Julie: The Musical – The Other Palace Studio, London

Reviewer: Dulcie Godfrey

Music, Book and Lyrics: Abey Bradbury

Director: Conor Dye

‘Let the show begin: my life will be an opera!’

It’s the opera-singing, sword-fighting, bisexual whirlwind, Julie D’Aubigny – reimagined in a delightful recreation in The Other Palace’s studio space. Abey Bradbury provides the excellent music and hilarious script and a noble recreation of the forgotten historical figure with a wonderfully ‘unnormal’ life.

A classic opening exposition song to explain the setting, introduce some characters and start off the show is purposefully missed over in this show, as the protagonist Julie D’Aubigny (Sam Kearney-Edwardes) explains ‘I’m not going to do that, because it’s my show and I don’t want to’. Defying expectations is Julie’s MO, so instead she sits on stage with her electric guitar, her band/fellow cast members behind her; that’s when Julie starts to tell her story.

It’s a big story: it starts with a high-ranking lover in Paris, running away with a wanted man through Southern France, joining the Marseille opera, falling in love with a woman, following her to a monastery, becoming a nun, burning said monastery down, running away with her ex-nun lover. And that’s just the first half (seriously). In a wonderful self-aware moment, the production acknowledges this ridiculousness after Julie is abandoned by her ex-nun lover, wondering what she is to do next ‘I’m seventeen! My life’s practically over.’

Despite the huge amount of content, Bradbury’s impressive songs carry the plot through seamlessly, aided as the whole cast shows off multi-instrumental skills and excellent singing; it’s a purely entertaining evening of music and theatre.

The cast is effortlessly funny in Bradbury’s text. The self-aware fourth wall breaks and a lovely on-stage dynamic between all cast members makes for a hugely engaging watch. Kearney-Edwardes’ powerful voice appropriately fills the stage as the effervescent Julie, rising to the challenge of such an outrageous historical figure. Each of the three others on stage manages to have their moment: Bradbury is bumbling farm boy turned opera star, Thevenard, Melinda Orengo on the cello gives a touching performance as one of Julie’s many lovers Marie, while Zachary Pang delivers numerous hilarious cameos.

It’s all wonderfully chaotic as the cast change their costumes on stage, swap instruments, juggle props, all while singing and dancing as a multitude of characters in perfect harmony. It’s an impressive feat given the action packed into the show; even slip-ups are forgiven in the playful atmosphere.

The ending, while nicely sentimental and beautifully performed, is occasionally confused within the story-telling and the extended length leads this final climax to lose the audience. Often not enough time is spent on exposition, prioritising jokes instead; although amusing, eventually the show starts to drag at the end of the second half. So, by the time we get to the emotion of Julie’s identity crisis and breakdown, it isn’t separated solidly enough from the raucous comedy and loses the punch it might have had due to the audience’s fatigue with so much action.

The resounding note, however, is an effective one. In her final lines Julie herself, a misunderstood woman who is not enough remembered, is able to give herself more time in the spotlight.

An overall raucous evening telling the tale of a woman with a wonderfully outrageous life, Julie: The Musical provides excellent songs, laughs and an education.

Runs until 30 June 2024

The Reviews Hub Score

A noble recreation

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The Reviews Hub - London

The Reviews Hub London is under the acting editorship of Richard Maguire. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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