& Juliet rehearsals sneak peek and cast Q&A
| By Jade Ali
With the likes of SIX dominating not just the West End but the world, it’s safe to say girl power is more in now than it was during the 90s at the height of the Spice Girls’ reign. Get ready for the plot twist of a century, the alternate ending of epic magnitude that is going to see girl power levels go through the roof. This brand-new British musical is here to turn the West End pink (literally) and give Shakespeare’s most popular play the pop makeover you never knew it needed. A musical by any other name would not smell as sweet and & Juliet tickets are set to be the sweetest in London.
After attending rehearsals recently and getting another sneak peek of what’s to come, my excitement levels for this musical have raised spectacularly since the workshop I attended back in March and their performance at West End Live. The songs, from the genius that is Max Martin, are incredible and lend their voice perfectly to Juliet Capulet. This show is set to take the West End by storm when it arrives at the Shaftesbury Theatre on 2 November later this year! After rehearsals, I had the chance to speak to some of the super talented & Juliet cast including Grace Mouat (SIX), Christopher Parkinson (Kinky Boots) and Arun Blair-Mangat (Kinky Boots), and more, about & Juliet. Read all about it below and see what we got talking about…
Brand new photos of the & Juliet cast in rehearsals | © JOHAN PERSSON
1. Max Martin songs are aiding Juliet to tell her story but if she was to use the songs of someone else, who would you choose and why?
Grace Mouat: Spice Girls!
Christopher Parkinson: Maybe Christina Aguilera?
Chris: A powerful female pop star that can resemble Juliet. The great thing about this show is because we have Max’s music, the songwriter's music, rather than a singular artist, we have such a range so if you want a ballad you have Celine Dion or if you want an upbeat tempo you can have Jessie J.
Arun Blair-Mangat: Timbaland or The Neptunes! Max Martin, Timbaland and The Neptunes are my favourite producers right now, so for me, they’re the holy trinity and to be working with Max now is a dream come true.
2. Did you know what songs and how many songs [Max Martin] has worked on before & Juliet?
Chris: I definitely didn’t!
Grace: No, I wiki’d it!
Chris: But even now we’re in a position were songs keep coming up and it’s like I had no idea he wrote that still to this day.
3. What song already in the musical would you like to sing that you’re not already?
Tim Mahendran: Juliet (Miriam) sings ‘Hit Me Baby One More Time’ and it’s slowed down and it’s very beautiful, so I’d love to sing that.
Grace: Tim’s duet of ‘Whataya Want from Me?’ I love the orchestrations and that’s such an incredible scene, so I’d love to sing that one.
Kerri Norville: I would sing ‘Everybody’ because it’s a banging tune!
Arun: I’d sing ‘Teenage Dream’.
Kerri: Basically, all the tunes are bangers and we’d love to sing them all!
4. Do you think the mix of Shakespeare and contemporary pop songs work together and why?
Grace: Yes, I love it. I love all the historical references and pop crossovers. It’s really fun!
Chris: I think what’s really cool about it is that in musical theatre we have this great thing at the minute where history is being told through other shows and it’s opened up to a much younger audience, so it’s more contemporary. There are people who don’t want to see a Shakespeare play and there are people who don’t want to see a pop show. [& Juliet] branches the two together and it’s like a hybrid between the two. Also, Max Martin’s music really lends itself to the story; like every song!
Grace: They’ve really orchestrated it in a way, and added more strings, to make it sound a bit more period, and it’s just really amazing.
Arun: 100%. Shakespeare was the rock star of his day, so we’ve just made it contemporary by fitting in Shakespeare with Max.
5. & Juliet takes Juliet out of the Romeo & Juliet equation and gives her a story of her own. What Shakespeare character would you like to see get their own/new story?
Grace: Maybe a gender-bend Macbeth?!
Chris: I was going to say Macbeth. From the angle of the marriage and they could live happily ever after.
Kerri: Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Arun: Maybe Othello?! Maybe Desdemona’s story. They recently didn’t that film with Daisy Ridley, Ophelia which was from her perspective. So, telling Hamlet’s story but with a different narrative. It’s about empowering women!
6. Do you think & Juliet will still appeal to classic Shakespeare fans?
Tim: There are certain bits in there that are cleverly done!
Grace: I think so. It’s not inaccurate because it’s our own version. It’s like a retelling so no one can say that this didn’t happen because it’s a complete reimagining. So, I think they’d love it! There might be people who really love Shakespeare who are sad that it’s [Shakespeare’s work] not as loved anymore and this is a different way to put it out there…
Ivan De Freitas: There are clever references without alienating anyone. It’s still got that humour and comedy, and everyone can get involved.
Kerri: We have a lot of little flavours, so if you are really into your Shakespeare then there are a few moments in the show that might go over some people’s head but that you’ll [Shakespeare fans] definitely get them and that’s something to be celebrated.
Arun: I had someone who saw the workshop in March who had done an MA in History studies and an MA in Shakespeare studies, and she loved all the little nuggets and Easter eggs, so to speak, and she was saying she wanted more!
7. This new musical is creating a lot of buzz, why do you think it’s so exciting and buzz-worthy?
Chris: Yes, because it’s a show that we don’t even know. We don’t know how it’s going to be received. All we can go off is the energy that we have as a company.
Tim: People don’t know what to think! There are people that turn their nose up and I can’t wait because when they come [to see the show] they’re gonna be so shocked! And I can’t wait for that moment.
8. What are your top 3 favourite Max Martin songs (doesn’t have to be included in the show)?
Tim: I have to say ‘Everybody (Backstreet’s Back)’ because it’s a classic.
Grace: ‘Domino’ is up there for me. It’s such a feel-good song.
Ivan: I like the old ones. Bon Jovi!
9. What is one Max Martin song that you think would work in & Juliet that isn’t already included?
Kirstie Skivington: ‘Raise a Glass’ by Pink!
10. In three words, why does everyone need to see & Juliet?
Kirstie: Different. Unique. The dancing’s great!
Kerri: It’ll leave you feeling uplifted, it gives a very positive message and it’s fun!
Arun: It’s a new beginning! It’s a new take. New British Transatlantic musical/ Swedish hybrid!
Kerri: It’s made here and that’s something to be celebrated! A New British musical!
Don’t miss out on what’s going to be the must-see musical and get your & Juliet tickets now to secure the best seats for when this spectacular show opens at the West End’s Shaftesbury Theatre on 2 November.
Book your West End & Juliet tickets here.