MOST of us will be familiar with the story of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet - the ill-fated couple who pay the ultimate sacrifice for their love for each other.

But what would happen if Juliet had decided to put down the dagger and choose life rather than death?

That’s the premise of the new musical & Juliet which has its world premiere in Manchester next week where it will run at the Opera House before heading off to London’s West End.

Miriam-Teak Lee has the task of bringing the unlikely heroine to life in a show which she admits ‘ will take audiences by surprise’.

One of the key reasons will be the fact that & Juliet is a musical - and not just any musical. For it uses the songs of Max Martin, the Swedish songwriter who has penned hits for the likes of Britney Spears, Ariane Grande, Kelly Clarkson and Katy Perry.

“It is very different,” said Miriam-Teak, who at 24 is already a veteran of musicals like Hamilton and On The Town.

“It’s so clever the way the songs come in and the lyrics are so empowering. One of my favourites is in Hit Me Baby One More Time which is the first time we see Juliet. It’s completely different from the Britney Spears song. Juliet’s asking the stars what she should so. She’s asking ‘give me a sign’ and she doesn’t know what her destiny is. It’s really clever.

“It just takes it all to a whole other level.”

Amazingly none of the lyrics from Max Martin’s songs have been changed for the show.

“That’s the real genius, merging the scripts with Max’s lyrics,” said Miriam-Teak.

Working with so many well-known songs forming the basis of the show, Miriam-Teak acknowledges she has had to work on not just performing a cover version of the originals.

“The audience will know the songs but it will be a rollercoaster for them hearing songs they know but in a way they’ve not heard before,” she said.

“For me the key to all of it is letting go of the way I know the way songs were done originally. You have to listen to the lyrics and the music and the way it comes together. It just takes you to a different place,”

Part history lesson, part fantasy and part concert, Miriam-Teak cannot wait to bring & Juliet to the stage.

“It’s really full on and at times has a real concert vibe,” she said. “It’s like a pop legend of the 16th century teamed with the pop music of the 21st century. It is amazing.”

With curtain up less than a week away, the final preparations are being made. This week the cast got to see the stage for the first time.

“When you stand on that stage and start doing the material it just comes to life,” said Miriam-Teak.

“It’s at that point that after all the rehearsals you realise ‘this is happening’. Even going into the seats and looking back at the stage gives you a whole other feeling.

“But the final component is the audience. They are the last piece in the puzzle.”

Being part of a new show means that the cast have had a chance to put their own stamp on their particular roles.

“When you are in a well-established show it can be fairly prescriptive,” said Miriam-Teak. “But with & Juliet the scripts have change all the time. David, the writer, has listened to what we are doing in rehearsal and taken on board our observations of the way our character would behave and often amended the script to take this into account.”

Miriam-Peak is excited to be able to shed new light on to Juliet.

“Even in Shakespeare’s original I think she has an inner strength. After all she’s the one who says to Romeo, ‘look if we’re serious about this, then we should go and get married’.

“But now we really get the chance to give her free rein to release that strength

“I really responded to the idea of her taking power into her own hands, the fact that she put herself in the driving seat of her own life. It’s a very modern approach.”

Director Luke Sheppard agreed. He said: “There is nothing safe about this show. It’s bold. It takes risks and I like that. Juliet chooses life, not death and responds like any young woman would: she resolves to make her own decisions.

And he shares the casts’ enthusiasm to bring the show to life.

“I really believe we have something pretty special that the world doesn’t yet know a huge amount about,” he said. “It’s like having a secret you want to share with everyone.

“When I was approached about the show I immediately saw a way I could make it work both as a spectacle and as a piece of entertainment with real heart. I was struck by its originality, the fact that it can’t easily be categorised.”

For Miriam-Teak, the chance to open in Manchester is particularly special.

“I’ve never performed on stage in Manchester before,” she said. “We came up for Pride last weekend and did a couple of numbers from the show and the reaction was astonishing. I love the feel of the city already.

“It’s such an incredible feel-good show that can be enjoyed by everyone from grandparents to their grandchildren. But then it’s a story everyone can relate to.”

n & Juliet, Manchester Opera House, Tuesday, September 10 to Saturday, October 12. Details from 0844 871 3018 or