Lorinda May Merrypor on &JULIET

One of the most well-known love stories in the world, Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet follows the tragic tale of two young lovers from feuding families, determined to be together despite the obstacles in their way.

But what if it wasn’t a tragedy? What if Juliet took control of her life? Enter: &Juliet.

The jukebox musical premiered in Manchester in 2019, before making its way to London’s West End and, most recently, Broadway. Features a soundtrack composed of catchy pop hits by Max Martin, including chart-topping songs like “Baby One More Time,” “I Want It That Way,” and “Roar,” the show offers a refreshing and innovative twist on the original narrative, exploring what might happen if Juliet didn’t die at the end of the play. With its dynamic choreography and stunning costumes, &Juliet provides a contemporary twist to the timeless tale. And now, Melbourne is the third city globally to experience the phenomenon, with the show opening soon at the Regent Theatre!

Lorinda May Merrypor

In the title role is breakout star Lorinda May Merrypor. A proud Kuungkari and South Sea Islander woman, Lorinda completed a Bachelor of Music Theatre at Queensland Conservatorium Griffith University. Past theatrical credits include Julie in The Sapphires (HIT Productions); Ti Moune in Once On This Island (Altitude Theatre); BeautifulThe Carole King Musical (Michael Cassel Group); American Idiot (Shake n Stir).

Has it been interesting working with a score full of pop songs?

Lorinda: Yeah, it’s really fun to do, because obviously this is the stuff that I would sing dancing around in my bedroom [laughs]. So to do this as a job is pretty cool, but it’s definitely a different style of singing to the classic musical theatre that a lot of us trained in or are used to. Getting our head around that has been a thing in itself, but also the team have been so great about us bringing our own individuality to the song, which is really cool. A lot of the time in musical theatre, songs have to be sung one way every time anyone sings it, but we’ve got a bit of a license to put our own stamp on them, which has been really fun.

Did you have a favourite?

Lorinda: It honestly changes most days, but I think one that stays the same in my top favourites is probably “Hit Me Baby One More Time” and also “Stronger.” I think the two big Britney songs they sing, because they both come at very different points in the show, but are very pivotal moments for Juliet. They’re just bangers to sing.

The Melbourne season marks the third concurrent production of &Juliet globally, after the West End and Broadway – how does it feel to be part of Music Theatre history?

Lorinda: It’s so often we hear about shows for years before they ever make it to Australia, so I think that’s something that’s really exciting for us as a cast, and also for Australian audiences – to have a fresh show up on our shores. Also, it’s been fun as a cast, getting to connect over Instagram with the Broadway and West End casts! I’ve been in contact with Miriam [-Teak Lee], who’s the West End Juliet, and also Lorna Courtney, who plays her on Broadway. We’ve all been chatting over Instagram!

Do you see any of yourself in Juliet?

Lorinda: Absolutely I do. Juliet has this joyfulness about her where she comes at every situation, even if it’s a very difficult one, with a sense of hope, which I think is really lovely and of inspiring to me. She also grows up in this show and she takes control of her own life. I think that’s a journey that a lot of people go through, and I know that it’s something, as a woman in my twenties, that I’ve been going through. Juliet tackles that whole journey with an absolute sense of joy, which is so fun to get to play, and it makes me feel happy getting to play her. It inspires me and I’m absolutely certain that it’s going to inspire a lot of people to come and watch the show as well.

The story of &Juliet champions empowerment, inclusivity, and love, with the Australian cast truly reflecting those values – what is it like being part of a company that embraces all backgrounds, cultures, and identities?

Lorinda: It’s been something that has bonded us a lot quicker, because we have so much respect and love for each other. And that translates through the work as well, with us all being able to bring our lived experiences. We all come from very different journeys, yes in terms of careers in musical theatre, but also in our lives up until this point. I think it really enriches the work having such a diverse company. We’re really lucky to have such a diverse group of us here that will bring different experiences. I am a First Nations woman playing Juliet, the romantic interest, a strong female lead, it feels incredible. I wouldn’t have ever thought when I was studying Romeo and Juliet in high school that one day I would play Juliet, because for so long my look, for example, has not been the ‘look’ of the romantic interest, you know? It feels very special to me to get to be up on a stage in such a big way, and with such a big audience, and hopefully getting to kind of inspire other little brown girls out there to really own their space and pursue their dreams, the same way that I have. It’s a dream I’ve had ever since I was a kid, and I really couldn’t have imagined it being like this.

&Juliet plays at Melbourne’s Regent Theatre from February 26th.

For tickets and more information, visit the &Juliet website.

Gabi Bergman

Gabi Bergman is a Melbourne-based performer and educator, and is the current Deputy Editor-in-Chief of AussieTheatre.com. She holds a Double Arts degree in Theatre Studies and Film/Screen Studies and a Master of Teaching (Secondary Education). Gabi has always been an avid lover of theatre, specifically musicals, and spends way too much money than she’d like to admit on tickets. Her most prized possession is her crate of theatre programs.

Gabi Bergman

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