Wherefore art thou Juliet? Indigenous star leads local rendition of hit Broadway show – Sydney Morning Herald

When Lorinda May Merrypor was nine years old she watched High School Musical for the first time, and it changed her life.

“It was the first time I remember watching a musical, ” Merrypor says. “I vividly remember sitting there with my mum being like, ‘That’s what I’m going to do. I want to do that, where there’s singing and dancing plus acting all the same time’. And so, I started singing lessons straightaway. ”

Lorinda May Merrypor will play the lead role of Juliet in ‘& Juliet’ in Melbourne next year.

Lorinda May Merrypor will play the lead role of Juliet in ‘& Juliet’ in Melbourne next year. Credit: Eugene Hyland

Four years later she, along with the girl entire school year group in Rockhampton, watched Shakespeare in Love , the Oscar-winning film depicting William Shakespeare’s turbulent love life while he was writing Romeo & Juliet .

The meta and historically loose take on Shakespeare’s existence and work was Merrypor’s first experience of the perform. So, what do you do when your defining creative experiences are Senior high school Musical and Shakespeare? You get yourself cast as the lead in the self-referential, musical interpretation associated with one of the world’s most iconic love stories: & Juliet, which takes over Melbourne’s Regent Theatre next February courtesy of the Michael Cassel Group and the particular Victorian government’s major events fund.

An already accomplished 26-year-old music theatre performer, Merrypor is equally excited about the opportunity to belt out her favourite pop songs as she is about playing the titular character.

“Never in a million many years did We think I would be performing Britney Spears and Ariana Grande [on stage], ” Merrypor, an Aboriginal and South Sea Islander woman, says.

“This show gives me the opportunity to be very different things: the popstar, but also a musical theatre performer. And then I also get to do Shakespeare. I actually get the chance to perform these three amazing things that I’ve always wanted to do… at the same time. ”

If you’re wondering exactly what Britney plus Ariana have to do with Shakespeare, well, welcome to the wonderful world of the particular Olivier-award winning & Juliet .


The musical was written by David West Read, an Emmy-award winning writer and producer of Schitt’s Creek , and imagines a scenario where Juliet doesn’t die at the end of the original enjoy, and instead goes on the journey associated with self-discovery and empowerment, liberated from the conservative norms of the time.

The real genesis from the production was the music of Max Martin, the particular prolific Swedish songwriter who has created or co-written 25 Billboard number one songs including … Baby One More Time by Britney Spears, I Kissed a Girl by Katy Perry and Pink’s Raise Your Glass.

Martin’s back catalogue makes up & Juliet’s soundtrack, along with some of the world’s the majority of iconic pop songs used to both skewer and celebrate Shakespeare’s portrayal of Juliet and the story associated with the original play.

“I think …Baby One More Time is the one that I’m probably most thrilled for because of the way that it fits into the story and the arrangement that will they’ve done, ” Merrypor says. “It’s very dramatic. It’s almost like a ballad for Juliet. ”

Merrypor graduated from your Queensland Conservatorium in 2016, and many recently performed in a touring production of The Sapphires. & Juliet will be her debut guide role, and she describes this as the “dream”.

“Every woman has this dream of being completely able to be herself in any circumstance plus take control over the situations that she’s put in. So, it’s really exciting in order to get to tackle that. It’s something that I’m working towards in my personal lifestyle, having that will agency.

“I think this show will be very inspirational to a lot of girls growing up”: Lorinda May Merrypor

“I think this show will be very inspirational to a lot of girls growing up”: Lorinda May Merrypor Credit: Eugene Hyland

“I feel such as this is a role that I am likely to bring a lot of myself to, it feels really close in order to home and even throughout the audition process, I had a Zoom with Luke Sheppard, the particular director, plus he was very much telling me, ‘Sing this as your self, we want to hear Lorinda’. It’s amazing to be able to provide so a lot of personally to a role. ”

“I met a wide range of folks, ” says Sheppard, that directed & Juliet on London’s West End, Toronto and Broadway, as well as UK productions associated with Rent and In The Heights. “But from the moment Lorinda started singing … Baby 1 More Period I just remember going like, yeah, that’s it. ”

The casting from the & Juliet productions running in London and Broadway have been praised for their focus on diversity , yet Sheppard states inclusivity on stage is a “constant journey” as well as the creative team aren’t the kind of people in order to pat themselves on the back when it comes to representation. ”

“For me personally, it’s just as simple as representing the world that we live in today – plus that’s why I was particularly excited to work with Jordan Cassel Team, because I know that’s something is incredibly important to them– while well like [having] a good understanding that inclusivity and diversity does mean something different in each part of the globe. ”

The particular casting of an Indigenous lady as the lead in such high-profile production is still rare within Australian theater, and some thing Merrypor offers been thinking about since joining the production.

“If We got to go and see an Native woman actively playing the lead in a musical I had been watching as a teenager, yeah, I actually would absolutely cry. Because that representation would mean so much in order to me.

“I think this particular show will be very inspirational to a lot associated with girls developing up. Getting to have the role model like Juliet, who takes agency over her own living and story, it’s extremely inspirational. ”

The author travelled to New York City to view the Broadway manufacturing of & Juliet. Flights and accommodation were courtesy of the particular Michael Cassel Group.

& Juliet debuts in February 2023 at The Regent Theatre in Melbourne. Tickets are on sale now.

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