Here’s a hard pill to swallow: women settle for less than what they deserve a lot of the time. Maybe it’s because we think we can’t do better, or we can’t make more money, or there’s that nagging inner voice from every experience we’ve internalised.
And here’s the reality. More often than not, as millennial women who’ve grown up in a time of empowerment and are raising our children to be more woke than we’ve ever been, we have to think twice about asking for more — to take up more space, make sure our thoughts matter, and that we are heard.
& Juliet is all that, and more. We know that Juliet dies at the end of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, at the tender age of 13… but what if she didn’t? What if she decided to slip on a pair of sneakers and deliver a classic Britney number in her own dark and twisted version? What if Juliet decided to gallivant away from her hometown Verona with her nurse and non-binary friend, in search of her next adventure?
I attended the gala premiere of & Juliet at Sands Theatre in Marina Bay Sands, and the median age was about 35. It’s no surprise of course, considering that & Juliet is a jukebox musical featuring pop hits most familiar to millennials. The evening took me back to the ephemeral thrill of being on the dance floor, unabashedly screaming the words to Katy Perry’s “I Kissed A Girl” and showing up at a work meeting promptly at 9am the next day.
I was grateful this musical was a sit-down affair, though it’s impossible not to get completely intoxicated. Written by acclaimed television writer, playwright and producer David West Read, accompanied with music by the Grammy Award-winning record producer and songwriter Max Martin. The show comes to life with the script flowing seamlessly into pop anthem after anthem as we follow Juliet’s journey after she leaves Verona for an adventure in Paris. Will she find love? Will her nurse/bestie be her next ball and chain? Will her parents drag her back and send her to a nunnery?
Overflowing with hits from the ’90s right through to the 2010s, & Juliet is guaranteed to get your torso swaying and feet tapping with songs like “I Want It That Way”, “Since U Been Gone”, “Teenage Dream”, “Baby One More Time”, “Can’t Stop the Feeling”, and “Roar”.
*Warning: Spoilers coming up*
The musical begins with William Shakespeare’s wife Anne Hathaway (yes, don’t worry, there’s enough mention of that) suggesting an edit to the ending of Romeo & Juliet, as she’s sick of her husband’s love for tragic endings. And just like that, New Age Juliet was born and begins her self-actualisation journey.
While she’s not the one belting most of the hits, the character of Anne Hathaway seems the most human. She grapples with carrying the invisible load of mothering two children. While her husband is off gallivanting (probably with other men), she struggles to find her place in her marriage. At the same time, she is seeking to put together parts of herself outside marriage and motherhood, and to stay relevant as she gets older.
Is it a musical made for fans of Romeo & Juliet? Probably not. The 150-minute show (including 20 minutes of intermission) almost does away with logic and is completely campy. I enjoyed the themes of women’s empowerment, gender inclusivity and breaking stereotypes, albeit a little touch-and-go. But hey, you can’t expect the world from a musical.
Is it fun and occasionally even laugh-out-loud funny? Absolutely. It’s about as much camp as walking into a karaoke room with your fellow almost-geriatric millennials and belting out the hits of your youth — except probably, the singers have way better vocals. Plus, the set is glitzy, the costume design is over-the-top and ingenious, perfectly blending 16th century garb with Tiktok-esque fashion trends.
Don’t count on a Pulitzer Prize-winning show — go there for an absolute ball of a time, and you definitely would. It’s a solid pick-me-up and I would watch it again in a heartbeat. In fact, I’m taking my six-year-old with me to catch it. Hit us, baby, one more time.
& Juliet is running till October 15, 2023 at Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands from Thursdays to Sundays. Enjoy 20% off tickets by booking here.