It’s always exciting when a prodigious musical is due to open for the first time. While we cherish the theatre’s timeless classics, witnessing something fresh and original make its debut is like watching history in the making. & Juliet the musical already has high expectations…and why shouldn’t it?
It takes its central character from Shakespeare’s most popular and beloved play (Romeo and Juliet). But brings a whole new dimension to the leading lady…
It’s also set to be the musical masterpiece of celebrated Swedish songwriter, Max Martin. Martin is responsible for some of the most iconic songs of the 90s. He catapulted many singers to stardom, writing for the likes of Britney Spears, Celine Dion, Backstreet Boys and Bon Jovi. Simon Cowell described him as definitively ‘not human’ because of his consistency in cultivating prolific and chart-topping hits.
It’s expected that Martin’s West End musical will be just as illustrious. And we couldn’t me more excited about the novel stage adaptation.
After attending a special launch event in Manchester, TickX got the inside scoop from cast and creatives. We also got a sneak peek of the musical numbers featured in the show. Keep reading to find out everything we know about & Juliet so far…
When will & Juliet open?
The show will officially open in Manchester on September 10th. It will run until October 12th at Manchester Opera House before moving to the Shaftesbury Theatre in the West End. It will stay in London for five months, running from 2nd November 2019 – 28th March 2020.
Reflecting on the decision to open in Manchester as opposed to the prominent theatre district in London, director Luke Sheppard said it was his dream to open in the northern city thanks to its rich culture and strong relationship with pop music.
Who is Max Martin?
If you don’t already know his name, you’ll certainly know his accolades. Martin has written some of the most famous songs of the past thirty years – songs that have defined eras and the careers of huge pop stars. Britney’s unforgettable debut single ‘Baby One More Time’, her red catsuit, Titanic-inspired ‘Oops!… I Did It Again’, and the fierce ‘Stronger’ were all products of Martin’s songwriting. The Backstreet Boys’ ‘Everybody (Backstreets Back)’, ‘Quit Playin’ Games’ and ‘The Call’; Katy Perry’s ‘Teenage Dream’, ‘E.T.’ and ‘The One That Got Away’; Kelly Clarkson’s ‘Since You’ve Been Gone’; Bon Jovi’s ‘It’s My Life’ and Ariana Grande’s ‘Love Me Harder’ and ‘Into You’ are all thanks to Martin – and the list really does go on.
We were warned at the launch that if we googled Max Martin, we would be blown away by his catalogue of songs. It was true. It seems impossible that one man could be responsible for so many songs, giving rise to Cowell’s charge of Martin as ‘non human’. Go ahead and Google him yourself…
To put it in perspective, Martin’s awards include 5 Grammy Awards, The Polar Music Prize, and ASCAP Songwriter of the Year (which he won a stellar 11 times!). He is the songwriter with the most US number one singles after Paul McCartney and John Lennon, and was recently honoured in the Songwriters Hall of Fame. & Juliet is his first ever stage production, so you know the musical’s soundtrack is going to be immense.
What songs will be in & Juliet the musical?
With such a huge inventory to choose from, the musical will be brimming with number one hits and saturated with sing-along anthems. The creative process is still in the works, but songs we know will be featured include:
- It’s My Life (Bon Jovi)
- Perfect (Pink)
- Stronger (Britney Spears)
- I Want It That Way (Backstreet Boys)
- Can’t Stop The Feeling (Justin Timberlake)
- Send My Love (Adele)
- Everybody (Backstreet Boys)
- Can’t Feel My Face (The Weekend)
- Oops!…I Did It Again (Britney Spears)
- Problem (Ariana Grande)
- As Long As You Love Me (Backstreet Boys)
- Love Me Like You Do (Ellie Goulding)
- That’s The Way It Is (Celine Dion)
- Show Me Love (Robyn)
- Baby One More Time (Britney Spears)
- Roar (Katy Perry)
Yes Martin really did write all these…! They have also been rearranged by the extraordinary Tony and Grammy Award-winning orchestrator, Bill Sherman, so expect to hear them like never before!
“With the public performances we have been doing recently, I have been performing Roar quite a lot. It is such a powerful moment in the show for Juliet. I love performing that song because it is the pinnacle moment for Juliet in her search for self discovery. She literally realises in real time the kind of person she used to be. And how she used to bite her tongue and hold her breath.”Miriam-Teak Lee, (Juliet)
What is & Juliet about?
It’s no spoiler recalling the tragic final scene of Shakespeare’s classic, where the two star-crossed lovers take their own lives. But this modern play posits what if Juliet put down the dagger? What if she was not the victim of destiny, but instead took charge of her life? This is essentially the core of & Juliet the musical (alongside its celebrated pop-heavy soundtrack).
