The Theatreguide.London Review
Shaftsbury Theatre 2019 -
and energetic, this is a jukebox musical with a plot, more in the
manner of Mamma Mia than, say, Thriller.
Max Martin is a
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.
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,
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.
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
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 the
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
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
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
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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