Review of the musical & Juliet on Broadway

& Juliet Broadway Review

review of the musical juliet

In the musical & Juliet, the focus shifts from the Bard to the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears, making it a jukebox musical touted as a sequel to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The idea is to explore an alternative fate for Juliet, imagining her life if she had not committed suicide with Romeo. However, the storyline becomes more intricate and chaotic than this brief summary would suggest, and ultimately serves as a showcase for Max Martin’s music.

Max Martin, a Swedish songwriter and music producer, boasts an impressive track record: over the past twenty-five years, he has written or co-written more singles topping the pop charts than anyone else, surpassed only by Paul McCartney and John Lennon. “& Juliet” includes a staggering thirty-one of Martin’s songs, popularized by a variety of pop stars, boy bands and rock bands, performed by actors with exceptional pop vocals and comedic talents. The production has a light and humorous script by David West Reed that wittily weaves the songs into the narrative, though this may be less obvious to those unfamiliar with the songs and their original context.

review of the musical juliet 1

Anne emerges triumphant as Juliet survives, setting the stage for the supposedly revamped “Romeo and Juliet.” The altered scene unfolds with Juliet (Lorna Courtney) serenading a sarcophagus with Britney Spears’ hit “Baby One More Time,” featuring the poignant lyrics “I must confess that my loneliness is killing me now.”

However, Juliet’s path takes an unexpected turn as she attends Romeo’s funeral, encountering Rosaline, who confesses to dating Romeo, and Portia, another former flame. Soon, a multitude of Romeo’s ex-lovers emerges, and together, they belt out the Backstreet Boys’ “Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely.” Liberated from her romantic entanglements, Juliet embarks on a journey to Paris to escape her parents, Lord and Lady Capelet, who are determined to send her to a nunnery.

Throughout this unfolding narrative, presented as if spontaneously happening in real time, William and Anne intermittently appear, engaging in bickering matches about the direction of the story, each vying to steer it in their preferred direction. Anne even inserts herself into the play as April, one of the newly created characters.

David West Read displays a keen understanding of Shakespeare, seamlessly incorporating allusions and delivering well-aimed comic jabs. At a party in a Parisian castle, Juliet encounters Francois Du Bois (Philippe Arroyo), leading to a couple of duets and a chaste night together. When asked about her previous relationship, Juliet nonchalantly reveals, “Four days. Almost. But it ended pretty badly.”

While Shakespeare serves as a primary inspiration for And Juliet, the production draws parallels with other recent shows. There are echoes of “Something Rotten” with the creation of a self-aware character named William Shakespeare, and similarities to “Head Over Heels” and “Six” in transforming a classic tale and infusing it with a pop playlist. AndJuliet also shares a feminist perspective with “Six” and incorporates LGBTQ themes, making it a vibrant and multifaceted production reminiscent of Broadway entertainment, complete with dazzling lights, pulsating music, and cascades of confetti.

Director Luke Sheppard unabashedly acknowledges the key allure of “& Juliet.” The production kicks off with a colossal jukebox taking center stage. At a pivotal juncture, the men don exact costumes and replicate the spot-on moves of boy bands from two decades ago, expertly choreographed by Jennifer Weber. Paloma Young’s costumes and the whimsically extravagant set by Soutra Gilmour flawlessly recreate a boy band concert from the past, delivering a precise and uproarious trip down memory lane.

Admittedly, the journey leading to this spectacle isn’t rooted in the realm of plausibility, a trait shared by much of “& Juliet.” The narrative appears predominantly steered by the songs rather than the inverse. While this dynamic proves more effective in generating comedic moments, it occasionally falters in the infrequent attempts at heartfelt scenes, even when assigned to a powerful voice amidst a captivating pop aria.

Constructing the plot around specific musical moments does yield dividends at times. A notable subplot unfolds as Francois’ domineering father Lance (Paulo Szot) is revealed to be the long-lost lover of Juliet’s nurse Angélique (Melanie La Barrie). This revelation leads to a breathless and captivating monologue by La Barrie, emerging as a standout highlight of the show. In fact, it feels like an ambitious attempt to surpass Daveed Diggs’ record of delivering 19 words in three seconds during “Guns and Ships” in “Hamilton.”

review of the musical juliet 3

However, the true highlights of “& Juliet” lie within the songs—or, to be more precise, at the very outset of each song, where the clever twists ingeniously shoehorn them into specific situations. For instance, May (Justin David Sullivan), who identifies outside gender binary labels, takes center stage launching into Britney Spears’ hit “I’m Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman.” The show skillfully transforms the song, originally about age, into a poignant reflection on gender transition.