“& Juliet is a play within a play. It starts with Shakespeare telling his fellow actors the ending to his new play Romeo and Juliet. When Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife hears, she asks why don’t we rewrite that ending… and continue on. She explains that Juliet is still young and has her whole life ahead of her, so why would she kill herself because of one boyfriend?”Miriam-Teak Lee, (Juliet)
In other words….#RomeoWho? The end of Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ is the beginning of this modern, liberating tale of Juliet.
“Juliet fleas to Paris to find herself. She hasn’t lived her life so thinks I’m going to explore places I’ve never been, meet new people, see new places, and finds her inner strength.”Miriam-Teak Lee, (Juliet)
We also know that Romeo’s character has a few musical numbers. This perhaps means he still has a central role to play in Juliet’s journey. The clue to the plot may be in the details, where the director and cast insisted that the story pays close attention to Martin’s song lyrics. Juliet will also meet a new friend along the way – Francois played by Tim Mahendran.
Lastly, we have been warned that there will be lots of plot twists!! The play has been written – or is currently being written – by David West Read (Netflix’s ‘Schitt’s Creek’) and will be directed by Luke Sheppard (‘In the Heights’).
Will Shakespeare fans enjoy it?
You don’t normally associate traditional Shakespearean enthusiasts as fans of Britney Spears so to speak. But the & Juliet team insist the musical is for everyone. Oliver Tompsett who plays ‘Shakespeare’ explained that the version of the huge historical figure is completely different to anything you would expect.
“On the one hand you have Shakespeare singing Backstreet Boys, but there’s also lots of details and references for Shakespeare purists.”Oliver Tompsett (Shakespeare)
Tim Mahendran who plays Francois also believes the unique combination blend together ‘marvelously well’.
“David West Read (writer) has just done a mind-blowingly good job in combining the two. So my only advice for anyone reading this…come see it and find out for yourself!”Tim Mahendran (Francois)
Director Luke Sheppard further commented that Shakespeare was considered popular culture during his time. By merging his work with pop music of today, & Juliet is essentially bringing Shakespeare ‘back to its roots in populist culture’. Instead of simply preserving his work, they are having fun with it. Sheppard believes if the poet were alive today, “he’d be cheering us on.”
Who will star in it?
From the preview of performances at the launch event, it’s clear the cast are extremely talented, comical and full of energy. After being part of the original London cast of ‘Hamilton’, award-winning Miriam-Teak Lee will take on the role of ‘Juliet’.
“It feels incredible to play such a strong character. I genuinely believe that Juliet has always had strength that isn’t explored in depth in the original Romeo and Juliet. So it’s amazing to be able to tell a story that puts a magnifying glass on Juliet’s inner power and journey to self discovery.”Miriam-Teak Lee (Juliet)
Her counterpart ‘Romeo’ will be played by Jordan Luke Gage (Bat Out of Hell). He describes it as ‘exploring from the ground up’ and ‘different to anything he’d done before’. Joining the former lovers are Cassidy Janson (‘Carole King’ in Beautiful) as ‘Anne Hathaway’ and Oliver Tompsett (Kinky Boots, Rock of Ages) as ‘Shakespeare’.
“Just being called Shakespeare gives you a huge amount of status and respect before you’ve even opened your mouth. I like to think that William Shakespeare has done the hard work for me already.”Oliver Tompsett (Shakespeare)
The four leads describe how everyone gels and supports each other. They also professed their love for being part of Martin’s creations, having grown up listening to his songs and now able to “pay homage to him” (Lee). Having heard their impressive vocals, we know & Juliet will be a fantastic tribute to the legendary songwriter.
Who are the creatives?
The play’s music and lyrics are a reflection of Max Martin’s career. They are brought to life by a book by playwright David West Read and direction from Luke Sheppard. Sheppard confesses that as soon as he read the first email about the show from Read, he knew he wanted to be involved.
“I knew in a heartbeat it was going to be something special. Not only does it offer the chance to work with one of the most celebrated music catalogues in popular modern music history, but the script had such a clear sense of ambition, identity and integrity that I felt it was something I had to be a part of.”Dan Sheppard (Director)
But with colossal musical numbers and the rearrangement of award-winning Bill Sherman, choreography is ever more important. & Juliet’s choreographer, Jennifer Weber, stated that working on the musical was ‘a dream’. She describes Martin’s music as the ultimate dance music and the routines in ‘& Juliet’ are ‘explosive, emotional and powerful’. She further stated that it was “the most dancing you will see ever in a musical“.
Beyond the music, the book also required strong creativity in set design (Soutra Gilmour) and costumes (Paloma Young) to bring the historic literary characters to life. Sheppard said that everything is to be fine tuned and explored, but that Shakespeare informs all elements of the show. He described the creatives as an ‘amalgamation of periods’ that make Shakespeare current and fresh. Howard Hudson and Gareth Owen also complete the team as Lighting Designer and Sound Designer respectively.
When can I buy tickets?
Tickets for & Juliet the musical in Manchester and London are already on sale! Search TickX for available dates and get yours now!