You may not have heard of Max Martin, I hadn’t. But you have certainly heard of his songs.
A string of pop hits in the past 20 years that leave you tapping your feet.
They are strung together in & Juliet, this cleverly done, high-energy show at the Shaftesbury Theatre.
With an incredibly talented cast, and impressive staging, it makes for an exciting evening of commercial theatre at its best.
Max Martin has written more number one hits than anyone since The Beatles, and that’s a lot of hits, and a long time.
He has fuelled the success of the likes of Britney Spears, Ed Sheeran and Ariana Grande.
Just consider three show-stoppers used here in & Juliet – I kissed a Girl, and I liked it, Oops… I did it again, and It’s my life…
You get the picture. Strong melodies seared into your memory, which Max decided deserved a show of their own. He was right.
Theatre historians will tell you putting hits together to create a show is nothing new.
Many of the greatest musical theatre offerings of the 1930s used this format. Think Anything Goes or 42nd Street.
It works very well here, even using the quirky concept that Juliet survives after Romeo left the stage (hence the title & Juliet).
Shakespeare himself is one of the characters, played in a disarmingly “blokey” way by Oliver Tompsett.
As is his wife, Anne, a vehicle for the outstanding Cassidy Janson.
The two of them wrestle over the script and the direction the action will take. Given that Max Martin’s wife, Jenny, is co-producer of this show, one suspects art is reflecting life here.
Apart from these two, there are plenty of other stars on stage.
Indeed, you begin to wonder if any musical theatre talent under 50 is not in this show.
We have younger stars like Miriam Teak-Lee who is a quite fabulous Juliet, and the gorgeous Jordan Luke-Gage as Romeo. Yes, spoiler alert, Romeo also comes back from the grave.
In this sequel to Romeo & Juliet we also have a lot of new elements.
The characters travel to renaissance Paris.
The superbly talented Tim Mahendran plays Juliet’s new love interest there.
Also, in this somewhat ‘woke’ production (but be assured not painfully so), there is a new love triangle.
We are introduced to Juliet’s cross dressing best friend, May (Arun Blair-Mangat) who falls for Francois himself. You can imagine who gets the boy.
Of the more (relatively) seasoned performers, David Bedella gives a wonderful cameo as Francois’ father, Lance, while Juliet’s nurse is captured by Melanie La Barrie.
There are plenty of wisecracks from these two, and in an inevitable subplot the two of them strike up a touching romance.
As well as a large, hugely talented cast, every possible commercial West End stage craft is on display in & Juliet.
Some of the set piece numbers are quite breathtaking, thanks to set designer Soutra Gilmour and Howard Hudson’s vibrant lighting tricks.
There is plenty of dancing choreographed by Jennifer Webber, with Josh Baker leading the energetic young hoofers. And Paloma Young’s hip hop renaissance costumes are just right.
This show is a hit. A high octane evening for young at heart popsters of all ages.
& Juliet is at the Shaftesbury Theatre until September
Box office: 020 7379 5399