While I’ve managed to keep one major surprise from & Juliet under wraps, the notion of a “spoiler” seems almost inconceivable in a production where the plot holds such minimal weight. Concealing it feels misleading to potential theatergoers and unjust to the actors; besides, anyone perusing the cast list would likely catch on. So, here it is: William Shakespeare, vexed by the alterations his wife Anne Hathaway has made to his play, retaliates by resurrecting Romeo. This twist proves advantageous for the audience, as the charismatic and swivel-hipped Ben Jackson Walker becomes one of the standout comedic performers in a cast that hits all the right notes. This revelation also prompts a more accurate portrayal of &Juliet not as a sequel but as a rewrite of “Romeo and Juliet,” although the two are distinctly different entities.

FAQ & Juliet

Venue: Stephen Sondheim Theater
Duration: Two and a half hours, including intermission
Written by David West Read
Music by Max Martin
Directed by Luke Sheppard
Choreography by Jennifer Weber
Scenic Design by Soutra Gilmour, Costume Design by Paloma Young, Lighting Design by Howard Hudson, Sound Design by Gareth Owen, Video and Projection Design by Andrzej Goulding, Hair, Wig, and Makeup Design by J. Jared Janas


  • Lorna Courtney as Juliet
  • Paulo Szot as Lance
  • Betsy Wolfe as Anne Hathaway
  • Stark Sands as ‘Shakespeare’
  • Justin David Sullivan as May
  • Melanie La Barrie as Angélique
  • Ben Jackson Walker as Romeo
  • Philippe Arroyo as Francois
  • Brandon Antonio
  • Michael Iván Carrier
  • Nico DeJesus
  • Nicholas Edwards
  • Virgil Gadson
  • Bobby “Pocket” Horner
  • Joomin Hwang
  • Megan Kane
  • Alaina Vi Maderal
  • Daniel J. Maldonado
  • Joe Moeller
  • Brittany Nicholas
  • Veronica Otim
  • Jasmine Rafael
  • Matt Raffy
  • Tiernan Tunnicliffe
  • Rachel Webb
  • Song playlist

    Act I

    Prologue: Larger Than Life/ I Want It That Way – Backstreet Boys, 1999

    1. …Baby One More Time – Britney Spears, 1998
    2. Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely – Backstreet Boys, 1999
    3. Domino – Jessie J 2011
    4. Show Me Love – Robyn, 1997
    5. Blow/ I Wanna Go – Kesha, 2011/Britney Spears, 2011
    6. I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman – Britney Spears, 2002
    7. Overprotected – Britney Spears, 2001
    8. Confident – Demi Lovato, 2015
    9. Teenage Dream/ Break Free – Katy Perry, 2010/ Ariana Grande, 2014
    10. Oops! I Did it Again – Britney Spears, 2000
    11. I Kissed a Girl – Katy Perry, 2008
    12. It's My Life – Bon Jovi, 2000

    Act II

    1. Love Me Like You Do/ Since U Been Gone – Ellie Goulding (50 Shades of Grey), 2015/Kelly Clarkson, 2004
    2. Whataya Want From Me – Adam Lambert, 2009
    3. One More Try – the only song Max wrote specifically for "& Juliet"
    4. Problem/ Can't Feel My Face – Ariana Grande, 2014/The Weeknd, 2015
    5. That's the Way It Is – Celine Dion, 1999
    6. Everybody/ As Long As You Love Me/ It's Gonna Be Me – Backstreet Boys, 1997 /Backstreet Boys, 1997/NSYNC, 2000
    7. Stronger – Britney Spears, 2000
    8. Shape of my Heart – Backstreet Boys, 2000
    9. Fuckin’ Perfect – Pink, 2010
    10. Roar – Katy Perry, 2013
    11. I Want It That Way (Reprise)

    Epilogue: Can't Stop the Feeling! – Justin Timberlake