There is plenty to entertain in this vibrant and uplifting musical that features a cast who really embrace the joy and humour in the production.
Having last seen & Juliet back in 2019, it was lovely to see the new members of the cast taking to the stage to be officially welcomed into this uplifting, cheesy but well-intentioned musical that leaves you plenty to smile about.
For those who haven’t experienced director Luke Sheppard’s vibrant and witty musical, the story takes Shakespeare’s classic tragedy of Romeo & Juliet and turns it on its head by asking what would have happened if Juliet hadn’t killed herself? Featuring music by Max Martin among others, it is a story of self-discovery, friendship and following your heart. Yes perhaps in places David West Read’s book feels as though it could have developed the plot in a stronger way, but that doesn’t diminish the idea that & Juliet is a musical that does have its heart in the right place.
While the story is essentially about Juliet reclaiming herself and what she wants, I love the concept that the show is based around the idea that William Shakespeare and Anne Hathaway are attempting to re-write the story – but coming at it from very different perspectives, which in turn allows them to interact with the audience, breaking down the barriers between the characters and those watching – makes it feel very inclusive. Thanks to the wittiness of David West Read’s book, you can really tell this is a story about different relationships designed to make the audience recognise a particular character in themselves .In addition, the blend of historical aspects of Paloma Young’s costumes and Soutra Gilmour’s set design with a modern twist is reassuring in a way to say that this is essentially a fun and entertaining watch.
There are plenty of laughs and fun to be had throughout – in particular the ‘Bois Band’ sequence was a real highlight of the production, while the chemistry and interactions between Oliver Tompsett’s arrogant Shakespeare and Cassidy Janson’s spirited Anne Hathaway is gleeful to witness. But it is also a show that has an emotional side to it in particular watching the development of Tim Mahendran as Francois and Alex Thomas-Smith as May and their relationship, meaning that songs such as ‘I’m Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman’ and ‘Whataya Want From Me’ pack a punch.
To pull a show like this off, you really need a cast that is filled with plenty of personality to really bring these characters to life – and this is a cast that has much to offer the audience. At the centre of it all, Miriam-Teak Lee delivers a dynamic and powerful performance as Juliet – capturing the character’s sense of adventure and spirit perfectly. This is really brought together through her rendition of ‘Roar’ that certainly makes you see the song in a new light. Elsewhere, I adored Keala Settle’s comical and joyful performance as Nurse – her comic timing just like her vocals are spot on, while her chemistry with Julius D’Silva as Lance works well. Alex Thomas-Smith as May is a grounded and well thought-out performance that engages the audience’s attention in every scene they are in, while Tim Mahendran captures Francois’s confusion and insecurity beautifully. Tom Francis and Julius D’Silva are both delightfully goofy in their own ways and are great additions to the cast.
Will & Juliet be everyone’s cup of tea? Perhaps not – but it is a show that is designed to entertain and certainly has its heart in the right place that makes it one of the most fun musicals to watch in the West End at the moment.
By Emma Clarendon