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& Juliet

  • Theatre, Musicals
  • Sydney Lyric Theatre, Darling Harbour
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. & Juliet Australian production
    Photograph: Michael Cassel Group/Daniel Boud
  2. & Juliet Australian production
    Photograph: Michael Cassel Group/Daniel Boud
  3. picture of & juliet
    Photograph: Daniel Boud
  4. & Juliet Australian production
    Photograph: Michael Cassel Group/Daniel Boud
  5. Two people performing on stage
    Photograph: Michael Cassel Group/Daniel Boud
  6. Men performing on stage
    Photograph: Michael Cassel Group/Daniel Boud
  7. people performing a Shakespearean play on stage
    Photograph: Michael Cassel Group/Daniel Boud
  8. A performance of & JULIET on stage with lights and sparks
    Photograph: Michael Cassel Group/Daniel Boud
  9. Men performing on stage
    Photograph: Michael Cassel Group/Daniel Boud

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Fuelled with classic pop hits, this musical about Juliet’s quest for independence is Shakespeare on steroids

This is it, we have found the yassification of Shakespeare. Fuelled by a playlist of certified pop hits, this jukebox romp billed as “the greatest love story ever remixed” poses a simple but provocative question: What if, instead of joining Romeo in eternal slumber, Juliet decided to live? A contagiously joyous musical spectacular, & Juliet has finally landed at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre after being met with critical acclaim on Broadway and the West End, not to mention the rapturously received Australian debut in Melbourne

Filled with sing-a-long-able chart-topping bangers made famous by the likes of Britney Spears, The Backstreet Boys, Katy Perry and more from the songbook of Grammy-winning Swedish songwriter/producer Max Martin, the Aussie cast is overflowing with talent in this feel-good, flashy production.

& Juliet is Shakespeare remixed for the girls, the gays and the theys... [but does it] really cut it as the feminist reclamation that we are promised?

Will you be entertained? Absolutely. Does & Juliet set a new standard for jukebox musicals? Yes. Will you see one of the most diverse and charismatic casts of triple-threats ever assembled on an Australian stage? Heck yeah. Does the story deliver on the feminist retribution we are promised? Not quite.

“What if Juliet didn’t kill herself?” Anne Hathaway (played by the enthralling Amy Lehpamer) posits to her husband, William Shakespeare (the ever-charming Rob Mills). “She’s only ever had one boyfriend, and frankly, the ending’s shit.” Thus our two (intersecting) plotlines kick off. With a night off from taking care of the children and the promise of “a big glass of wine”, Anne takes charge of the power of the Bard’s quill – writing Juliet (Lorinda May Merrypor) into a path where her life isn’t over, it’s only just begun (and you’re gonna hear her ‘Roar’). 

Upon the realisation that her balcony was not the only one Romeo (Blake Appelqvist – heart-throb of Fangirls and The Lovers) had been reciting sweet nothings under, Juliet hits the road with her dutiful nurse Angélique (the illustrious Casey Donovan), fabulous bestie May (Jesse Dutlow) and “other friend” Anne Hathaway (who writes herself into the story) in search of new beginnings in the city of love, Paris. But can the famous Shakespeare’s ego cope with his missus taking the lead?

Led by the faultless vocals and sparkling presence of Lorinda May Merrypor as Juliet (her rendition of ‘Roar’ will send shivers down your spine), there is a palpable camaraderie and mutual affection on display with the Aussie cast. Frankly, it’s a joy to witness. This is perhaps best illustrated in the moments Lorinda (a proud Kuungkari and South Sea Islander woman) shares with Casey Donovan – the mutual admiration is off the chain. Casey’s powerful presence can uplift any production she appears in, and her bravado makes a meal of every song that lands on her plate, as we watch Angélique rekindle with an old flame and blossom into her long-dormant sexual power. 

I was lucky enough to first see & Juliet on Broadway (New York City, not the shopping centre, darling!). Aside from just how much I (a devout lover of musicals, but a self-confessed jukebox-sceptic) was enraptured by this nostalgic pop trap, I was most impressed by the joyously diverse representation I saw on stage – it was something I haven’t seen much at all of on mainstream musical stages in Australia. It’s a delight to see that interpreted to the Aussie production – the ensemble is an eclectic assortment of seriously talented performers with a variety of body types, skin tones and gender expressions, and all of them have injected a little of their own unique flavour into their character.

Representation for transgender characters, let alone non-binary identities, is another rare thing to see on the mainstage – and exciting newcomer Jesse Dultow imbues May’s journey with authenticity and flair, belting out an impassioned take on ‘Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman’. On a meta level, the performance does justice to the Britney Spears redemption arc, and to any frustrated femme who has found themself “caught in the middle” and passionately singing into a hairbrush (even if the lyrics aren’t totally the right fit for May’s gender identity). 

With the pedigree of the original creative team on deck, the Australian staging has all the strengths of the British and US productions – including the bombastic choreography of Jenn Webber, which draws on the clean shapes and big gestures iconic of ’90s and 2000s pop choreo to excellent effect. However, the steadfast commitment to how this show has been done before is also what holds it back. Instead of taking a paint-by-numbers approach, the freedom to add some local flavour would let some of the lines and references land better with Aussie audiences. & Juliet already exists in a timeless realm, where Elizabethan fashion motifs meet modern sneakers, chunky headphones, and sequinned bum bags – so for goodness sake, just lean into the panto energy and let the actors speak in their own accents (just like in the US production!) instead of a stilted British vernacular. 

The book, penned by Emmy Award-winning Schitt’s Creek writer David West Read, twinkles with something similar to the winning recipe of silly comedy and earnestness that made Schitt’s Creek and its imagined world with (almost) no homophobia so beloved. However, without multiple sitcom episodes to find their way, the characters of & Juliet don’t experience the level of character development some of us would like to see.

& Juliet is Shakespeare remixed for the girls, the gays and the theys. It’s incredibly shiny and fun, saturated with washes of bright colours and a showcase of even brighter talents. However, can a show written by a man, featuring the music of another man, really cut it as the feminist reclamation that we are promised? I’m not so convinced. The men of & Juliet show everyone exactly who they are – selfish, low effort, maybe even a self-confessed “giant douche”. And the women (spoiler alert) still ultimately choose to end up with them, and we’re led to believe that we should support them because it's “her choice”. Nevermind that poor May, who deserves the world, ultimately plays into the archetype of the trans person who accepts being someone’s “dirty little secret”, and has a best friend who treats them more like a sidekick than a complex human being. 

Is this show a spectacular load of fun though? Yep! I genuinely hope that every mum in Sydney takes a night off, heads to this show with her friends, drinks a large glass of wine and belts along to all her favourite bangers from the days when she was hitting the clubs. And I hope that every boomer without a rounded understanding of the gender spectrum learns something new from the vivacious May. But I also hope those same ladies, over a post-show nightcap, have a good deep and meaningful chat about the relationships they saw play out on that stage – and that they ask for better for themselves. And above all, I hope everyone who sees this show laughs, cries, and commits to see more of the fabulous musicals on Sydney’s many stages. 

& Juliet is playing at the Sydney Lyric Theatre until June 16, 2024. Tickets are on sale now over here.


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Alannah Le Cross
Written by
Alannah Le Cross


Event website:
Sydney Lyric Theatre
The Star
Pirrama Rd
From $74.90
Opening hours:
Tue-Thu 7pm, Fri 7.30pm, Sat 2pm & 7.30pm, Sun 1pm & 6.30pm + some Weds 1pm

Dates and times

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