How '& Juliet' uses pop songs to tell a fresh coming-of-age story
The musical inserts '90s, '00s, and '10s hits into a 16th-century adventure.
Juliet's loneliness was killing her, according to the ending of Romeo & Juliet. But in the new musical & Juliet, a sequel to Shakespeare's play that features the popular songs of Britney Spears, The Backstreet Boys, and more, Juliet's loneliness is killing her no more.
& Juliet is coming to Broadway on October 28 after a successful run in the West End in London. It provides an alternate ending to Shakespeare's tragedy: What if Juliet hadn't killed herself? Who might she become outside her relationship to Romeo, and how might she rebel against the societal confines placed upon her as a woman in 16th-century Italy? Written by David West Read, a writer behind the Emmy-winning Schitt's Creek, and featuring the songs of Swedish songwriter Max Martin, & Juliet is about a girl discovering her voice and learning that she is "stronger than yesterday." Plus, she has a killer soundtrack for her journey.
& Juliet creatively uses the pop songs you know and love, such as "...Baby One More Time" and "I Want It That Way," to drive a new narrative for the title heroine. Here's a taste of how some of these songs fit into key moments of the musical. If you're a fan of Six or Moulin Rouge! The Musical, or any show that blends pop songs and period angst, get thee to the Stephen Sondheim Theatre for & Juliet.
"I Want It That Way"
Since the Backstreet Boys made this song a favorite at karaoke bars everywhere, many have debated: What is the "it" in "I Want It That Way"? & Juliet attempts to provide an answer. The song is now a duet between William Shakespeare and his wife, Anne Hathaway, as they debate the ending of Romeo & Juliet. The "it" is now the play they are rewriting together. Shakespeare wants to keep his original ending, but Anne counters: "Tell me why" there must be so much death?
"...Baby One More Time"
Britney Spears's breakout hit is now a dramatic power ballad, sung by Juliet when she wakes up to find Romeo dead. In the song, she sings that she "shouldn't have let" Romeo go to Mantua and wishes he would come back and "hit me, baby, one more time." In that moment, she must confess, she still believes that when she's not with Romeo, she'll lose her mind.
This pop song is another one of Spears's major hits. In & Juliet, Juliet and her new friend Francois sing the song about being stifled by their parents and not knowing who they are as young people. The song also features a creative use of the harpsichord, giving a 16th-century feel to the early-2000s song. The message is clear: Teenagers in every century would probably find Spears's rebellious anthem relatable.
"That's the Way It Is"
Titanique is not the only new musical using Celine Dion's songs. In & Juliet, this popular ballad is sung by Anne Hathaway as she reflects on her relationship with Shakespeare and encourages Juliet to continue to believe in love. When Anne sings to Juliet, "I know your story, I see what you're going through," it's not metaphorical. She (and all of us) have read Romeo & Juliet.
Katy Perry's empowerment anthem is the song Juliet uses to tell the world she's going to finally take control of her own destiny, no longer letting parents or potential suitors determine her identity. One can even summarize & Juliet as a tale of a girl who "went from zero to [her] own hero." & Juliet is one of the most anticipated new musicals of the season, and it will be exciting to hear Juliet and the cast roar.
All the songs in & Juliet
Sharing how all 30 songs are used in the musical would spoil it, but you can still know which pop hits you'll hear. Discover all the songs featured in & Juliet below, including one Max Martin and Jessie J tune, "One More Try," written specifically for the show. Then see for yourself how they fit into Juliet's coming-of-age journey by getting your tickets to & Juliet on Broadway.
- "Larger than Life"
- "I Want It That Way"
- "...Baby One More Time"
- "Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely"
- "Show Me Love"
- "I'm Not a Girl, Not Yet a Woman"
- "Teenage Dream"
- "Oops!... I Did It Again"
- "I Kissed a Girl"
- "It's My Life"
- "Love Me Like You Do"
- "Since U Been Gone"
- "Whataya Want From Me"
- "One More Try"
- "Problem" / "Can't Feel My Face"
- "That's the Way It Is"
- "Everybody (Backstreet's Back)"
- "As Long as You Love Me"
- "It's Gonna Be Me"
- "Shape of My Heart"
- "Fuckin' Perfect"
- "Can't Stop the Feeling!"
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