Singapore – September 25, 2023
Singapore audiences are in for a treat with the arrival of the 2019 jukebox musical, “& Juliet.” Having already made waves in Britain, the United States, and Australia, this international theater production offers a refreshing take on Shakespeare’s timeless tragedy, Romeo and Juliet, infused with unbridled optimism and a Gen Z sensibility.
The musical’s success lies in its contemporary themes of self-determination and love, intertwined with nostalgic hits from the 1990s and early 2000s. & Juliet reimagines the iconic story by pondering what would have happened if Juliet had not taken her own life and instead embraced a second chance at love and life on her own terms.
The result is a delightful comedy that celebrates courage and the journey of self-discovery. While the original 16th-century narrative delved into themes of death and enmity between two families, & Juliet exudes life, hope, and endless possibilities.
What sets “& Juliet” apart is its portrayal of young adults navigating love and life in the 2020s. Most of the main characters are in their twenties, contending with the expectations of their parents and society, the desires of their hearts, and the allure of youthful passion driven by hormones.
The musical aptly captures the spirit of “wokeness,” showcasing individuals of all ages, races, genders, and body types as attractive. It also challenges conventions, prompting discussions about the timing and significance of marriage. While rated Advisory 16 (Some Mature Content), these ideas may be confronting conservative audiences but refreshing and empowering to more liberal ones.
One of the musical’s highlights is its selection of catchy tunes that appeal to a broad audience. Drawing from the catalog of Swedish record producer and songwriter Max Martin, known for crafting chart-toppers for various pop sensations, the show features pop hits like Justin Timberlake’s “Can’t Stop The Feeling!” (2016) and powerful anthems like Katy Perry’s “Roar” (2013). The opening lines of these mainstream songs often elicit knowing giggles from the audience.
The musical ingeniously incorporates these songs, sometimes in their original context, while also transforming others into duets or giving them new meaning within the story. For instance, Britney Spears’ teen pop hit “…Baby One More Time” (1998) becomes a darker, rock-infused number sung by Juliet, expressing her confusion and despair over Romeo’s death. Additionally, Celine Dion’s “That’s The Way It Is” (1999), originally an ode to faithfulness, evolves into a heartfelt duet, exploring the complexities of marriage and the pursuit of happiness.
While the musical offers a nostalgic trip through time, some may find the excessive inclusion of songs from the Backstreet Boys to be overwhelming. Nevertheless, “& Juliet” successfully remixes Shakespeare’s beloved love story with some of pop’s most iconic tracks from the past three decades. Most importantly, it breathes new life into the tragic classic, transforming it into an inspiring tale of self-discovery and empowerment.
“& Juliet” is currently enchanting audiences at the Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands, until October 15th. Performances run on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at various times. Tickets, ranging from $68 to $238, are available through Marina Bay Sands and Sistic. Readers of The Straits Times can enjoy a 15% discount.
For a dose of Shakespearean romance with a modern twist, don’t miss “& Juliet” at the Sands Theatre.