What if Juliet didn’t die at the end of Shakespeare’s tragedy Romeo and Juliet? And what if Schitt’s Creek writer and executive producer David West Read, along with record producer-songwriter Max Martin, turned that idea into a jukebox musical? Broadway audiences would lose their minds, which will likely happen when & Juliet opens this fall at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.
The pop-peppered musical has been playing on the West End since November 2019 and scored three wins at the coveted Olivier Awards (London’s equivalent of the Tonys). But the real appeal for many theatergoers is the chance to hear some of their favorite pop hits reimagined for the stage, including Britney Spears’ “… Baby One More Time” and “Oops!… I Did It Again,” Katy Perry’s “Roar” and “I Kissed a Girl,” Kelly Clarkson’s “Since You Been Gone,” and other chart-toppers by Demi Lovato, Adam Lambert, Celine Dion, and more.
& Juliet hopes to capitalize on a trend that’s long filled seats — banking on known entities to entice theatergoers to drop big bucks to hear familiar tunes with all the glitz and glamor of a Broadway show. Mamma Mia! featured the music of ABBA and ran for nearly 14 years; Moulin Rouge! is still going strong after winning the 2020 Tony Award for Best Musical (in a COVID-abbreviated season) and also touring nationally.
Will & Juliet find its audience? Variety wrote of the London production, “Silly and serious, & Juliet wants to have its cake and to eat it too. Yet for all its many flaws, it’s hard not to cave in to its determination to add some thought to its undeniably feel-good factor.”
One performance to watch will be that of Justin David Sullivan (he/she/they), who plays Juliet’s nonbinary best friend, offering another opportunity for visibility and diversity on the Broadway stage in both storytelling and casting.
Here’s a first look at Broadway’s & Juliet: