Julie the Musical

Julie the Musical
Reviewers Rating

Writer Aby Bradbury has uncovered a fascinating real-life character whose story she brings to life in this awards-winning musical  which was one of the finalist for Best New Musical at the Off West End Awards – and rightly so. The musical is based on the life of a seventeenth-century sword-wielding, French Amazon, Julia D’Aubigny who seduced women and was chased by men – ‘a flaming bisexual’. She fought duels, sang her way through Paris and Brussels opera houses, and was put on trial as a man. All great stuff for a historian, but I had never heard of her.

All four actors show off their skills playing multi-characters and an array of musical instruments doubling up on guitars, accordion, cello, ukulele, drums and kazoos.  Dressed in white stockings, ribbons and fishnet tights they sing their way through twenty-five songs which moves the action forward in this fun romp through a camp version of Louis XIV’s France.

The title character is exuberantly played by Sam Kearney-Edwardes who challenges the audience from the start with her audacity: You want to know about the time I fucked a nun don’t you?’ It needs the gusto of Sam Kearbery-Edwards to pull off Julie, conveying her confidence, brashness and vulnerability.

We are introduced to Julie as the 15 year old enfant terrible, though in an aside we learn she was ‘seduced’ two years previously by the King’s Master of Horse, Count D’Armanac. To his credit, he always looks after her interests. He marries her off to a dull husband who is quickly dispatched as a tax official far away so she can stay as an exotic ornament to the court. Feeling confined, she runs away with her fencing master, the first of many scenes where she creates a commotion and then makes a quick exit. In the most infamous exploit, she falls in love with a merchant’s daughter who is removed to a convent to protect her.  Julie takes vows to enter the convent, then sets fire to it so they can escape.

This is almost certainly how the real Julie D’Aubigny lived her life, trailing havoc in her wake, but the scenarios are picaresque, following one event after another without much of a plot. This matters less than it should as the comedic timings and script is fun enough to offer diversions for the audience. The events are played for laughs, even Julie’s subsequent trial, where she cannot be tried as a woman as women do not have sex together, and anyway lesbians don’t exist (as the trial judges sing).

Julie harms herself and others: She frequently duels; she stabs Count D’Albert through the shoulder but nurses him back to health; while singing at the opera in Brussels, she stabs herself live on stage to get a man’s attention. You can see the drama she creates. Towards the end, we see another, more vulnerable side to her which is a welcome contrast.

At two hours long, there is a lot packed into this musical, and maybe it could have been a bit shorter. This (‘So this is how it starts’) which establishes Julie’s inner self is the most memorable song.

It’s good to see Melinda Orengo again, previously on the London stage in Police Cops The Musical, here showing more of her talents, for playing the cello and electric guitar. Abey Bradbury’s talent as comedic actress, writer of book, lyrics and music is impressive. Zachary Pan is delightful as various characters, playing D’Albert, a prancing woman and a squeaky king. The cast swap male and female roles making for a splendid gender fluid performance. It is a great pleasure to see a musical stretching itself, with le Gasp! productions moving beyond the boundaries of the usual offerings. Go see!


Genre: Musical

Book, Music & Lyrics: Abey Bradbury

Cast: Sam Kearney-Edwardes, Melinda Orengo, Zachary Pang, Abey Bradbury

Director: Conor Dye

Performance: 14 June 2024 – 30 June 2024

Running Time: 2 hours plus 15 mins interval