Julie The Musical

“Outstandingly talented cast shine in chaotic herstory lesson"

After a solid run at the Edinburgh Fringe, and now continuing its tour at Manchester’s Hope Mill Theatre, Julie: The Musical tells the story of Julie D’Aubigny; worshipped opera singer, renowned swordswoman and flaming bisexual.

The show (with music, book and lyrics written by Abey Bradbury) was inspired by a meme that the self-confessed history nerd saw during the lockdown period of 2020. It’s great to see this chance encounter blossoming into its post-Fringe form that we were treated to tonight.

The plot is (mostly- no spoilers) based on facts, with an additional plot twist thrown in for good measure. Throughout the show we are taken on a whirlwind trip through Julie’s life; from her childhood with a duel-fanatic father to her untimely death aged 33. Along the way, we meet a somewhat dizzying display of characters, expertly played and crafted by the outstandingly talented cast.

The cast is comprised of five actor-musicians who all add their own unique spin to the show. Playing the title character is Sam Kearney-Edwardes whose dry comedic timing, hilarious ad-libs and powerful vocals lead the cast to triumph. The rest of the cast play multiple roles whilst also filling the position of orchestra throughout. Georgia Liela Stoller soars during her time as Marie De Florensac, in particular her opening number of Act 2. The rest of the cast is made up by Sophie Coward, Fabien Soto Pacheco and Alexander Tilley who combined physical comedy and hilarious facial expressions to ham up the chaotic humour the show portrayed; often breaking the fourth wall to make us a part of the joke.

Costume design by Abey Bradbury and Rebecca Cox were simple but effective with the use of props or a simple item of clothing to distinguish between characters. The sense of period but with a modern twist on the costumes was well executed, with identifiable nods to French fashion designers Chanel and Jean-Paul Gaultier.

The set was simple and reminiscent of other historically rooted musicals and resembled a rehearsal room backstage at an Opera House. With design by Rebecca Cox, the simplicity continued into a very basic light design package, which essentially flooded the stage with warm, white light. There were times when other colours were briefly added to the palette, however this was drastically underutilised, and opportunities were missed to add further depth to the show.

The plot was at times hard to follow which was not complimented by the sound, in particular the use of drums in the opening number which, seemingly due to sound levels being uneven, made it difficult to hear the cast sing their lines. However, this issue seemed to resolve during the more stripped back sections of the performance. This being said, both this and the somewhat chaotic plot can be forgiven due to the unapologetic nature of the show and its unashamedly catchy tunes.

The life of D’Aubigny continues to resonate within society today and this LGBTQIA+ story successfully brings attention back to the fact that queer culture has always existed. All this with the addition of laugh out loud gags, twerking nuns, kazoos and swordfights aplenty, this show puts Julie D’Aubigny back centre-stage where she belongs!

This show was reviewed on the 21st June 2023.  Julie The Musical runs at the Hope Mill Theatre until the 24th June 2023.  Tickets available here: JULIE: The Musical – Hope Mill Theatre

Review written by Lee Gregory

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