We are at any time further into jukebox territory on Broadway, in which pop now pops like no other genre. “MJ,” the dance-intensive bio-musical based on the songbook of Michael Jackson, is a runaway strike at the Neil Simon Theatre, outpacing its level of competition from last season, the Tony-successful “A Weird Loop,” which closes in January. “Moulin Rouge!,” a boombox of Best-40 ditties, has just handed its 720th general performance, and the new crop of demonstrates contains each “A Wonderful Sounds,” constructed on the songs of Neil Diamond, and “KPOP,” a tongue-in-cheek tribute to Korean pop, with new tracks by Helen Park.
The generations of theatergoers who grew up on ebook musicals, replete with unique tracks that ended up composed in a distinct Broadway fashion, with roots in operetta and Tin Pan Alley, are in their dotage now. Even a dazzlingly heartwarming winner such as “Kimberly Akimbo,” composed by David Lindsay-Abaire and Jeanine Tesori, is having difficulties to build momentum, in accordance to figures from the trade team the Broadway League.
With mass attractiveness tilting towards listeners of Apple Songs and Spotify, Broadway is determined to sing alongside: Just envision the sort of company a Taylor Swift musical would do. In the meantime, Martin’s new music pulsates in the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, wherever “& Juliet” marked its formal opening previously this thirty day period. The display has been a large achievements in London, exactly where I observed it earlier this yr, on what felt like an off night — the crowd was thin on that evening deep into its run — so my expectations have been tempered for the New York incarnation.
Like a rock live performance, a jukebox musical feeds crucially on audience strength. (I seasoned evidence good of that Friday night time at Carnegie Hall, where I was swept up in the admirer-harnessing melodic energy of the alt-rock band Guster and its magnetic frontman, Ryan Miller.) This included ingredient was obvious with “& Juliet” at the Sondheim — at the Sondheim, of all destinations! — where by a packed home reacting to the Spears and Perry quantities revved up the forged, and bounced that dynamism again at us. Like me. I was extra happily engaged this time, by tunes that comment on the silly plot shockingly aptly, and by the upbeat, eager-to-be sure to elán of it all.
The tale has a uncomplicated premise: What if Juliet did not use that “happy dagger” following waking up from Friar Lawrence’s magic potion and went as a substitute to dangle out with her close friends in Paris? The clearly show, with a script by David West Examine, tosses “Romeo and Juliet’s” writer and his wife into the antic blend their meta-theatrical roles posit them as creating companions in a revision of the engage in that hews to the sexual politics of the 2020s.
Stark Sands is Shakespeare and Betsy Wolfe is Anne Hathaway (the 1 from the olden days), and they sort a single of the musical’s various hot pairings. They are pleasurable collectively, fashioning Anne and Will as a postmodern Beatrice and Benedick, with significantly ado about Anne’s constantly getting to dwell in Will’s shadow, and her desire to remake Juliet’s in her have repurposed picture. The other couplings are unveiled as the clearly show unfolds, but pivotal is Lorna Courtney’s captivating Juliet, surrounded by a crew such as hovering nurse Angelique (Melanie La Barrie) and lovelorn best buddy May (Justin David Sullivan).
Opera devotees will note the gamely self-satirizing participation of Paulo Szot Broadway fans will remember him as the Emile de Becque to Kelli O’Hara’s Nellie Forbush in the 2008 revival of “South Pacific.” Listed here he applies his abundant baritone to the refrains of “Teenage Dream” as his recently invented character, Lance, an uppity French nobleman, cavorts friskily with old flame Angelique. Certainly, in some way, Szot tends to make it function.
Contributing, way too, to the success of “& Juliet” are the set and costume designers, Soutra Gilmour and Paloma Youthful, respectively, who know how to costume up the stage for a big night out. Howard Hudson’s lighting layout embellishes the present with its personal grid of electric inspiration. The pull-out-all-the-stops feeling you knowledge with Britney or Katy or MJ, for that make a difference, is replicated right here, with a significant end that would get the coronary heart racing in an arena numerous times the dimensions of the some 1,000-seat Sondheim.
The proceedings have been held by director Luke Sheppard and choreographer Jennifer Weber to a common that is right for the occasions, one particular that asks us to just enable it go. Never get me mistaken: I usually crave the further communion with a musical that tells a tale with tracks built new. Like Juliet, although, I’m pleased to bop to a nicely-manufactured, acquainted beat.
& Juliet, music and lyrics by Max Martin and mates, guide by David West Browse. Directed by Luke Sheppard. Choreography, Jennifer Weber orchestrations, Invoice Sherman sets, Soutra Gilmour costumes, Paloma Youthful lights, Howard Hudson seem, Gareth Owen video and projections, Andrzej Goulding. With Ben Jackson Walker, Philippe Arroyo. About 2½ several hours. At Stephen Sondheim Theatre, 124 W. 43rd St., New York. andjulietbroadway.com.