Anyone is this World knows of the story of Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. A tragic love story of “two star crossed lovers” who marry against their enemy family’s wishes but unable to be together, die for true love.
Now… what if that hadn’t happened? What if Juliet got to live on? What would happen next?
& Juliet takes this concept, pumps it with musical numbers, upgrades the costumes and set to meet its traditional roots but tickle the modern fashions and includes some more up to date language, slang, which ol Shakey I’m sure would approve of.
I will start this critical approach out by fully admitting that Musicals are not in my top loves of Theatre. I enjoy, and have grown to love them but I wouldn’t say they are what first interests me and nor is it my own training or practice. However, I appreciate the love of these as well as the popularity of them and the talent it exudes.
Beginning with & Juliet, I really liked that how we got nearer the beginning of the show, characters began to pop out on stage, dance and interact with the audience. However, this is a little where my dislike started and made me wonder if I would really enjoy this musical. It felt a little like CBBC; jumping out, waving manically and screaming hello. I did begin to wonder where this would go.
As the production starts, it is strong. Not original songs by any means, this production wraps millennials and 90’s babies in a warm embrace as it brings back the 90’s/00’s boy and girl bands, Britney Spears, and some contemporary popular songs as well. They do a really good job of finding the appropriate songs and fitting them to match the scene. Sometimes, it just made you laugh at the choice and how it fit with the narrative.
Juliet continues her life, finding out that Romeo was a little of a lothario, travels to another city to party and live life, only to end up back in another engagement. But this whole journey and how it ends is all about empowering her as a woman, as an individual and it makes a great point for young females everywhere of breaking out of the patriarchy and being your own person. Points are also touched upon with a gender neutral character; of who they are, who they are becoming and their own love story in between this. It felt contemporary, right and well supported.
They cleverly mirror life with William and his wife, Anne Hathaway – little records exist but it is believed that their marriage was of convenience and so & Juliet aims to bring back some love between this unhappy married couple through the retelling of one of his most famous plays. Anne gets to have a hand, and they break the fourth wall, jumping in and out of scenes to help facilitate. They reconvene and discuss what happened and next steps and we realise that this is a tactic to save their marriage, like a baby or a puppy may be traditionally. Perhaps real life isn’t like Anne and William, or Romeo and Juliet in both the original, real life and this musical, but it makes us believe in love and we can’t help but feel happy leaving the theatre.
However, with the glitz and glamour, the era setting, the choice of pink aesthetic and glitter as well as the hammed up characters, at times, felt more Pantomime than Musical, and for a while it continued to not sit right with me.
Don’t get me wrong – I LOVE a Pantomime. But I came to see a Musical… After a while, this dissipates and you find yourself singing along, laughing at the crude jokes, feeling for the characters and just having a really good time. The campiness is arguably what a Musical is and maybe the choice of this is something other Musicals are lacking. I couldn’t help but whoop and cheer and appreciate the talent, the vocals, the set, the costume, the music and everything in between.
Overall, & Juliet is a less pressured, fun night out. The songs and well performed, there are jokes, dancing and a wholesome feel to what was once a tragic play. You come away dancing, singing and with a smile on your face.