WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHERE? Shaftesbury Theatre
WHEN? 9/11, opens 20/11, runs to 30/5/20
Swede Max Martin is the third most successful songwriter in US chart history with credits on 22 number singles behind only Beatles Paul McCartney and John Lennon.
- Read on for reasons including how two unexpected love stories challenge stereotypes here
He’s written for Britney Spears, Pink, Robyn, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson and the Backstreet Boys and some of their best known songs are featured here in this new musical which answers the question what if Juliet (of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet) didn’t die?
The book by David West Read is fresh and, although it’s set in the 16th century, has a gay love story at its heart, while allowing the character of Juliet not to be defined by her relationship and instead push forward with her new-found life.
The plot follows Juliet as she heads to Paris with her best friends to try to recover from the death of her soul mate. Miriam-Teak Lee’s Juliet (Hamilton) sings strongly and is a powerful presence with a through line drawn on Britney Spears’ Baby One More Time (‘My loneliness is killing me’) to her Stronger (‘My loneliness ain’t killing me no more.’)
Some of the songs draw groans of laughter when deployed at different moments throughout the plot and Since You’ve Been Gone at the beginning of Act Two works particularly well in its context.
However, it was the relationships on the sidelines of the main story that we actually felt worked better than Juliet’s. David Bedella (In The Heights) and Melanie La Barrie are particularly funny as reunited lovers especially on Teenage Dream.
We singled out Arun Blair-Mangat (Leave To Remain) as a name to watch out for earlier this year and he doesn’t disappoint here playing Juliet’s gender fluid best friend. The most moving song is his I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman.
Juliet’s story works as a play-within-a-play, very Shakespearean, with Oliver Tompsett (Guys And Dolls) as the actual Shakespeare arguing with his wife Anne, Cassidy Janson (Beautiful) singing brilliantly in a role where she is both guide to Juliet and combatant to her husband.
We’ve singled out Dillon Scott-Lewis (Eugenius) before and he’s very good here alongside fine athletic performances by dancers Antoine Murray-Straughan and Kieran Lai.
It’s a concept then that renders the question: ‘Wherefore art thou, Romeo?’ pointless and we felt a little for Jordan Luke Gage (Bat Out Of Hell) who isn’t given a great deal to work with but gives us vanity and over confidence in abundance. Tim Mahendran is also very good in a role which might surprise.
Was it a case of ‘parting is such sweet sorrow’ then or ‘for never was a story of more woe than this of Juliet and her Romeo’?
We’re going with the former and can’t wait to download the soundtrack album when it drops 20/11/19. & Juliet? It would be a tragedy if you missed it.