Review Round Up: & Juliet, Stephen Sondheim Theatre

The musical featuring the music of Max Martin has officially opened on Broadway. Here’s what critics have had to say about it…

(c)Matthew Murphy

Entertainment Weekly: “As much as the show feels directed toward a strenuously young demographic — some of them possibly not even born yet when Backstreet were singing about their fire, or their one desire — the script makes several knowing nods, much like a Pixar movie, to the ancient grown-ups in the room. There’s something a little relentless about & Juliet‘s dogged eagerness to entertain, but nakedly joyful too: a violent delight, flipped for the TikTok era.”

Variety: “What the show lacks in plotting, it more than makes up for musically. It is a jukebox, but it’s a smart one, using the songs in deft, humorous and unexpected ways (including some great puns on character names). The songs are frequently chosen for the lyrics to the verses instead of the choruses, an approach that makes the songs feel fully integrated into the scenes and true to the characters. The show also never takes itself too seriously: It even mocks the simplicity of some of Martin’s lyrics, especially his hollow and generic love songs.”

New York Times: “The wit operates on many levels in the director Luke Sheppard’s super-poppy production, including hilarious hybrid Elizabethan costumes (by Paloma Young) that feature a codpiece the size of a snapping turtle, cotton-candy lighting (by Howard Hudson) and playful sets (by Soutra Gilmour) situating the story in a century somehow combining the 16th and ours.”

Deadline: “The cast, certainly not without charms, has been directed to pitch their performances to the heights – the balconies, as it were – and the mugging can grate (La Barrie, as the nurse, could dial down the schtick and let the focus fall on her fine singing voice). Wolfe, another terrific vocalist, recites her dialogue with unrelenting archness, and Sullivan, as the nonbinary May, conveys a sweetness that’s too often undercut with melodrama. Only Sands, as Shakespeare, and, especially the very impressive Courtney as the no-longer little girl lost, consistently strike the right balance between silliness and sense.”

Talkin’ Broadway: “In any event, & Juliet is less about the narrative contrivances than it is about the singing and dancing and every bit of staging that director Luke Sheppard has been able to muster. The set design often looks like that gumball machine has exploded all over everything, and the lighting, sound, and video design employ every trick in the trade to grab the audience and surround the performers as they pour out nearly 30 numbers from the “Max Martin and Friends” playbook. Proving yet again that there’s no business like show business.”

Time Out: *** “Directed by Luke Sheppard, the musical exists in an elaborately unreal world: Soutra Gilmour’s scenic design and Paloma Young’s costumes are delightfully creative transhistorical mix-and-matches that float the show in a swirl of unfixed fantasy. It all feels comfortingly familiar and indistinct—there’s not much narrative thrust to Jennifer Weber’s synchronized hip-hop choreography, which mostly suggests energetic background dancing at a concert—and the ideal place for it might be the high school auditoriums where it will surely enjoy a rich afterlife someday. But there’s no denying the relentless effectiveness of Martin’s earworm craftsmanship. & Juliet gives audiences what they want from it: all those hits, baby, one more time.”

NY Post: “This sporadically fun musical from — where else! — Great Britain with a loony book by David West Read suggests this idea is somehow very feminist; that taking a dagger for your poisoned man is the ultimate failure of the Bechdel test. A bit self-righteous coming from a show that includes “I Kissed a Girl and I Liked It” by Katy Perry, dontcha think?”

The Wrap: “Luke Sheppard’s direction of his actors effectively showcases many of the more appealing quirks in Read’s characters. When Read’s book turns conventional with the nonbinary May, Sheppard turns on the automatic pilot to strand Sullivan in a swamp of schmaltz. Unfortunately, that sticky morass claims many more victims in Act 2. Why do sophisticated TV and film writers resort to hackneyed tropes when they write for the musical stage?”

For more information about the Broadway production visit:

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