Review: & Juliet at the Manchester Opera House

Book: David West Read

Music & Lyrics: Max Martin & Friends

Musical Director & Musical Arrangements: Dominic Fallacaro

Director: Luke Sheppard

Quite possibly one of the most anticipated new British musicals of 2019, &Juliet lives up to the hype. This is the fresh modern musical that the industry needs. It makes its mark by exploring themes others dare not explore, in a way that leaves you smiling, eager for more.

David West Read takes on, what’s known as the greatest love story of them all and twist it upside down; so instead of dying next to her husband, Juliet dashes in a cart to Paris to find herself. West Read includes many further subplots and almost makes Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway, the main focus, as she tries to find her own identity away from the role society casts her in. This musical could easily have been a mess, but with a careful structure and light heart humour, it comes together neatly and works as one.

Hit after hit from Max Martin’s impressive catalogue weave throughout the plot.  With era-defining 90S hits such as …Ooops I Did It Again to more recent hits like Can’t Stop the Feelin‘ there’s genres to cover everyone’s tastes from pop to rock and break up songs. While some are there for comic effect, there are some emotionally tight numbers that push the plot through and aid character development. This is thanks to Dominic Fallacaro’s wonderful orchestrations which enhance the storytelling element of the lyrics and give these famous songs a new lease of life.

The bright and colourful set design by Soutra Gilmour creates a time warp between the renaissance and modern-day, crossed with a hint of french architecture. This is a play, within a play and so it doesn’t hide away from being a stage with ropes used to fly in objects clearly in sight and a half-built proscenium that surrounds the stage. It’s elegant to see and beautiful to admire. The double revolve at the centre of the stage is cleverly orchestrated to blend in well into each scene.

The costume by Paloma Young is equally stunning, once more crossing effortlessly modern clothes, with memorable items from the Elizabethan perion, such as ruffs and corsets.

The youthful cast takes each character in their stride with huge amounts of energy. Heading up the cast is Miriam-Teak Lee as Juliet. She’s sassy, strong and truly believable as a young naive Juliet, controlled by those around her and who finally discovers to break free from the restrictions people try to impose on her.

Cassidy Janson is equally strong as Anne, the often underserved wife of William Shakespeare. Cassidy shows the raw emotion of trying to better herself and make her own mark on the world, rather than live in the shadows of her husband. This is shown well as she belts out That’s The Way It Is with impassioned depth. The character also explores the strains these restrictions have on the relationship with Oliver Tompsett who plays a cocksure, self confident Shakespeare, who himself appears torn between his career and his family.

One of the most poignant performances comes from Arun Blair-Mangat who portrays a young May; a character who just wants to be recognised for who they are, rather than be confined by boxes. It’s beautiful to watch this shy young person develop into who they want to be and this is just one example of the unfolding stories within the musical.

Melanie La Barrie and David Bedella work together to create the characters of Nurse and Lace. La Barrie is quite possibly one of the funniest performances of the afternoon but both together have a huge sense of warmth and affection together while they are on stage. Jordan Luke-Gage is the young, heartthrob Romeo who despite his looks, is just a little bit slow on the uptake. He’s a likeable character but at the same time trashes the idea that a prince charming will lead to a happily ever after.

This fierce, ferocious and funny musical will have you laughing and head bopping in your seat. At the same time, it explores some truly defining contemporary themes that will resonate with, particularly a younger audience as self-determination, self awareness, identity and self love all play a part in this feelgood show. Watch out West End, there’s a new Queen on the scene &Juliet slays.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Theatre_Twittic_Value_For_Money_Four_Stars* Decision based on a ticket price of £13. For more info on this value for money rating please visit here: Introducing a new kind of rating

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