Exclusive: Casey Donovan Deems '& JULIET Gives You a Safe Space to Dream'

Direct from Melbourne, Australia, ‘& Juliet’ makes its Asia premiere at the Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands, Singapore, on Sept. 21, 2023.

By: Aug. 23, 2023
Exclusive: Casey Donovan Deems '& JULIET Gives You a Safe Space to Dream'

Singapore--In the nine-time Tony-nominated musical “& Juliet,” Juliet of William Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” did not stab herself to death and, ultimately, ran away from her selfish and conservative parents.  Looking for a fresh start, sans the now dead Romeo, Juliet finds herself on a road trip to Paris, together with her besties April and May, a non-binary person, and her loyal second mother, the Nurse, Angelique, played by popular Australian singer-actress Casey Donovan.

Best known for her star-making performance in “Australian Idol” (2004) and her impressive theater credits, including “Rent” (2015), “We Will Rock You” (2016), and “Chicago” (2019), Donovan originated the role of Angelique in “& Juliet’s” Melbourne premiere earlier this year.  She is set to reprise the same role when the show makes its Asian premiere this September at the Sands Theatre, Marina Bay Sands.

Jukebox musical “& Juliet,” much loved for its “what if” premise and its diverse and inclusive set of characters, written by Emmy winner David West Read, is even made more engaging with its LSS-inducing infusion of producer-songwriter Max Martin’s most popular songs.  Hit-after-hit, including “I Want It That Way” (Backstreet Boys), “…Baby One More Time” (Britney Spears), and “Teenage Dream” (Katy Perry), which Donovan’s Angelique sings with Broadway actor Hayden Tee in the show, guarantees a fun and perked up evening at the theatre.

“My character, Angelique, is the motherly figure to Juliet. She has raised Juliet from being a baby and has helped Juliet overcome many things,” Donovan says. “Angelique is very grounded and very loving. I love that Angelique has a level of love and care but also knows when to cut the nonsense.”

She adds: “There are many great scenes with Angelique. My favorite scene is the opening scene where you get to see the relationship between Angelique and Juliet—and it’s such a beautiful way to start the show.”

BroadwayWorld recently made an exchange of emails with Donovan, and we’re glad to share with you our tete-a-tete (now made public), where she answered our questions so eloquently.

BWW: Inclusivity, acceptance, and queer representation are front and center in “& Juliet.” Please give an example or two of how the show has sparked conversations on these essential concepts, especially those you experienced yourself.

Donovan: “& Juliet” is like a beautiful roller coaster touching on all topics about love, loss, hope, joy, self-exploration, and self-acceptance, and is a great conversation starter for all. It has been so beautiful meeting audiences after the show, and hearing it has uplifted them, made some reflect, and made people feel "seen" in a world where sometimes being your true authentic self doesn't come easy. “& Juliet” isn't just a musical; it is a safe space for all on and off stage, and I love that this show brings so much joy, love, and acceptance to all.

Exclusive: Casey Donovan Deems '& JULIET Gives You a Safe Space to Dream'
Original Australian company of & JULIET, including Lorinda May Merrypor (Juliet) and Casey Donovan (Angelique)

BWW: What songs of Max Martin in the show amplify more loudly about love in diverse forms? Did you read these songs the same way before “& Juliet”? If not, what has changed?

Donovan: For me, I think they all have such a beautiful poetic story beautifully weaved into each character’s storyline in "& Juliet" The one that I believe changed me was "Whataya Want from Me” (Adam Lambert). It has such a beautiful message intertwined into the characters of May and Frankie, and they do it justice every time!

BWW: In “& Juliet,” the actors often break the fourth wall to engage with the audience (talk about inclusivity!) How does that feel for you?

Donovan: (Hahaha) We are very inclusive here at "& Juliet" I think it's great fun, and when I'm in the audience, and the actors break the fourth wall, I feel like I'm "in on the joke," and it makes you feel part of what's happening on stage.

