Now, I am a fan of Shakespeare, a student of his plays right up to my dissertation on his romantic texts. I did not expect to like this musical. Why mess with the original? Did they not understand the true meaning of the tragedy? What were they thinking turning it into a tween romantic comedy!
As a member Generation X I went to watch with my arms firmly crossed and eyes ready to roll….I’m not going to lie and say I didn’t roll my eyes once (they rolled quite a lot actually) but it didn’t take long for a smile to creep onto my face as I did.
Before the end of the middle of the first act I had thrown my hands up in defeat, I was actually really enjoying myself, and by the end of the first act I was fully invested.
Romeo and Juliet this isn’t, that’s the point. Anne comes to London to watch Shakespeare’s new play and hates the ending he has just written. There is a fun and irreverent partnership between Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway as they wrestle control of the action on stage, omnipresent characters watching from the side who can’t help but insert themselves into the action as the plot they are still rewriting, unfurls.
There are some very relevant points made between the two of them throughout, not only about Romeo and Juliet but other of Shakespeare’s work and what we know about his wife (She was left in his will his SECOND best bed!)
Most jarring is the age of Juliet. As they speak to the doorman, trying to get into the party Juliet reveals she is thirteen. THIRTEEN! A pause to take that in and her age is firmly and pointedly adjusted by Anne to mid-twenties.
The very clever use of song is what makes this show a brilliant success. Filled to the brim with songs you will know, some you will love, they are geniously worked into the plot, same words sung with an intonation that changes the context to perfectly match the scene. Britney Spears’ Oops I did it again was a laugh out loud moment from Juliet.
I’m not a girl (not yet a woman) was sung by May, a character struggling with their gender identity. This is a very poignant part of the musical and something that was done well. Before this ballad I was eye rolling about May, a seemingly a stereotypical gay best friend to Juliet, inserted into the plot for stereotypical laughs. May’s role in the plot takes a new and better turn from this point, a much more integral part, and this song was done well.
Its not all Britney and even Bon Jovi (its my life) makes an appearance and Kelly Clarkson’s Since You’ve been Gone was my favourite number of the whole musical. That and the incredibly good dance number of problem (one less problem without you).
This musical is called &Juliet for a very strong and inspiring reason. The message is you don’t need a man to define who you are. Whatever she chooses to do and whoever she chooses to be with is not as important as Juliet herself. It is a strong message and is delivered very firmly in a number of numbers and as much as this heavy handedness caused the biggest amount of eye-rolling from me it also stemmed from a bit of jealousy. I wish I had grown up in a time when we could have heroines like this.
It is good to see, and refreshing also, that the character who understands this very well is Romeo -no spoilers as to how he shows up!
Miriam-Teak Lee as Juliet was exceptional. A true star. It was a brilliant cast and all were strong but she was utterly captivating and I hope to see here again in the future. I urge you to see her performance.This is a musical that is for the younger generation, it is perfect for Gen Z and teenagers will love this so much.
There is an age rating of 12+ advised on the musical website, possibly for some bad language (there were 2 f bombs in one song and a small smattering of minor bad language but that was it). The audience was filled with teenagers who adored it and they were all up on their feet by the end for a standing ovation. Actually, so was I. And so were the baby boomers sat in my row…