Broadway ‘& Juliet Review: Jukebox Heat-Maker for the Porch

What if Juliet lived? What if a 14-year-old didn’t give her life for a wild boy she barely knows? What if the raucous narcissism of youth had not let its distortion of patriarchy and masculine violence trump her better judgment and lived a full, happy, perhaps even quiet life in all that passed into adulthood in fourteenth century Verona?

Directed by Luke Sheppard and choreographed by Jennifer Weber, and juliet, The new musical features songs written by super-producer Max Martin (“And Friends,” as the credits read), with a book by Sheet Creek Writer David West Reed provides an answer to all of these questions, though “quiet” never enters the equation. No, If Juliet Lived. This musical, which opens tonight on Broadway at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, suggests that she and her cohorts will spend much of their time reviving empowerment poems and delivering on-sight lectures on pride and identity and other important takeaways. XXI century.

Maybe, we’re left thinking, These kids really do have a future – maybe they’ll grow up and be a lot better six.

It’s not that and juliet Uninteresting – it isn’t. Somewhere under the blast, repetition, and one-minute overdrive, there’s a cute(eve) and smart(ish) tale that gives voice to the marginalized and, not coincidentally, provides fans of Britney Spears, the Backstreet Boys, Katy Perry, Kesha, Demi Lovato, Ariana Grande, Bon Jovi, Celine Dion, Pink and Justin Timberlake have a chance to hear their favorite songs in an unmistakable musical: the jukebox takes center stage on the set.

These songs, not coincidentally, have something, or someone, in common: Martin, the superstar producer whose take-no-prisoners approach to building anthems, ballads, and exhilarating melodies of defiance and self-declaration has given many stars voice to countless stars. Young fans.

These Martin productions employ an easily marketable — though not easy to copy — formula — relatively uncomplicated melodies, lyrics with plenty of repetition, a singular message, and not much nuance, along with a sense of dramatic building that goes halfway through. Up and on – it’s no secret to anyone who’s heard a few hits of it. In other words, all living things are within sight of a radio, television or broadcast service. Taken alone, songs like Spear’s “Since U Been Gone” and “Baby One More Time” and Perry’s “Roar” and “I Kissed a Girl” are great drive-time company, at best (as millions of fans have tried). fans) kind of soundtrack for generations. To argue their success would be as disturbing as it is absurd.

Stark Sands, Betsy Wolfe (Photo by Matthew Murphy)

But when presented together, one by one, songs can go from inspiring to wonderful in record time. And they do.

Tying together the songs Martin wrote is Reed’s book, an epigraph that shows very little of the edge Reed and his fellow writers brought to Subversion Sheet Creek. Here, Reed has crafted a kind of how-to guide to feminism, self-fate, empowerment, and chosen identity—topics worthy of all but here with the precision of a middle school rally.

The premise is: Will Shakespeare (Stark Sands) and his deeply upset and angry wife Anne Hathaway (Betsy Wolfe) discuss the Bard’s latest play, Romeo Juliet. Anne insists on taking a shot at rewriting, her plan to let Juliet live, take over her life and free herself from the orbit of a wild, irresponsible youth and the patriarchy itself.

Anne immediately sets about freeing Juliet (Lorna Courtney) and some friends from Verona, sending them to a more liberated (and fun) Paris. First stop: a nightclub, where one such friend, non-binary Mae (Justin David Sullivan) literally bumps into one François (Philippe Arroyo), a confused young man dominated by a father who only thinks he has eyes for Juliette. The situation pushes May into what appears to be an overblown emotional decadence, resulting in May’s rendition of Spears’ “I’m Not a Girl, Not a Woman” — a clever choice at first that soon feels, like so much else here, a little overloaded. .

Will and Ann drop by again and again in the works, sometimes one by one, all the better for putting a plot or romance to work behind the back of a writing partner who may not quite agree. In this way, we get the magic wand lifetime of Juliet and Co. From young teens to more than agreeable 20s, and at the first big reveal – stop reading here to avoid spoilers, or if you haven’t already. Already popped up — the return of Romeo (in a revue performance, game and Daniel Maldonado filling in for Ben Jackson Walker), who Will decides isn’t really dead after all.

Also revolving around Paris is nurse Juliette Angélique (Melanie La Barre), who has a secret romantic past with François’ strict father Lance (Paulo Szot, an opera star who puts his baritone to effective and often comical use).

This all-star crossover plays on Sotra Gilmour’s bright and somewhat clever design—much of the missing “Romeo” consists of a large marquee-shaped label. The expected mix and mingle of centuries past and present, Paloma Young’s couture falls short of eye-catching dazzle. six preen. Howard Hudson’s lighting design, Gareth Owen’s sound design, Andrzej Goulding’s video and projection design are all top-notch.

The actors, certainly not without charm, have been instructed to perform on heights—balconies, as it were—and the thievery can go off (La Barrie, as the nurse, can call the check and let the focus rest on her gorgeous singing voice). Woolf, another fine singer, tells her dialogue with uncompromising tenderness, and Sullivan, as the non-binary character, conveys a sweetness often undermined by melodrama. Only Sands, like Shakespeare, and especially the impressive Courtney as the Little Miss Lost Girl, consistently strikes the right balance between silliness and sensibility.

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