November 24, 2022
Youthful energy soars during the new jukebox musical & Juliet at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre. Determined to reshape Will's (Stark Sands) tragedy Romeo and Juliet, his wife Anne (Betsy Wolfe) takes quill to imagination and rewrites the lovers' union. With a book by David West Read (of the deliriously funny Schitt's Creek) irreverent humor bounces giddily along the soundtrack of many a youngsters headsets.
Donning edgy, boho-chic a la 16th century corsets and cod-pieces by Paloma Young, the attractively diverse, nonbinary company easily straddles centuries of love stories. In this version Juliet (a standout Lorna Courtney) never dies next to Romeo and instead journeys on a search for self fulfillment along with her gregarious nurse, Angelique (Melanie LaBarrie), her honey-voiced best friend May (Justin David Sullivan) and a youthful entourage.
Like any urban fairy tale, they encounter a royal family roiled in questions of identity and perpetuation of their lineage. As animated as any Disney cartoon, the unendingly energetic cast is directed by Luke Sheppard over a sea of motion choreographed by Jennifer Weber.
Street dance moves laced with acrobatics underscore the angst and ebullience shedded by teenagers on a moment to moment basis. Once Juliet's posse crashes the neighboring land's ball, she befriends the young prince Francois (Philippe Arroyo) while Angelique reconnects with a lost love, Lance (the opeartic Paulo Szot).
And just to re-scramble all the options, Romeo (Ben Jackson Walker) re-appears. (Evidently, the poison wasn't life-ending.) Outside of the excellent performances rounding out the sing-along soundtrack popularized by music stars like Britney Spears, Katy Perry, Pink and Backstreet Boys, the lyrics effortlessly enlarge the emotional landscape tweaking Shakespearianisms.
Nonstop plot twists wrap around musical gumdrops unified by a muscular movement score and tireless vitality.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis