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"& Juliet" is a pop musical that remixes the Bard with Backstreet Boys

Lorna Courtney and the cast of "& Juliet" (Photo: Matthew Murphy)

Allow Juliet to reintroduce herself. Or rather, let Anne Hathaway do it for her. No, not the Oscar-winning actress known for "The Devil Wears Prada." The Anne Hathaway I'm referring to is William Shakespeare's wife, the presumed inspiration behind his most famous love story, "Romeo & Juliet." In the new musical "& Juliet," however, Hathaway insists on being more than a muse. Unsatisfied with her husband's affinity for tragedy, Hathaway steps up as co-auteur of a new version of the age-old story, one in which Juliet never takes a dagger to the heart, but rather, a trip to Paris with her besties. The confetti-laden chaos that ensues in David West Read's hyper new musical currently running at Broadway's Stephen Sondheim Theatre is part-pop music fantasia, part-failed feminist retelling, but all heart.

In tone, "& Juliet" strays further from the Elizabethan haughtiness of most Shakespearean adaptations. Nearly all of the musical's score is arranged from the biggest hits of prominent songwriter/producer Max Martin, but the script still flirts with the Shakes' signature stylings: the quadratic love story, for instance. As previously mentioned, Juliet (a flawless Lorna Courtney) ditches the streets of Verona for Paris. Her best friends May (Justin David Sullivan) and April (Betsy Wolfe) join the adventure. Wolfe primarily plays Anne Hathaway, but the new co-scribe's eagerness compels her to jump into her own remixed story, much to the chagrin of her Bard of a husband (Stark Sands). At a Parisian club, May (who is genderqueer) has a meet-cute with Francois (Philippe Arroyo), a charming young musician flailing under the pressure of his combatant French father, Lance (Paulo Szot). But suddenly, Francois' lips lock with Juliet's (they're more friends than lust-struck lovers, but each character sees the other as a means to escape the overbearing demands of their parents). Heartbreakingly, May witnesses Juliet and Francois kiss, but (in true twentysomething fashion) says nothing.

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