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Review: JULIE: The musical at Hope Mill Theatre is ‘a fever dream soundtracked by kazoo filled chaos’

Step into a world of kazoo-filled chaos and queer iconography as "JULIE: The Musical" brings to life the tumultuous and captivating story of Julie D'Aubigny, a forgotten historical figure.

JULIE: The Musical

For most people, the name Julie is not synonymous with a worshipped opera singer, a renowned swordswoman or a flaming bisexual, after seeing JULIE: The Musical it will never be anything else.

Focussing on the action-packed and unpredictable life of the eponymous Julie D’Augbiny, JULIE: The Musical feels like a fever dream as it condenses her life into two hours of kazoo-filled chaos complete with dead nuns and plenty of illegal duels.

After running away from her husband with her fencing master, Julie D’Augbiny explodes on the Paris Opera scene and quickly gains a reputation for her natural talent and affinity for trouble that comes to define her life and legacy.

By my count, there are at least fifteen roles played by a cast of five. Despite this almost insane division of parts, JULIE: The Musical feels like every actor is in a leading role.

Fantastic Sam Kearney-Edwards

Sam Kearney-Edwards is (Beanstalk!) fantastic as Julie. Moving between emotional and hilarious with ease all while belting out operatic arias. They had the audience in the palm of their hand and seemed truly comfortable in this role.

Georgia Liela Stoller (Carrie: The Musical) has a beautiful voice and transitions from lecherous fencing instructor to the most beautiful woman in France in the blink of an eye.

Sophie Coward

Sophie Coward (Giraffes Can’t Dance) wears many hats (and false moustaches) including stage manager, and excels at all of them. Each character she plays is distinct but never blurs together. Her performance provides many laughs and is one of the most memorable aspects of the musical.

Alexander Tilley (Our Island) stole many a scene as the prima donna farm boy turned Opera star Thevenard. Tilley is naturally talented and incredibly funny.

Fabian Soto Pacheco (9 to 5) masters several accents with ease and switches from guitar to percussion back to kazoo all in the space of a song. They add so much to every scene and, along with everyone else, he is indispensable.

The set design (Rebecca Cox) is extremely sparse but very effective. With just a well-placed chaise lounge and a few feather boas, the settings mentioned are conjured from thin air. Whether it’s a convent ablaze or a dusty road on the way to Paris, nothing seems out of reach.

With music, book and lyrics by writer/ director Abey Bradbury, the songs in JULIE: The Musical are truly an eclectic mix. Mainly, they are reminiscent of an Off-Broadway show from the late 1990’s/ early 2000’s- think Spring Awakening but with more kazoos.

Right from the start, the pace is breakneck. This can make the story a little hard to follow at times but as long as you go with the flow you’ll be absolutely fine. The story doesn’t feel rushed, but rather purposefully turbulent to reflect Julie’s own life.

The lighting directs the audience’s attention and lends to the general air of debauchery. In addition to this, it often provides a punchline.

The costumes (designed by Abey Bradbury and Rebecca Cox) are an anachronistic mix of platform boots and corsets that the real Julie D’Aubigny would probably delight at. Each outfit feels intentionally designed to invoke the general feel of a French court with all the joy of playing dress up as a child.

JULIE: The Musical is a love letter to a forgotten icon and a testament to the power of queer people telling queer stories.

For so long, our contributions and achievements have been ignored or belittled, but JULIE: The Musical celebrates all of Julie D’Augbiny’s. No Matter how messy they may have been. JULIE: The Musical is a love letter to the person we know Julie was and who she might have been.

JULIE: The Musical is at Hope Mill Theatre until  24th June 2023.

Tickets are available by clicking here.

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