Interview: West End & Television Star Melanie La Barrie Talks & JULIET Broadway Debut

La Barrie shares how it feels to be making her Broadway debut at almost 50 years old, bringing the role of Nurse over from the West End, her favorite song and more!

By: Feb. 20, 2023
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Interview: West End & Television Star Melanie La Barrie Talks & JULIET Broadway Debut
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Melanie La Barrie is currently making her Broadway debut in the role of Nurse in & Juliet!

A West End and television star, having appeared on screen in EastEnders, on stage in Wicked, Les Misérables, and many more, La Barrie originated the role of Nurse in & Juliet in the West End! Her Broadway debut with the role has come to her at 48 years old.

In the latest edition of BroadwayWorld's Debut of the Month, La Barrie shares with us how it feels to be making her Broadway debut, bringing the role of Nurse over from the West End, her favorite Max Martin song and more!

Read the full interview and check out photography by BroadwayWorld's own Jennifer Broski below!

You are a very established performer, you've starred on television in EastEnders, in the West End in Wicked, Les Misérables, Ragtime and so much more. How does it feel to be making your Broadway debut at this stage in your career?

You know, I kind of love it. I love it not just for me, but for everybody who is coming up. Sometimes as we age we feel like life is running out on us, and that the things that we thought we were going to do by our 20s and by our 30s - we all have those lists - we feel like time is running out. And so, I really enjoy it for myself, I love doing new things. And to have a brand new special thing like being on Broadway come to me at nearly 50 years old, it's such a magic thing. But also, showing people, "Hey, we're not finished until we're finished," and "Don't throw in the towel just yet, because you never know what kind of life surprises can be thrown at you."

& Juliet

You've been with this character of Nurse for many years, you originated it in the West End. How does it feel to have been with this character for so long, and how has the character evolved from then to now?

I've been with her since 2017, since the very first workshop of the show in the UK. It changes with every Juliet, and that's quite a nice thing, because every Juliet needs something different from me, some are a little more independent, some rely on me a little more. And so, it really teaches me to be present always, because I don't know what's going to turn up. And it's so nice to be brought in to cultivate so many beautiful and different relationships.

She's so surprising, I always say you can never really practice all of the parts of a character, because you're affected by so many things, you're affected by your day, and the audience as they come in, and the people that you're onstage with. And so, she can always be surprising. Sometimes I don't always quite know what she's going to be until I run onto the stage. She always turns up in the way that she turns up, and that's quite a nice thing to have happen.

What has it been like working with this amazing company?

& JulietOh, I love these kids so much, I love every single one of them! It's really extraordinary. & Juliet really picks the best of the best. To come from the UK where we had Miriam-Teak Lee, Cassidy Janson, Oliver Tompsett, David Bedella and more working so beautifully and brilliantly on stage, to come and share the stage with such Broadway stalwarts like Stark Sands and Betsy Wolfe, and the amazing Tony Award winning Paulo Szot, it's a dream for me.

But also, to be met with the next generation of stars, Lorna Courtney is a supernova, and she's part of the firmament of Broadway superstars now, I believe. To be there at the beginning of that, and to watch her grow... and to also be there with people breaking the mold like Justin David Sullivan, who, they are just really strong and showing people that Broadway is for all of us. To be there at that time with such great activism, and such great strength, I am humbled to share the stage with such beautifully strong, wondrous human beings.

How did it feel to take that first Broadway bow?

I remember Richie Ridge saying to me, when we had an interview in Toronto, he said to me, "Don't let it overwhelm you because you only ever have one Broadway debut, so you must make sure to take it all in, and don't let it pass by in a haze." And that came so strongly into my head at that time, on the first night. I'm thinking about it now and I could cry from the joy of it. I remember just standing there thinking, "Take it in, take it in, because this will never happen again." It was overwhelming, yes, but so incredibly special. I feel like in my heart and in my mind, my Broadway debut bow, and that show in particular is in a crystal case and I can take it out every so often and look at it, and say, "That happened to you, and you were there for it, and you remember all of it."

Two-part question, do you have a favorite Max Martin song, and a favorite song to perform in the show?

That is one of the most difficult questions to answer! My most recent favorite Max Martin& Juliet song is Lizzo's 'Special'. It's absolutely beautiful, I remember listening to it and tears welling up in my eyes, and it's beautifully performed by Lizzo. It's kind of like a life motto. It's the thing I want to hear, and also the thing that I challenge myself with letting people know every day, "In case nobody told you today, you're special." I feel that when I leave my home, and I close my door, and I face the outside world, that my duty is to make people know that they are here for a purpose and their purpose is unique to them, and it's nobody else's purpose. It's the anthem of my life that I didn't know that I needed, or I didn't know had existed yet. It's wonderful.

My favorite song to perform in the show... I get to do so many fun things! Like 'Domino' and 'Teeange Dream' and 'Break Free'! It's also very tiring at my age to be running around and doing all of that! [laughs]. But I think my favorite song to perform is 'Perfect' by Pink because it is a quiet moment. And most of the time when I'm onstage I'm just running. I'm running from stage left to stage right to back again to stage left! And I get to sing a verse and the chorus of 'Perfect', but to get to share that one quiet moment with my Juliet, and also with the rest of the players, it's a very, very special time for me.