& Juliet at the Shaftesbury Theatre – Review – ★★★½
New addition Keala Settle joins Miriam-Teak Lee & Cassidy Janson at the magnetic, beating heart of this jukebox musical.
Approaching three years into its Covid-interrupted run at the Shaftesbury Theatre, & Juliet shows few signs of diminishing returns, packed to the gills as it is with Max Martin-penned pop classics.
Wrapped around a Shakespeare In Love-style reimagining of how the bard wrote one of his most enduring masterpieces – here with the intervention of wife Anne Hathaway (not that one!) – the enduring and endearingly cheesy tunes make for a greatest hits-style night of ear worms and toe tappers. Expect to be humming more than your fair share of Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys and Katy Perry songs for days after you emerge from this time-machine jukebox experience.
Olivier winners Miriam-Teak Lee & Cassidy Janson remain as a vocally bombastic Juliet and the feminist interventionist Anne. We were wowed by their performances when we saw the original cast production back in 2019 and they remain the most compelling performers, joined now in a trio of excellence by Kerala Settle. Settle (of The Greatest Showman fame) makes the most of her supporting role as the nurse, having lots of fun in her will-they-won’t-they scenes with fellow new cast member Julius D’Silva as amorous old-flame Lance, and enjoys a standout moment with her emotional rendition of Pink’s ‘”Fuckin’ Perfect”.
& Juliet remains a fun frolic of a show, though the previously glossy sets are starting to look a little rough around the edges – and the same could perhaps be said for some of the original cast. But it’s hard not to like a show which is unashamed about wanting to have a good time, even when it’s fitting in some great messaging around acceptance, individuality, and self-determination. Elsewhere in the West End, Moulin Rouge takes itself far too seriously despite its preposterous premise – here, & Juliet takes the winning approach of playing it all with a wink and a grin, more elevated panto than aspiring Sondheim. It’s a much more fun night out for all that.