I think the way “& Juliet” breaks the fourth wall is very clever and inclusive and doesn't make fun of what's happening on stage, more on inviting the audience to be with us on the magical story that is “& Juliet.”

BWW: In Shakespeare’s original “Romeo and Juliet,” the youth challenged the norms and segregated society at that time; sadly, that is still happening today—with so little progress. How do you think we (the youth and the rest of society) should face these issues head-on, especially in the age of gender-neutral pronouns, artificial intelligence, and misinformation on social media?

There is so much going on in today’s world and the societies that we live in, and everyone is yelling to be heard, but sadly, not many people are listening. There are so many conversations and misinformation in today’s world that research is critical. There is a lot of anger in the world right now, too. Conversations must be led with our hearts and heads, not in the offense, to enable change and deal with specific issues.

Unfortunately, progress is slow, and any progress is good, but if conversations are being had, people should listen to what is being said and asked, then hopefully, one day, there will be a better way forward.

But such is life that there will always be something to stand for, fight for (respectfully) and strive for change in a constantly changing world. We must remember to lead with love even when the world is against us.

BWW: What kind of enlightenment, specifically on love beyond borders, would the audience, especially the more conservative ones, take away from “& Juliet”?

Donovan: “& Juliet” has something for everyone. This show is a show of second chances, empowerment, love, hope, and joy. This show is about inclusion and unapologetically being who you are with everyday challenges.

This show gives you a safe space to dream.

The one thing audiences will take away from “& Juliet” is joy, and who doesn't want a little more joy in their lives?

Exclusive: Casey Donovan Deems '& JULIET Gives You a Safe Space to Dream'
Casey Donovan (Angelique), Lorinda May Merrypor (Juliet)

In “& Juliet,” Donovan shares the stage with Lorinda May Merrypor (Juliet), Amy Lehpamer (Anne). Rob Mills (Shakespeare), Hayden Tee (Lance), and Blake Appelqvist (Romeo).

They are joined by Jesse Dutlow (May), Yashith Fernando (Francois), Georgia Anderson (Susanna), Jade Delmiguez (Eleanor), James Elmer (Kempe), Riley Gill (Imogen/Benvolio), Jerome Javier (Thomas), Giorgia Kennedy (Judith), Jordan Koulos (Richard), Sarah Murr (Lady Capulet/Nell), Coby Njoroge (Augustine), Jake O’Brien (Fletcher), Olay Roberts (Henry), Jacob Rozario (Gregory), Selina Salgadoe (Gwynne), Sean Sinclair (Lord Capulet/Sly), Nathan James Tamati (Cuthbert), Romy Vuksan (Margaret), Aadhya Wijegoonawardena (Viola), and Imani Williams (Lucy).

What if Juliet does not die at the end of Shakespeare's “Romeo and Juliet”? This jukebox musical, which made its world premiere at the Manchester Opera House in September 2019 and transferred to the Shaftesbury Theatre in the West End in November 2019, flips the pages of one of the most incredible love stories ever told. Get whisked away from Stratford-Upon-Avon to Paris as Juliet ditches her famous tragic ending for a fresh beginning and a second chance at life and love.

“& Juliet” opened on Broadway in November 2022, where it has been playing to packed houses and has broken box office records at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, previously held by “Beautiful, The Carole King Musical.”

The show’s original creative team includes David West Read (book), Max Martin (music and lyrics), Luke Sheppard (direction), Jennifer Weber (choreography), Bill Sherman (musical supervision, orchestrations, and arrangements), Soutra Gilmour (scenic design), Paloma Young (costume design), Howard Hudson (lighting design), Gareth Owen (sound design) and Andrzej Goulding (video and projection design).

Michael Cassel Group, with MTM/Leyline and presenter Base Entertainment Asia led by Chantal Prudhomme, brings “& Juliet” to Singapore.

“& Juliet” is produced on Broadway and internationally by Max Martin, Tim Headington, Theresa Steele Page, Jenny Petersson, and Martin Dodd.

In Singapore, “& Juliet” runs from Sept. 21 to Oct. 15, 2023.

Photos: Daniel Boud

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