& Juliet (21/12/19)

As I sit down now to review this show I am finding it extremely hard to decide where to begin! This show has so many aspects that are more than perfect I don’t know where to start, so let us start with the titular character Juliet…

Played by the astonishing Miriam-Teak Lee this Character has really been made more than just a “strong woman” Lee creates a real woman, searching for her place in the world. With an amazing voice, she sings effortlessly, hit after hit after hit. With highlights such as Roar and One More Time.

In her search for herself she is surrounded by so many wonderfully colourful characters and plot twists that it really does mirror Shakespeare’s style, and for that, David West Read really deserves credit. They also really successfully weave the songs of Max Martin into the plot. Finding perfect places for “I Want It That Way” and “Oops I did it again” sometimes the songs seem forced but so perfect at the same time that it is easy to forgive and laugh along with the cast as they are delivered. The songs truly make the show what it is. “Everybody” earning the longest applause for a Mid Act 2 song I have ever heard.

The story is told in a very clever way; it’s the first performance of Romeo and Juliet, and Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway (Cassidy Janson) and the ensemble of Players don’t approve of his ending. From here, Anne takes the quill (used as a metaphor here for who is telling the story) and starts write a different ending, arguing with Shakespeare, played tonight by excellent understudy Ivan De Freitas, throughout as the story is acted out in and around them. Anne also writes herself into her new story as one of Juliet’s best friends. Janson does incredibly well at guiding the audience through the twisting plot and plays a wide range of emotions, even including a very emotionally tense scene in act 2 in which Shakespeare and Anne really excelled and the story became about them, adding an extra layer to this wonderful musical.

This story is told in a really beautiful environment thanks to Soutra Gilmore (Set) and Paloma Young (Costume). A beautifully vibrant colour palette mirrors the upbeat musical numbers very well. Young also manages to mix the 1500s and 2019 together perfectly in the costumes, nothing looks out of place at all. There is also incredibly immersive sound design that at times shook the auditorium (exactly as it should with this soundtrack) and the lighting and AV design was stunning.

I could go on forever listing everyone within the cast as they were all so amazing! Arun Blair Mangat, who played May, Juliet’s best friend, was emotionally on point managing to make this wild plot believable and truly bringing the show into the 21st century with a gender neutral character. Their love interest, Francois DeBois, played by Tim Mahendran was also wonderful as a son pressured into getting married but also managing to find his own way in the story.

David Badella and Jocasta Almgill were the hilarious comedic relief of the show in the form of Juliet’s Nurse and Lance, Francois’ father. Bringing nothing but joy to the stage in Teenage Dream.

And let’s not forget Romeo, who you may think is dead at the beginning, but boy will you be proven wrong at the end of Act One. Alex Tranter comes in with an incredible entrance to sing It’s My Life to an amazing reaction from the audience. At this point in the show, Romeo’s return is truly the icing on the cake. A plot worthy of Shakespearian stakes.

I was blown away by this incredible show. And hope that it stays on the west end for many years to come. Excellent fun for all the family.

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