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Review | & Juliet | Shaftesbury Theatre | 18/11/2022

& Juliet has become a staple of the West End for several years now. I was lucky enough to see this back in 2019 at the Manchester Opera House on its preview run, ahead of its west end opening. This however was the first time I have had chance to see it in London, and with a mostly different cast.

The show begins with different members of the ensemble taking to the stage one by one, it’s rehearsal time for the premiere of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. Augustine (Owen Saward) & Gwynne (Sophie Usher) sit on the edge of the stage near me, engaging in chatter with the crowd. Breaking the third wall they ask if anyone has been before, where I proudly explain that I was lucky enough to see this show in its out-of-town preview run. It is in this moment that I realise how high my expectations are, having loved this show 3 years prior. This by no means meant that I would enjoy it again, or if I did, to the same level. I have based my review on this performance alone, and I am pleased to say that it managed to eclipse my previous experience. What followed was 2 ½ hours of joyous escapism.

Unhappy with how the narrative portrays Juliet, Shakespeare’s wife Anne (Cassidy Janson) decides to re-write her ending, meaning Juliet doesn’t die. Like her on stage husband Oliver Tompsett, Janson has been with the production since its inception. Her performance however is fresh and easily makes the character the most amusing on stage with her hilarious delivery. She puts herself into the stories narrative as Juliet’s friend, similar to other characters, meaning we don’t miss out on Janson's fantastic performance.

Representation matters, with subplots of non-binary acceptance, questioning sexuality, gender equality and of course the joy of seeing BAME representation in our leading lady, her alternate and understudy.

I was lucky enough to see Zara MacIntosh as Juliet who covers the role on Friday Matinees. MacIntosh was an absolute sensation, giving all the attitude and boldness of Juliet. Her vocal choices throughout were inspired and original, and her voice was incredible. Having made her West End debut in Six before moving on to this role, she is clearly destined for big things.

Although mostly a very strong company, my standout has to be Billy Nevers as Francois. His voice is like butter, and I could quite happily listen to it every day for the rest of my life, sheer perfection. I was pulling some faces that not even Jessie J mid riff would pull whilst being in awe of his voice. Seeing Nevers in future cast announcements for other shows will be enough for me to part with my cash.

The set is impressive with clever use of three large screens covering the sides and back of the stage. These blend effortlessly with set pieces to create an array of locations throughout. The multiple revolves are used to full effect to replicate travelling/movement and also raise up giving a concert vibe at points. It at no point relies on having a flashy set, but uses it well to help move the story along. On the topic of progressing the narrative, the music achieves this faultlessly.

This ‘boptastic’ Jukebox musical is home to the hits of Max Martin. If you don’t know him by name you will certainly know the songs he has written, having penned some of the biggest hits for Britney, Ariana Grande and Backstreet Boys! Unlike some Jukebox musicals where songs are seemingly just thrown in for the sake of it, these fit so perfectly that it’s almost comical. & Juliet really leans into this and never takes itself too seriously, which is part of its undeniable charm. This is so well done that you don’t have to be a fan of the music or even have an awareness of it to enjoy the show. This is surely what has helped this show appeal to wide away of ages in the audience.

Conscious not to give spoilers so that you can fully enjoy the show, no more needs to be said about this 5-star triumph. Whilst it may be closing on the West End, & Juliet is battling for worldwide domination having just opened on Broadway. Next year sees the Australian transfer to the Regent Theatre in Melbourne, and a UK Tour AND European production are said to be announced soon.

However, your last chance to see this in London is on 25 March 2023, see link below to catch it before it’s too late at the Shaftesbury Theatre.

See below for the curtain call from the performance I attended, as well as the official trailer if you still need convincing!


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