‘& Juliet’ Imagines a Life After Romeo—With Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys

Matthew Murphy

The two young women sitting directly in front of this critic were having the best time at Broadway musical & Juliet (Stephen Sondheim Theatre, booking to May 28, 2023)—seat-bopping throughout, and smiling delightedly. The two people behind loudly beheld that it was the worst thing they had seen on stage in a long time. In between both parties, this critic sat, feeling the contrasting passions of both.

If you want a stage show that wears its admirably progressive politics proudly, if not convincingly, and features a panoply of pop songs whose tunes are immediately familiar—by five-time Grammy Award-winning songwriter/producer Max Martin—then this is the show for you. This critic found it mostly meh, despite having every Britney Spears, Backstreet Boys, Katy Perry, and Justin Timberlake bone in his body happily tweaked. The story felt flimsy and confusing, the singing fine but not wowing—but the delighted applause and whoops around him made it apparent others were buying into & Juliet very differently.

The pop songs you know—including “Since U Been Gone,” “I Kissed a Girl,” and “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)”—are plugged, sometimes cleverly, sometimes just-because-OK?, into the evolution of the musical’s double-headed plot. The main story is what if Juliet (Lorna Courtney) had not died after she and Romeo (Daniel J. Maldonado was standing in for Ben Jackson Walker at the performance this critic saw) imbibed poison and a sleeping potion in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet; what if she had woken up and carried on with the rest of her life? The story within a story is that this is the brainchild of Anne Hathaway (Betsy Wolfe), Shakespeare’s (Stark Sands) oft-ignored wife.

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Source: The Daily Beast

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