to visit rehearsals and tell him that there is too much heartbreak and that this is the perfect opportunity for him to create a powerful independent leading lady in Juliet, moving on after the death of Romeo. He may protest but he cannot stop Anne from taking control and we are launched into a high energy whirlwind as we Juliet taking control of her own life, throwing herself and her friends into adventure and new opportunities.

Under Luke Shepherd’s direction, David West Read’s book creates a story that combines the old with the new. The book allows for jokes, the breaking of the forth wall and some wonderful moments of self awareness, this is a show that doesn’t take itself too seriously and is not afraid to make fun of itself. We see characters dressed in a mixture of the fashion’s associated with Shakespeare’s era and more modern looks such as trainers, zip up jackets and jogging bottoms (costumes by Paloma Young) and we see Shakespeare’s famous story flipped on it’s head entirely. I believe that everyone knows the story of Romeo and Juliet, but this show takes that story, twists it around to a new point of view and sets it to a soundtrack of dance floor classics and popular hits.

Over the years, Max Martin has been the man behind a number of huge hits for stars such as Britney Spears, Katy Perry and The Backstreet Boys and now some of his best known songs have been given a new lease of life. By taking such famous modern songs and weaving them so seamlessly into a twist of such a famous story, the team behind &Juliet have created something completely new; a show full of energy, flash and plenty of genuine comedy. Throughout the show, an introduction to a song is enough to send ripples of laughter through the audience as we realised which direction the song would take the story, with the clever placement of each song being the real force that keeps the high energy story moving forwards.

This show brings together a cast of stage favourites and shining new talents, with a number of leading roles effortlessly supported by an incredible ensemble of players. At the performance I attended the role of Juliet was played by Grace Mouat, and she impressed with both her energy and her vocals from start to finish. The character of Juliet may have her flaws, but Mouat makes the character lovable and in places relatable as she throws her heart into everything she does and pins her hopes on the best outcome. Mouat’s powerhouse vocals fill the auditorium with ease and she has the audience hanging on her every word. The chemistry between Mouat as Juliet and Jordan Luke Gage as Romeo is charming with Gage coming to the stage with an endearing sweetness and showing off a natural flair for comedy as the character struggles to win back Juliet.

Over the years, Max Martin has been the man behind a number of huge hits for stars such as Britney Spears, Katy Perry and The Backstreet Boys and now some of his best known songs have been given a new lease of life. By taking such famous modern songs and weaving them so seamlessly into a twist of such a famous story, the team behind &Juliet have created something completely new; a show full of energy, flash and plenty of genuine comedy. Throughout the show, an introduction to a song is enough to send ripples of laughter through the audience as we realised which direction the song would take the story, with the clever placement of each song being the real force that keeps the high energy story moving forwards.

This show brings together a cast of stage favourites and shining new talents, with a number of leading roles effortlessly supported by an incredible ensemble of players. At the performance I attended the role of Juliet was played by Grace Mouat, and she impressed with both her energy and her vocals from start to finish. The character of Juliet may have her flaws, but Mouat makes the character lovable and in places relatable as she throws her heart into everything she does and pins her hopes on the best outcome. Mouat’s powerhouse vocals fill the auditorium with ease and she has the audience hanging on her every word. The chemistry between Mouat as Juliet and Jordan Luke Gage as Romeo is charming with Gage coming to the stage with an endearing sweetness and showing off a natural flair for comedy as the character struggles to win back Juliet.

Arun Blair-Mangat and Tim Mahendran impress as May and Francois respectively with both making the audience laugh and pulling at the heartstrings as both struggle to find their place in the world. The way in which this show handles gender stereotyping and sexuality is respectful and touching, with acceptance and understanding being highlighted and the characters being given a platform to express their feelings. David Bedella and Melanie De Barrie provide great comedy as Lance and Nurse. The talented ensemble jump in and out of high energy dance numbers with an apparent ease, even before the shows official start time, and keep the story moving forwards.

At times, I must say that the music overpowered the vocals slightly in terms of the volume, but this could have just been because of my seat being so close to the speakers at the front of the stage and this didn’t distract from the enjoyment in the slightest. The first act feels a little bit too long in my opinion, but this could be down to the fact that we can all predict what is coming and it feels like it takes a little bit too long to get to where we all know the story is going. Nevertheless, the large number of songs used and the energy given in every moment from the cast prevents the story from dragging and keeps it moving forwards.

To conclude, &Juliet has brought something new and exciting into the West End, a show that takes a famous story and gives it a whole new meaning. By using such popular and well known music, the show has a large and friendly appeal. You don’t need to be a Shakespeare expert, you don’t need to know the story of Romeo and Juliet inside out. You can go into this show with an open mind and enjoy it. It’s funny and high energy throughout, with the characters themselves brilliantly aware that there are some ridiculous moments, some predictable song choices and jokes that make fun of source material. This is a show that promises a good night out, and provides it by making you laugh, cheer and clap along before sending you home with a number of classic pop hits doing circuits in your mind.

 

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