Review: &Juliet, A Refreshing Take on Shakespeare

&Juliet is the question we’ve all been asking: why did Juliet have to die in her story?

Stage Chat

&Juliet is the question we’ve all been asking: why did Juliet have to die in her story?

Emma Torres

American media has taken on many themes over time. In the past few years, we have seen (and are expected to see) many retellings, remakes, and sequels. Things like Romeo and Juliet, a classic love story, seem to never rest for long. 

Since most of the remakes were far lower quality than that of their original stories, I don’t have high expectations for reimagined media. But &Juliet, a new broadway musical, surpassed my expectations and raised the bar for the remakes that will follow.

&Juliet is the question we’ve all been asking: why did Juliet have to die in her story? The musical begins with Shakespeare himself, explaining the timeless plot of Romeo and Juliet to a group of actors that are to perform the play. 

But this time Shakespeare’s wife, Anne Hathaway, has other plans. She pushes him to change the ending, saying that Romeo’s death “should almost be the start of the play”. This sets everything in motion. We’re introduced to new characters, such as Juliet’s two friends. We also see old characters, such as the titular Juliet and her Nurse, now named Angelique.

The reimagined characters are given personalities and motives that weren’t previously seen in the play. Shakespeare eventually changes Anne’s vision and such is the main conflict, but I’ll spare you the details. 

To begin, I’d like to say that the costumes of &Juliet were some of the best I’ve seen. They blend modern trends with historical accuracy and it creates a dynamic and colorful image onstage. Each ensemble member’s many costumes had distinct silhouettes. Juliet’s costumes had less in common with one another. Honestly, out of all the costumes I liked Juliet’s the least, but I still think they did a great job with giving her a recognizable color palette. And her outfits all looked fun and youthful, much like Juliet herself. 

The show itself had a concept that wasn’t really new, yet I loved it all the same. The comedy was both well-written and well-performed, which is not an easy task. There wasn’t a single joke that didn’t land, and every actor had great comedic timing. The musical also had some serious scenes about Anne Hathaway and Shakespeare’s marriage, and the writing for those scenes was honest and heartfelt.

As a jukebox musical, I expected the songs to be cheap attempts at nostalgia, but each one was well thought out and fit into the story seamlessly. The songs moved the plot along, and no scene felt like it didn’t belong. In true Shakespearean fashion, I was always wondering what was going to happen next. 

Many people have talked about the show’s similarities to SIX, another historical pop musical. I didn’t find that they were similar, but fans of SIX and Hamilton will love &Juliet. 

Talent was not missing in this cast. Every person was distinct and memorable, and the actors breathed new life into old and tired characters. I had the privilege of seeing Lorna Courtney play Juliet, and she did an amazing job. Her voice brought a new component to the songs, most of which were songs I’d heard a hundred times. It was refreshing to hear her new take on them. 

Another thing I liked about Courtney’s performance was her youthfulness. Juliet, originally, is thirteen years old. In &Juliet, they change her age, yet Courtney still captures the innocence of Juliet and makes her infinitely more interesting to watch.

The last thing I enjoyed about this show was its treatment of minorities. One of Juliet’s friends, May, is queer and nonbinary, and this is made clear very early in the musical. They’re a major character, yet their identity is not portrayed as such a big deal. This is refreshing since most characters like May often do not have a personality beyond their identity. 

The show also addresses women’s rights and autonomy, with Juliet’s motivations being freedom and her own happiness. Anne Hathaway, arguably the most influential character in the musical, also addresses this. She talks about her unhappy marriage and Shakespeare’s lack of effort in their marriage. These topics are handled with care, and nothing feels forced or put in for “diversity points”. 

Every aspect of this show drew me in and didn’t let me go until the very end. It felt very Shakespearean, and I loved every minute. &Juliet was the musical of the past, present, and future. So if you’re thinking about buying a ticket, consider this a glowing review.