This is the moment we've been waiting for. While it's been 4 months since the first West End shows began to reopen, not everything has returned to its West end homes just yet. Friday 24th September saw another massive show return as &Juliet returned to the Shaftesbury Theatre, more than 18 months since the cast last graced the stage.
In this post I'll recap the night with pictures and information from the show.
So let's start with a little reminder of &Juliet. The story of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet reimagined to ask what would have happened if she hadn't died. Set along the songs of Max Martin which includes hits from Backstreet Boys, Britney Spears and Katy Perry - it all sounded very weird. When it was first announced, I was sceptical to say the least. When it first opened in Manchester ahead of its West End run, I started to hear whispers from those that had seen it that this was something special. I took myself up to Manchester to see for myself and they really weren't wrong. This show was spectacular - and since then, I never looked back, making repeat visits to see it in the West End.
22 months since I last sat watching &Juliet, I was back. I knew I wasn't going to miss the reopening night of this wonderful show for anything - and I was lucky enough to get front row seats for the night.
The Shaftesbury Theatre is undergoing a major renovation meaning access to the site is a bit more difficult than usual. Half the queue were sent round the back of the theatre to manage the limited space - and the queue for the toilets in the interval can only be described as Hell. But I'm sure it will all be worth it when it's completed.
Unlike a lot of the other West End shows, &Juliet has returned with a whole load of new merchandise. Here's a look at it:
Walking in, there was another little treat for us - small bottles of prosecco adorned with cast members. I had to choose from Cassidy Janson and Jordan Luke Gage:
We also got free postcards too which are great... but you can't drink them.
There was something beautiful about walking in to the Shaftesbury and seeing that wonderful stage again
And then the stage started filling with life. For those not familiar, this is before the show offocially starts so I wasn't snapping away when I wasn't meant to
It was time to start the show. From the beginning, we knew it was going to be a special night as the entire audience rose to their feet for a pre-show standing ovation. That is something I have NEVER seen happen before.
From there on out, it didn't let up. Every cast member received huge cheers the moment they first appeared on stage and there were multiple standing ovations throughout the performance including Cassidy Janson who received a standing ovation for a truly sensational 'That's The Way It Is'
The most emotional moment of the night came from new cast member Alex Thomas Smith, taking over in the role of May. Their portrayal of the character was truly beautiful with a new bit of dialogue added in to reference May's identity "You know I'm not a girl" with a response of "It doesn't matter, I just like kissing you". In light of how other jagged little shows have dealt with non binary characters, this felt like a huge step forward. Their performance of 'I'm Not A Girl, Not Yet A Woman' was the highlight of the whole night and earned Alex a huge and well deserved standing ovation.
You could see and feel that the cast were having the time of their lives on that stage with a show they truly love. Emotions were heightened throughout the performance with cast members struggling to hide their elation at the massive responses they were receiving, and an especially teary Miriam Teak-Lee in 'F**kin perfect'.
The audience leapt to their feet earlier than ever to acknowledge their appreciation for a truly phenomenal cast. Here are pictures from the curtain call:
As an extra treat, we got a speech on stage from Max Martin who talked about the amazing cast, crew and how appreciative he was of the audience for returning to the theatre.
To say this was a special night would be an understatement. I made it my mission to go to as many reopening nights as I could this year. &Juliet was probably the best one I've been to - the atmosphere and the incredible performances the cast put in made this night one I won't forget in a hurry.
Sometimes all you really need is a bit of pure joy and that's what &Juliet does best. Leaving the theatre with a big smile on your face is something I'll never take for granted - and after leaving the Shaftesbury tonight, I felt like I was walking on air.
&Juliet plays at the Shaftesbury Theatre and ia currently booking until June 25th 2022. Tickets from https://www.andjulietthemusical.co.uk/