Review Roundup: Did London Critics Fall In Love With & JULIET?
New musical & Juliet officially opened at London's Shaftesbury Theatre last night. & Juliet stars Miriam-Teak Lee as Juliet, Cassidy Janson as Anne Hathaway, Olivier Tompsett as William Shakespeare, Arun Blair-Mangat as May, David Badella as Lance, Melanie La Barrie as Nurse, Jordan Luke Gage as Romeo and Tim Mahendran as Francois.
& Juliet is packed with some of the biggest pop anthems from acclaimed songwriter Max Martin and recorded by artists including Backstreet Boys, Justin Timberlake, Britney Spears, Katy Perry and Ariana Grande, all arranged by Tony® and Grammy Award-winning orchestrator Bill Sherman.
Songs include: ROAR, HIT ME BABY ONE MORE TIME, LOVE. ME LIKE YOU DO, I KISSED A GIRL and EVERYBODY.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Marianka Swain, BroadwayWorld: Have you ever dreamed of seeing Juliet wrest control of her destiny from William Shakespeare, aided by a liberated Anne Hathaway, all while belting out stone-cold Nineties and Noughties pop bangers? Well, you're in luck! This jukebox musical take on the Bard is pure sugar rush - and with enough groan-worthy puns and panto pleasure to make it a raucously fun Christmas outing.
Alex Wood, WhatsOnStage: On paper, it all sounds far less convincing than it is in practice, but what stops the show from becoming a bawdy panto experience is David West Read's fleet, fun and well-wrought book. It's no surprise that the man behind the likes of Schitt's Creek has a stream of cracking one-liners under his belt, and while revelling in its own anachronisms ("There'll never be another Anne Hathaway", Shakespeare earnestly tells his wife) Read manages to plot relatable and touching character moments throughout.
Andrzej Lukowski, Time Out: Aside from the epochal tunes and daft story, huge performances and slick visuals are at the heart of a musical that's clearly not an actual classic but absolutely makes the most of what it has. Janson is a scream as Hathaway, who is bored of her husband's gadding about to London and decides to rebel; Melanie La Barrie is great fun as Juliet's seen-it-all Nurse; Tompsett is a self-regarding treat as Shakespeare; and at the risk of spoilering, Jordan Luke Gage is almost religiously ridiculous as Romeo, written back into the musical by Shakepeare in a fit of pique.
Tim Bano, The Stage: Sure, the first time the cast members stop speaking, pause, and then break into a Britney banger it's utterly baffling. But soon you're chasing the next glorious musical high. Every time a character sings the first line of a song you recognise, it brings a little surge of glee, be it I Kissed a Girl, or Since U Been Gone.
Alexandra Polland, Independent: The show does a good job of empowering Juliet, but as it turns out, it is actually Anne Hathaway whose journey we have been watching all along. Brilliantly played by Janson - who has something of Kristen Bell about her (she certainly shares her knack for mixing sweetness with acerbity) - Anne sees this as an opportunity to break free from the confines of society, to grapple with the absence of her husband (played by Tompsett as a smug but well-meaning boyband-type) and with her own absence in his work.
Sam Marlowe, theartsdesk: It's glorious to see Lee, a stunningly talented black performer, reinvent such an iconic role. West Read's book combines groan-worthy gags with snatches of verse, often to entertaining effect, and there are some clever details - Juliet's non-binary bestie May (Arun Blair-Mangat) nods to modern gender politics as well as Shakespeare's cross-dressing characters.
Nick Curtis, Evening Standard: Each number is staged with frantic energy and laser precision by director Luke Sheppard and choreographer Jennifer Weber. The costumes look like a clubland fever dream. Lee leads the ensemble in killer moves and is only briefly challenged by Janson in the lung-busting ballad stakes. This show is camp, overblown and absurd but fills a particular West End niche particularly well.
Michael Billington, The Guardian: It is odd to present Juliet as an icon of independence and then land her with jokes in which she pronounces ce soir as "Caesar" and greets a woman called Madeleine as "Vasseline." The idiotic book is simply a way of contriving to work in such familiar chart-toppers as Baby One More Time and It's Gonna Be Me. The one time I thought this worked was when May, played by Arun Blair-Mangat as a cross-dressing guy, sang I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman.
Dominic Cavendish, Telegraph: Dripping with high-energy dance routines, it's essentially glorified panto. Whether it outlasts the panto season, that is the question. But part of me thinks this feelgood extravaganza might just prove the new We Will Rock You; We Will Rock Will, perhaps.
Clive Davis, The Times: My advice would be not to go stone-cold sober. This musical inspired by Shakespeare's tale of star-cross'd lovers is, you see, anything but subtle. It's loud, irreverent and camp, the cast bumping and grinding on a set that is a cross between Cinderella and an episode of Eurotrash.