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BWW Blog: “One More Try” - Should & Juliet Come to Broadway?


I had the chance to see & Juliet in February of 2020 during my university’s Spring Break

In an article entitled "Why I think & Juliet Needs to Come to Broadway", fellow Student Blogger Hope Johnson argues that the hit West End musical & Juliet should be transferred across the pond to New York City. & Juliet is a jukebox musical of songs written by Max Martin and tells the story of what might have happened if Juliet hadn't killed herself at the end of William Shakespeare's Romeo & Juliet (400-year spoiler alert, sorry). Hope believes that the joy of the show should be shared with America and I certainly agree.

I had the chance to see & Juliet in February of 2020 during my university's Spring Break. For only £20 I was able to get a front-row day seat and had an absolute blast throughout the night (there might have been a little bit of alcohol involved, but it was legal in the U.K. so we're good)! The show was fantastic, and I found myself quite invested in this re-telling of a classic Shakespearean play while also jamming along to some of my favorite songs - "Confident", "Since U Been Gone", "Whataya Want From Me", and plenty of others.

But even though I had a great time and have fallen in love with this show, I fear that it would not succeed if it transferred to Broadway. Why? Read on to find out!

As a jukebox musical, would & Juliet survive? There have been some successes like Mamma Mia!, Ain't Too Proud, and Motown: The Musical, but there have also been quite a few box-office failures like Head Over Heels, On Your Feet!, and Escape to Margaritaville. Many jukebox musicals tend to have a built-in fanbase made up of those who already love the songs in the show. & Juliet would certainly have fans with songs sung by Britney Spears, Ariana Grande, The Weeknd, Kesha, and more. Fans might be interested in hearing these songs but might not want to hear them sung by people other than the original artists.

Along with the question of whether a jukebox musical would survive, & Juliet also has some aspects that the average person might view as "identity politics". May is a genderfluid character whose identity is an important part of their character development throughout the show. "I'm Not A Girl (Not Yet A Woman)", May's big solo, takes place in a bathroom after they are misgendered by a restroom attendant. May and François Du Bois, a young French man, become intertwined in Romeo and Juliet's classic "star-crossed lovers" story, forming a complicated relationship throughout the show. & Juliet also brings up feminism by having Juliet be the protagonist instead of Romeo, and by having Anne Hathaway, William Shakespeare's wife, take control of Romeo & Juliet to give the female hero a happy ending.

Broadway has had difficulty with representation for quite some time. Shows like The Prom, a musical which featured a female same-sex relationship, tend to gain praise from Broadway fans but fail to capture the attention of a more general audience, causing them to close. Nearly all of the current musicals on Broadway have heterosexual couples at the center of their shows and reflect the "classic" values of the Great White Way. Popular shows that do have same-sex couples, like Come From Away, do not have these relationships as the focal point of the plot.

Very few Broadway musical have had non-binary or genderfluid characters on stage, even though there are certainly non-binary and genderfluid actors who have played male and female characters. One show in particular that featured a non-binary character was Head Over Heels, which only ran from July of 2018 to January of 2019. Pythio, played by the drag queen Peppermint, is a non-binary oracle who plays an important role in the plot of the musical, with several references to their gender identity (as well as a few jokes, but not at their expense). & Juliet may suffer the same short-lived fate as Head Over Heels as both are jukebox musicals with nonbinary characters and same-sex relationships that are never ridiculed by the characters.

Even though it's certainly made progress in recent years, Broadway might not be ready for a musical like & Juliet. Producers support shows that they believe will appeal to a large audience, which includes thousands of tourists who have more conservative viewpoints. Many people simply want to see a show and not think about gender, sexuality, or other identities that might be controversial.

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From This Author Student Blogger: Kat Mokrynski