Day 10: My goal in life now is to do only those things that make me look at myself and say admiringly, “Daaamn, gurl!”
Maybe this is because I’ve just seen “& Juliet” at Shaftesbury Theater, a rollicking tale of female empowerment that asks the question, what if Juliet hadn’t been so stupid as to kill herself when she woke up and saw Romeo dead? What if she had gotten up from that bier, dusted herself off, and said “What the hell, I’m 13 years old, I have my entire life in front of me, I’m going to move to Paris and start over?“
It’s an intriguing premise, and this show hits it out of the park. I’m usually not a fan of the “jukebox musical,“ where the story barely exists and is only there to support the presentation of songs you already know. But this production uses as its backstory an adapted version of the Romeo and Juliet tale, which is meaty enough to carry the every-five-minutes insertion of songs from The Backstreet Boys, Brittany, and Katy Perry (and sometimes mash-ups of those songs), and the combination of all of this is just fantastic. Female empowerment, female choice, a sweet trans love story, reawakened love, rejected love, a transformed marriage — it’s all here, presented by a kick-ass dance crew topped by incredible performances from the leads which both entertain and inspire. Seriously, what more can you ask from theater? I sat in my seat, watching them pulverize Katy Perry’s ROAR, and thought, “THIS is why I come to London.”
On my previous trip three years ago, it was both the museums and the theater that created the magic, but this time, so far, it’s the theater that’s had more of an impact. Ocean at the End of the Lane for its superlative stage craft, & Juliet for fun and uplift, and Merchant of Venice for — well, everything, but I guess I would call it out specifically for the nuance of the acting and the power of its themes (see my Day 7 post for more on Merchant of Venice at the Globe).
So this is the second Shakespeare, or Shakespeare related, play that I’ve seen. Both were updated to make them more accessible. Merchant of Venice had 21st century dress and props (and the introduction of a Bachelorette-type game show, very 2022). &Juliet did something even more creative, a mash-up of 16th century and 21st century styles — the players wore jeans or track suits/gym gear and white sneakers underneath, but with 16th century overclothing, like a laced bodice or a bustled-up skirt for the ladies, and for the men, an Elizabethan doublet or codpiece (with a fleur-de-lis, to indicate that the man was French 😀).
The costuming for the male dancers was particularly inventive, a flexible birdcage-type contraption made of cloth strips that went over their sweatpants to mimic the folds in men’s 16th century doublets (because you just can’t break dance in the skin tight trousers of the era).
I am obviously not doing it justice with this description, please go see it yourself in person! I won’t say anything more about the plot, I don’t want to ruin it if you do go see it, and I hope you do. It’s in London now, and I would be shocked if it doesn’t go to Broadway.
[Update August 7 — &Juliet IS coming to Broadway, Sondheim Theater, from October 2022-May 2023. Do NOT MISS THIS if you can make it!]
It’s won massive awards, with a record-breaking 13 nominations at the 2020 WhatsOnStage awards. I was so encouraged to see a huge group of middle school kids attending as part of a school outing (they wear uniforms, so you can tell). The empowerment and representation is staggering. Attending this performance, I feel so seen and supported as a female in charge of her life; what would it have been like to have seen this as a young woman? or as a young gay or non-binary person? When I was young, maybe the best I could’ve hoped for culturally as a role model would have been Blanche Dubois from a Kennedy Center production of Streetcar Named Desire, busy relying on the kindness of strangers. Or even Juliet, who killed herself because of a man. (They make great fun of that, by the way, and also suggest that Shakespeare did not write all his plays himself, he had women help him, which I’m becoming more convinced of. More on that later!)
& Juliet was so inspiring that I picked up and put in my purse some of the confetti they rained down on us in the audience in the final number, as a keepsake of how I felt at that moment.
So please go see it. Gen X — this is your Mamma Mia! 😊 Enjoy!
And for those of you keeping track of my alcohol intake (thanks, Mom!), I did have a drink at this performance. I thought I was getting a little tired of the Prosecco, even though that is the official drink of the 2022 London Lindalympics, so when I finally found the Royal Circle bar up on the fourth floor (are they actually trying to sell anything or what?), I ordered something off the nice poster on the bar, a Kir Reale.
I asked the bartender if that was like a Kir Royale, which I love (Champagne and Cassis), and he said “Exactly, yes, except the champagne is replaced with Prosecco.” Mwah ha ha ha, it will find me wherever I go.
Apparently you can’t mess with tradition, not in this country! 😂
Go and see it, enjoy, enjoy, enjoy, and many thanks to an incredible cast and crew! Live theater is BACK, baby!!!
This is Day 10 of my trip to London — read the other days in this series here on my page!