Home IT management Was Shakespeare Strong Enough To Write A Strong Woman? The Broadway Musical ‘& Juliet’ Delves Into Juliet’s Power

Was Shakespeare Strong Enough To Write A Strong Woman? The Broadway Musical ‘& Juliet’ Delves Into Juliet’s Power

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Was Shakespeare Strong Enough To Write A Strong Woman? The Broadway Musical ‘& Juliet’ Delves Into Juliet’s Power

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The premise of the Broadway musical & Juliet asks, what if Juliet in Romeo and Juliet did not die? What if this character, who was always seen as tragic, got to rewrite her own story her way.

And that story is told through Max Martin’s iconic songs like “Oops…I Did It Again,” “I Kissed A Girl,” “Since U Been Gone,” “Roar” and 28 other hits. The tunes are all written by Martin and were made famous by Ariana Grande, Britney Spears, Kelly Clarkson, Celine Dion, Katy Perry and more.

While on its surface the musical presents a scenario if Juliet lived, there’s much more to & Juliet. “There is a whole other story that runs underneath, which is about Shakespeare and his wife Anne Hathaway navigating life together,” says director Luke Sheppard. “We can relate to how our work can be so important and also how we balance that with loved ones around us.”

For David West Read, the Emmy-winning writer of Schitt’s Creek, who wrote & Juliet’s book, the show was an opportunity for Juliet and the characters to find redemption.

“Juliet didn’t have a much of a shot. It was a three day story and then it was over,” says West Read who originally pitched the story to Max Martin. As West Read explains all the stories in the show, in one way or another, are about second chances. “There’s something about second chances that everyone can relate to,” he says. “Especially given what we as a culture have been going through the past few years. There’s this idea, what if I could start again and try something different?”

Also, Martin’s contemporary songs about love, loss, longing, empowerment and fierce fortitude underscore the story in profound ways. “When you have the writer of Creek and pair it with Max Martin’s iconic music it has this interesting combination where it works perfectly together,” says Philippe Arroyo who plays François in the Olivier Award-winning show that opened last month at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. “The songs inform the scenes and vice versa in this explosion of creativity.”

& Juliet is packed with powerful performers including Lorna Courtney (Juliet), Paulo Szot (Lance), Betsy Wolfe (Anne Hathaway, the wife of William Shakespeare. Not the modern day actress), Stark Sands (Shakespeare), Justin David Sullivanas (May), Melanie La Barrie (Nurse Angelique), Ben Jackson Walker (Romeo) and Philippe Arroyo (François).

“I love my character so much because I relate so closely. They go on a journey of self-discovery and start to explore their gender identity, which is something that is also true for me,” says Sullivanas who plays May, Juliet’s best friend who is in love with Francois. “I am non-binary. And to be able to tell a story that is so authentic to my own is very special. May finds themselves worthy of love and that is such a real moment of strength.”

Just like the show asks its characters to transform & Juliet has done that for the actors themselves. Melanie La Barrie, who stars as Juliet’s nurse Angelique and originated the role in London back in 2017, says that this role has truly stretched her. “I often get to play a lot of maternal characters, like Mrs Phelps in Matilda: the Musical, (which she also originated). But I love that this role also challenges me to do things that I would not normally do, like dance street dances with the kids and sing pop music,” says La Barrie. “I love being part of something that is so outside of my comfort zone.”

What is also interesting about & Juliet is that it asks contemporary questions through the lens of this ancient world. When asked if there was something she wishes she could ask Shakespeare choreographer Jennifer Weber reflected on a particular moment in the show.

“There’s a great line where Anne Hathaway, Shakespeare’s wife, asks Shakespeare, “Are you a strong enough man to write a stronger woman?” says Weber. “I would love that question to actually be asked of Shakespeare. It would be amazing to have that challenge, especially at that time.”

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