WORTH A LOOK?: ****
WHEN?: Friday 1 October 2021 at Shaftesbury Theatre RUNTIME: 150 minutes (including 20-minute interval) Booking to 25 June 2022
We 1st caught this musical in previews at this West End venue almost 2 years ago and we’re back because it has re-opened after multiple lockdowns with a new cast member as May, Alex Thomas-Smith (pictured above).
- Read on for reasons including how the audience’s loudest screams were for the reformed boy band in this jukebox musical
Thomas-Smith is non-binary and it feels an important addition to a show which won a 2019 monsta from us for Best Performance Of A Song by Arun Blair-Mangat as May for I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman.
& Juliet contains songs co-written by Swedish super producer Max Martin for acts as diverse as the Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears, Robyn, Pink, Katy Perry and The Weeknd.
The book by David West Read draws on Shakespeare’s classic Romeo and Juliet and asks instead what would have happened if Juliet had lived at the story’s end?
& Juliet won 3 Oliviers for leads Miriam Teak-Lee as Juliet, Cassidy Janson as Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway and David Bedella (Rocky Horror Show, Playhouse Theatre), who plays Lance, a former beau of Juliet’s nurse.
The post-Romeo Juliet tale is in fact this musical’s story-within-a-story, a very Shakespearean twist, as Shakespeare (Oliver Tompsett (Guys And Dolls, Phoenix Theatre) and Anne frame the tale by commentating on it and rewriting it as it progresses before our eyes, also both jumping into the piece as different characters when it suits them.
Janson’s Anne in particular is adamant that Juliet should find her own way in love and life after Romeo’s death and not just act as her parents wish her to.
When the vain Romeo returns at the end of act one in a scene-stealing role played by Jordan Luke Gage, who we recently saw as a lead in Heathers at Theatre Royal Haymarket, the scene is set for lots of confrontations in the final act.
There’s a lot going on and Lance’s son Francois (a convincing Tim Mahendran who is in fine voice) is caught between Juliet and her best friend May with Thomas-Smith convincingly stepping into a role that gives us a showstopping moment in I’m Not A Girl that doesn’t disappoint here.
I’m Not A Girl‘s chief competition for most memorable moment continues to come from the comic setpiece when Lance and the nurse played by a very funny Melanie La Barrie meet back up again after years apart in Teenage Dream.
The audience tonight is predominantly female and its biggest reaction is for the very Backstreet Boys moment when Tompsett, Mahendran, Bedella, Thomas-Smith and Gage reunite (Don’t ask!) as a former family boyband.
This show is so well-cast that we wouldn’t be surprised if some of these performers don’t transfer with it to Broadway which must be its inevitable next stop. When we 1st saw it our final line was that it would be a tragedy if you missed it and we still feel that way.