& Juliet - Regent Theatre, Melbourne (VIC)
Music & Lyrics by Max Martin, Book by David West Read, Directed by Luke Sheppard. Presented by Michael Cassel Group in association with MTM/LeyLine
Reviewed by Annika Loci
8th March, 2023 (final preview)
Playing until 14th May, 2023
- & Juliet brings an iconic character back from the dead to give her a fitting and empowered remix to dance to -
& Juliet is a fabulously entertaining remix of Shakespeare’s famous star-crossed lovers; a hilarious and heartfelt jukebox musical which celebrates love and second chances, posing the question: Is destiny written in the stars?
Music from the highly successful award-winning Swedish pop-songwriter Max Martin (Backstreet Boys; Britney Spears; Kelly Clarkson to name a few), has audiences now interpreting over two dozen chart-topping songs in a different way. Not pretending to be anything other than a jukebox musical (with a literal jukebox being the focal point in the opening and closing scenes), the slightly reconfigured famous musical arrangements have an underlining Tudor sound. The score itself has been recreated to feature song lyrics that always find a way to connect to the emotions in the plot, rather than being there just for the recognisable tune. The choice of songs is genius and marries perfectly with the storyline. The almost concert-like feel to the musical leaves audiences itching to get up, dance and sing throughout the run time. At its finale, they get their chance.
William Shakespeare’s original work has central themes of questioning societal rules, segregation of the classes and most importantly, love overcoming hate. This all seems just as relevant back in Elizabethan times as it does in the 21st century. Inspired from the final line of Shakspeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “For never was a story of more woe, than this of Juliet and her Romeo,” is birthed a very amusing book by Emmy-Award writer David West Read (Schitts Creek), giving Juliet her second chance in life. Read does not pretend to have rewritten the intensely dramatic original but rather presents a relaxed, fun, and very humorous (almost pantomime-esque in parts) story after Romeo’s death.
The play within a play begins with the fourth wall immediately broken by William (Rob Mills) and Anne (Amy Lehpamer), welcoming the audience to witness The Bard’s latest masterpiece. However, in his unwavering feminist wife’s words “Dear, the ending is shit”. Anne is dissatisfied her husband is not interested in a happy ending for Juliet and dares William to change his plot with the catalyst being, what if Juliet didn’t kill herself?
Images by Daniel Boud
Whilst still addressing Shakespeare’s central themes at its core, Anne and William narrate (and occasional bicker) the story into a feel good 21st century version, creating Juliet (Lorinda May Merrypor) as a more independent, empowered, and confident character, full of personality and sass with the opportunity to rewrite her destiny. Lovers of the original source material should listen for favorite and recognisable lines cleverly interwoven into the modern dialogue.
Jennifer Weber’s choreography features a strong mix of 90s to contemporary style hip hop which is generally simple but extraordinarily effective, full of energy radiating throughout the whole theatre. The cast, with multiple costume changes, look sensational in Paloma Young’s “throw some glitter, make it rain” designs. Young has created a perfect mix of classic Elizabethan fashions and modern styles complete with converse shoes, doc boots, and heels, which will be extremely popular with theatre cosplayers.
Merrypor expertly leads this cast of theatre veterans and debuts. As a relative newcomer, Merrypor is the standout as Juliet. Her entire performance is exceptional, being a joy to watch as the young, energetic and excitable teen. Merrypor vocally soars through the Regent Theatre balancing all the teenage emotions through such well known songs that might have intimidated other performers.
& Juliet is an exciting, bold, witty & charming coming of age story.
Mills and Lehpamer as the feuding William and Anne clearly have too much fun in their roles, both expertly landing comedic lines, with theatre veteran Lehpamer bringing down the house with “That’s the Way It Is”.
Casey Donovan (Juliet’s nurse Angelique) and Hayden Tee (Francois’ father Lance) are a great pairing with some hilarious unexpected romantic scenes.
Jesse Dutlow brings several moving, heartfelt and grounding moments between Juliet’s non-binary BFF May, who goes on a journey of their own self-discovery, with Francois (Yashith Fernando making his debut).
Blake Appelqvist is our charming but rather confused, back from the dead Romeo, thinking he can just pick up with Juliet where his story left off. Appelqvist shows great skill with finding the right amount playfulness and humour in their role and is a fabulous and fun Romeo to Merrypor’s Juliet.
The “players” (ensemble) do an excellent job with supportive minor roles and keeping the show running smoothly. This superbly talented cast embraces diversity at its best, from a variety of ages, ethnicities, body shapes, gender identities, and several cast members making their professional theatre debut. It’s beautiful to see!
& Juliet is an exciting, bold, witty & charming coming of age story, celebrating female empowerment, diversity, and most of all, love. You could barely ask for more from a show that has audiences squealing and screaming in delight, roaring in laughter and tearing up with emotion, whilst being reminded…
“You’re f**kin’ perfect” just as you are!
Lorinda May Merrypor Juliet
Rob Mills Shakespeare
Amy Lehpamer Anne
Casey Donovan Angélique
Blake Appelqvist Romeo
Hayden Tee Lance
Jesse Dutlow May
Yashith Fernando Francois.
The Players Georgia Anderson as Susanna, Jade Delmiguez as Eleanor, James Elmer as Kempe, Riley Gill as Imogen/Benvolio, Jerome Javier as Thomas, Giorgia Kennedy as Judith, Jordan Koulos as Richard, Sarah Murr as Lady Capulet/Nell, Coby Njoroge as Augustine, Jake O’Brien as Fletcher, Clay Roberts as Henry, Jacob Rozario as Gregory, Selina Salgadoe as Gwynne, Sean Sinclair as Lord Capulet/Sly, Nathan James Tamati as Cuthbert, Romy Vuksan as Margaret, Aadhya Wijegoonawardena as Viola and Imani Williams as Lucy.
Max Martin Music & Lyrics
David West Read Book
Luke Sheppard Director
Jennifer Weber Choreographer
Bill Sherman Music Supervisor, Orchestrator & Arranger
Soutra Gilmour Scenic Designer
Paloma Young Costume Designer
Howard Hudson Lighting Designer
Gareth Owen Sound Designer
Andrzej Goulding Video & Projection Designer
Kylie Clarke Wigs, Hair & Makeup Designer
Jude Loxley Australian Associate Costume Designer
Julian Spink Australian Associate Sound Designer
Jude Loxley Australian Associate Costume Designer