Capturing so much of effervescent fun of the show, the Original London Cast Recording of & Juliet should be on everyone’s Christmas list
“Pretty, pretty please, don’t you ever ever feel
Like you’re less than f**kin’ perfect
When it comes to jukebox musicals, cast recordings can be a little hit and miss, depending on how the albums thrive (or otherwise) divorced from their theatrical contexts. Fortunately with & Juliet, a show I absolutely adored, the result is definitely more hit than miss. Having seen the show, it is a fantastic counterpart to my memories and every time I listen to it, it spurs me to look at ticket availability and ask myself how many times is enough…
The vibrancy of the production translates surprisingly well onto disc. The raucous energy of ‘Blow’ is one giant party, you’ll never hear ‘It’s My Life’ the same way again and the mash-up of ‘Problem’ and ‘Can’t Feel My Face’ remains an absolute standout, anchored by Miriam Teak-Lee’s confident delivery and Jordan Luke Gage’s pop freshness. Teak-Lee really is superb throughout, power and passion invested in every song, treating Max Martin’s with the artistic integrity it thoroughly deserves.
With a more analytical eye, the casual listener might be left a little unsure due to the structure of the track-listing, especially in the second half. The snippets of ‘As You As You Love Me’ and ‘It’s Gonna Be Me’ are more in-show gags than fully fledged musical numbers, so too the quirky version of ‘Overprotected’. But this is the only possible negative I can think of, no-one is going to come here expecting to replace their Britney/Backstreet Boys/NSync cassingles, instead this serves as a perky companion piece.
That said, Cassidy Janson’s soaring take on Céline’s ‘That’s The Way It Is’ ought to convince even the most stony-faced of nay-sayers, a relatively faithful cover that is all the more powerful for its simplicity. And the joy that is infused through Melanie La Barrie and David Bedella’s horn-fest of ‘Teenage Dream’ and ‘Break Free’ radiates far beyond the stage of the Shaftesbury (just listen to his accent!). La Barrie partners brilliantly with Teak-Lee too on ‘Oops I Did It Again’, which sounds great but really has to be seen to be fully appreciated, both for the opening gag and for the way La Barrie’s hips move. Which brings me back around to thinking about booking again. Definitely worth a listen.