The Theatreguide.London Review
Shaftsbury Theatre 2019 - 2020
Colourful, song-filled and
energetic, this is a jukebox musical with a plot, more in the manner of
Mamma Mia than, say, Thriller.
Max Martin is a hit-making
songwriter who claims to be second only to Lennon and McCartney in
producing Number One songs. His back catalogue includes Baby One More
Time, I Kissed A Girl, and other hits for Britney Spears, Westlife,
Backstreet Boys, Celine Dion, Katy Perry and others.
Twenty-nine Martin hits are
squeezed into a book by David West Read that imagines Juliet surviving
Shakespeare's tragedy and Mrs Shakespeare insisting that Will write a new
play for her.
Along with her Nurse, her Gay
Best Friend and Mrs S, Juliet travels to Paris where she and the others
all have new romantic adventures, while Shakespeare trails along
desperately trying to regain control of the play.
The songs, all familiar to
most in the audience, are shoehorned into the plot in frequently
unexpected ways and, as happens at Mamma Mia, you can spot the real fans
by their anticipatory laughter as they sense a song cue coming before the
rest of us.
The new plot moves along
quickly enough for us not to ask any questions, and there are
opportunities for nicely understated wit, particularly in the byplay
between the Shakespeares. ('There will never be another Anne Hathaway,' he
says admiringly, as everyone pauses to let us remember the movie star.)
Miriam Teak-Lee plays Juliet
with attractive energy, singing and dancing her way through at least half
the song list. But she never really develops a character.
Apart from wanting some
control over her own life (which is really more Anne's determination than
hers) Juliet has no real identity beyond a singer of songs.
The real star performance of
the evening comes from Cassidy Janson as Anne. She not only creates a
believable and attractive woman but invests her with sparkling energy and
wit that take your eyes away from anyone else onstage when she's around.
And she has the best voice
and singing style in the cast, so it is her numbers that are repeatedly
There's entertaining support
from Oliver Tompsett as a comically threatened – both as writer and as
macho man – Shakespeare and from Melanie La Barrie, adding a feisty
Caribbean flavour to Shakespeare's earthy Nurse.
There are lots of brightly
colourful sets and costumes to entertain the eye, but as sometimes happens
with clumsily sound-engineered musicals, you would not be able to swear
absolutely that the show wasn't pre-recorded and lip-synced throughout.
Voices are all over-amplified
to the point of being disembodied, the sound coming from someplace Up
There while the performers are in various places Down Here.
If your idea of a Good Night
Out is hearing songs you already know being sung by people you don't, and
you've already seen the superior Tina, the very superior Mamma Mia or even
the inferior Thriller, then & Juliet will satisfy you.
It is worth mentioning that the very last thing left onstage when the cast have left after the curtain calls is an actual jukebox.
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