‘Theatre is for everyone’: & Juliet aiming to inspire the next generation of performers

Get the latest from Beat


‘Theatre is for everyone’: & Juliet aiming to inspire the next generation of performers

& Juliet
Words by Tamara Vogl

Melbourne has become the third city in the world, behind London and New York, to stage the award-winning musical & Juliet.

The production proposes a simple premise – what would happen if Juliet survived the tragic ending of Shakespeare’s most famous love story? What isn’t simple, however, is its diverse exploration of gender and sexuality. Performing in one of Melbourne’s most popular venues, the Regent Theatre, & Juliet offers a fresh lens to delve into important subject matter that has often been neglected for mainstream consumption within our city. We chat with veteran musical theatre actress, Amy Lehpamer, about the importance of diversity, representation and working motherhood.

Explore Melbourne’s latest arts and stage news, features, festivals, interviews and reviews here.

& Juliet’s was written by Emmy Award-winning Schitt’s Creek writer David West Read and is stuffed full of bonafide pop hits courtesy of the legendary five-time Grammy Award-winning songwriter/producer Max Martin. Martin is the genius behind more number-one hits than any other artist this century and has penned music for Britney Spears, Taylor Swift, The Backstreet Boys, Katy Perry, Robyn and Celine Dion.

The Australian cast stars noughties Australian Idol legends Rob Mills as William Shakespeare and Casey Donavan as Angelique, alongside Amy Lehpamer as Anne Hathaway – not the actress, but Shakespeare’s wife. Lehpamer has earned her musical theatre chops over the past decade starring in productions including The Sound of Music and Dusty.

Serendipitously, before hearing that & Juliet would be coming to Australia, she had read Hamnet – a historical fiction novel all about Anne Hathaway and William Shakespeare, providing helpful background information on the pair’s relationship.

Upon the announcement of the upcoming Melbourne season of & Juliet, Lehpamer was keen to audition after hearing that the show was terrific and suspected the role could fit her age range and vocal style. But when she got the audition scenes, she says she was “bowled over in the best way”.

After an initial audition in Brisbane, this was the first hour Lehpamer had spent away from her newborn son. Her call-back in Sydney similarly posed complications as a new mother, where it proved to be a big logistical effort for Amy to fly with a four-week-old baby.

“Being a mum, even in my short experience of it, has informed so much of my role,” Amy explains.

“Time is a whole different experience to me now, and Anne feels that keenly. She has devoted herself to her domestic life and enters the play with a drive to reconnect with her husband, whose life is very different from hers. In the course of it, she reconnects to her own personhood and finds her voice. And she does it over the course of a couple of nights. Talk about time management!”

The show packs a punch with David West Read’s witty comedy, but also its contemporary exploration of themes of sexuality, gender and relationships. “Visibility is everything,” she says, “and wrapped in such a joyous package – it has been a true celebration of gender diversity on and off stage and I’m so lucky to be witness to it. Our trans and non-binary cast and crew are connecting with so much of our audience, too. It feels important and special, and necessary.”

Australian producer Michael Cassel had previously spoken on the effort placed on the diversity of the casting, reflecting that they wanted the people that the audiences see on stage to look like the faces they see around them in everyday life. Commenting on representation in the cast, she says, “Theatre is for everyone! And it really does have an effect on the next generation of performers. Kids in the audience will see themselves represented on stage and see a place for themselves one day. That’s incredibly important for the longevity of our industry, and for the relevance of it too.”

She also attributes part of the success of the show to the cast feeling represented and heard. The show was directed to give a lot of autonomy to every cast member, even down to the costuming, which allowed for individual personalities and preferences to shine through their characters.

& Juliet is currently playing in Melbourne at the Regent Theatre until June 4, 2023. Tickets are available exclusively through ticketek.com.au.