Amazing Singing & Dancing & Funny, too!
Reviewed by Mary Alderson
As a child growing up, I loved the Wayne & Shuster comedy specials on CBC. That’s where I first learned classic literature – The Scarlet Pimpernel became The Brown Pumpernickel, The Picture of Dorian Gray became The Picture of Dorian Wayne. And of course, Wayne & Shuster always had great fun with Shakespeare. The use of Shakespearean language in a modern setting is guaranteed to get a laugh.
So that was my first thought when the story of & Juliet started to unfold on stage. This writer is as funny as Wayne & Shuster, adding a twist to Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, using familiar Shakespearean phrases and creating silly but hilarious responses. The author of & Juliet is Canadian David West Read and he knows award-winning comedy, having been a writer with the much-lauded TV series Schitt’s Creek.
This laugh-out-loud funny musical, & Juliet, is now on stage at Toronto’s Princess of Wales Theatre, but only until August 14. Get your tickets now; it’s sure to sell out.
The music in & Juliet is all written or co-written by Swedish record producer and songwriter Karl Martin Sandberg, professionally known as Max Martin. The songs were written over the last 20 to 25 years, and have been made famous by the likes of Katy Perry, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Bon Jovi, Pink, Kelly Clarkson, Ariana Grande, Celine Dion, Demi Lovato, Backstreet Boys and others. & Juliet rocks a myriad of popular songs, and the lyrics have been brilliantly woven into the plot.
This musical asks the question “What would have happened if Juliet hadn’t killed herself when she finds Romeo dead at the end of the play?” Juliet is allowed to live on, a strong, empowered woman.
The story opens with Shakespeare busy writing the conclusion to his new play, Romeo & Juliet. Rehearsals are taking place and they need the ending quickly. Shakespeare is a busy man in London, while his wife, Anne Hathaway, lives in Stratford, raising their children. Unannounced, she shows up at the theatre, and offers to write the conclusion, much to Shakespeare’s consternation. So the show goes on, twisting and turning, as William and Anne write and rewrite the plot, often finding themselves at odds with each other.
The singing is beyond amazing, as the characters belt out the pop hits. There is not a weak voice in the cast. As Shakespeare (Stark Sands) and Anne Hathaway (Betsy Wolfe) argue over the play, they belt out “I Want It That Way”. Juliet (Lorna Courtney) brings the house down with a heart-felt rendition of “It’s My Life” at the end of Act I. Francois (Philippe Arroyo), May (Justin David Sullivan), and Lance (Paulo Szot) sing a very poignant “Shape of My Heart”. Anne (Wolfe) and Juliet (Courtney) are outstanding singing Celine Dion’s “That’s The Way It Is”. Courtney also shines with “Roar”.
With both the singing and dancing the cast gives it their all. There is an abundance of energy on the stage and the audience loves it.
& Juliet has been running on the West End in London since 2019 and has proven very popular. The cast in this Toronto show is primarily made up of Broadway actors/singers/dancers. The plan is to move the show to Broadway after its Toronto run. The cast also includes four Canadians: Matt Raffy, Brandon Antonio, Alaina Vi Maderal and Bobby “Pocket” Horner. All four will make their Broadway debuts with & Juliet.
This show can’t miss – a great Canadian writer whose humour reminds me of Wayne & Shuster, a plethora of pop hit songs, and a dazzling cast – it’s sure to be a hit on Broadway. This is the highest energy Mirvish production since Kinky Boots and offers the most heart-felt message since Come From Away.
& Juliet continues with eight shows a week at the Princess of Wales Theatre, 300 King St. W., Toronto, Ontario until August 14. Call TicketKing 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333 or visit www.mirvish.com for tickets.
Photo: Stark Sands as William Shakespeare and Betsy Wolfe as Anne Hathaway. Photo by Matthew Murphy.
Music and Lyrics by Max Martin and Friends
Book by David West Read
Directed by Luke Sheppard
Musical Supervision by Bill Sherman
Musical direction by Dominic Fallacaro (June 22 to July 17)
Musical direction by Elizabeth Baird (July 19 to August 14)
Performed by Lorna Courtney, Paulo Szot, Betsy Wolfe, Stark Sands, Justin David Sullivan, Melanie La Barrie, Ben Jackson Walker, Philippe Arroyo, et al.
David Mirvish Presentation
Princess of Wales Theatre, Toronto
June 22 to August 14, 2022
Reviewed by Mary Alderson