Broadway Bound &Juliet Is Making Toronto Audiences ROAR With Delight!
On July 7th, &Juliet officially opened its limited run at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre, hours after a Broadway transfer was announced for this fall.
On the opening night of Romeo & Juliet, William Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway suggests a re-write:
What if Juliet didn’t kill herself?
What if the tragic ending was just the beginning?
The West End hit musical comedy has a book by Emmy Award Winner David West Read (Schitt’s Creek), and music from the extensive catalogue of Grammy Award Winner Max Martin. The show’s North American premiere is directed by Luke Sheppard, with choreography by Jennifer Webber, and orchestrations/arrangements by Bill Sherman.
Even if you don’t recognize his name, you will recognize each of Martin’s pop hits which include powerful ballads and electric dance numbers alongside Read’s clever, fun, and heartwarming coming of age story.
Despite being a fan of Martin’s tunes, and of course, Schitt’s Creek, I was a little skeptical going in as to how everything would fit together; but I am happy to report that &Juliet is a brilliant, well-rounded musical that makes audiences laugh, cry, and cheer!
(And yes, I did cry - Juliet’s self-love journey is very moving.)
As the title suggests, in this play, Juliet is calling the shots (sorry, Will!) and is seizing her destiny with encouragement and support from her Nurse, Anne, and her best friend May. It is a refreshing and fun story prioritizing friendship, self-love, and second chances. There is truly something for everyone in this show, from the dazzling dance numbers, catchy tunes, clever jokes, and impressive design!
I was blown away by the design elements of this production, and need to mention the technical team which brought it to life. Set designer Soutra Gilmour, costume designer Paloma Young, lighting designer Howard Hudson, sound designer Gareth Owen, video designer Andrzej Goulding, and hair and makeup designer J. Jared Janas created a bright, eye-catching, show stopping world onstage which radiates to the very back of the theatre! I wish I knew enough about design to give specific compliments, but all I can say is WOW and bravo!
(I will add that the show does have warnings for confetti cannons, pyro, and strobe lighting for those who are sensitive to these lights and sounds.)
&Juliet is a two and a half hour non-stop pop concert, and leading it all is superstar Lorna Courtney as Juliet. She is a triple-threat who oozes charisma onstage and is a joy to follow through this story. Juliet’s journey is a long, powerful one, and Courtney handles it with grace, vulnerability, and great strength.
Betsy Wolfe’s name is well-known to many theatre-lovers, and for very good reason! She is one of the iconic Broadway divas of the decade, and seeing her live is always such a treat. The role of Anne Hathaway showcases Wolfe’s comedic timing, vocal ability, and movement in a wonderful way; from the impeccable way she delivers a joke to the raw emotion she brings to a pop ballad - while bringing the entire audience to her feet.
Stark Sands is the Shakespeare to Wolfe’s Anne, and gives a wonderful comic take on the historical figure, claiming the stage like a rockstar. Wolfe and Sands play a brilliant tug-of-war with each other, which only makes their eventual reconciliation that much better.
Direct from the musical’s London production is Melaine La Barrie as Nurse, and she is a powerhouse! La Barrie brings pure comedic genius every time she steps onstage, she made me laugh until I cried, as well as moved me to tears with her rendition of F*ckin’ Perfect.
Paulo Szot performs opposite La Barrie in the role of Lance, and together the two give a masterclass in musical comedy!
Taking a star turn in this production is Justin David Sullivan in the role of May. They give a gentle, nuanced, and joyous performance which draws audiences in and wins over everyone in the house.
This cast is full to the brim with talent, also including Philippe Arroyo as a heart-warming Francois, and Ben Jackson Walker as a rockstar Romeo.
I have to also shout-out the fabulous ensemble who are singing and dancing their hearts out the entire show: Brandon Antonio, Michael Ivan Carrier, Nico DeJesus, Nicholas Edwards, Virgil Gadson, Katy Geraghty, Bobby “Pocket” Horner, Joomin Hwang, Alaina ViMaderal, Daniel J. Maldonado, Joe Moeller, Brittany Nicholas, Veronica Otim, Jasmine Rafael, Matt Raffy, Tiernan Tunnicliffe, and Rachel Webb are pure joy to watch!
I loved every minute of &Juliet! I knew this was a show I would have fun at, but I didn’t know just how much of a blast it was going to be. The energy onstage was infectious, and the audience at opening night was one of the wildest I have ever been part of, everyone was laughing and cheering like it was a pop concert! There were even three moments where audience members leapt to their feet mid-show, during I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman, That’s The Way It Is, Roar, and of course through all of the finale!
&Juliet is a bright, fun, flashy, fun, charming musical that is not to be missed!
At intermission I was already booking my next trip, and I would highly recommend that everyone else do the same and catch this musical now through August 14th with Mirvish Productions at The Princess of Wales Theatre!
Or, you can find it on Broadway this October at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, and can purchase those tickets after July 13th at https://andjulietbroadway.com/ !