There's been a distinct buzz surrounding the newest original musical to open in the West End for quite some time ever since it was announced, and that's in part due to what, on paper, is its wacky, audacious premise: taking the greatest love story ever told, and moulding it around the greatest pop hits of the last two decades.
But it's not quite as straightforward as that. By rearranging the songs of Max Martin for the stage - tunes like "...Baby One More Time", "Roar", "Backstreet's Back" and "Domino" (even if you haven't heard of Martin, you'll have his melodies ingrained in your head) - of & Juliet is an extension of Shakespeare's classic lovebirds, reimagining a different reality for Juliet. One where she doesn't feel the need to kill herself for young love, and one that presents Romeo as, well, a bit of a douche.
And it works. Really well. While there may be a flutter through the stalls as the audience recognises the next Martin banger begins, it quickly turns into joy as they are played out on stage. It's quite extraordinary how each song fits into this narrative so well, and is a testament to the messages in this original song and how they fit with the theme of this musical: empowerment, confidence and friendship.
That's in part why Martin, who spoke at the opening night party following the West End premiere, agreed to his songs being used. "People have approached me throughout the years to do something like this", he said, "and my point was always that I need a story that's intriguing and makes sense. I want people to come and see the show and, even if you don't know the songs, it has to have a captivating story, you have to be invested in the characters, and feel for the show".
The onus was then on director Luke Sheppard to deliver on the book writer David West Read had produced. "Our aim was to make a musical for everyone", Sheppard told LondonTheatre.co.uk, "a show that encapsulated that, whoever you are, you can be proud of you are".
You can hear more from Sheppard, Martin and the cast of & Juliet, including Miriam-Teak Lee, Cassidy Janson, Oliver Tompsett and David Bedella, in our opening night video above.