Bell Shakespeare announces full cast for world premiere of The Lovers

Bell-Shakespeare-The-Lovers-Natalie-Abbott-Blake-Appelqvist-and-Brittanie-ShipwayBell Shakespeare has revealed the full cast of the upcoming production and world premiere of The Lovers – a pop musical written by young Australian writer and composer Laura Murphy reimagining Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream with a fresh and infectious original score.

Presented at Sydney Opera House from 23 October – 20 November 2022, the production will feature some of the best voices in Australia’s musical theatre scene, including Natalie Abbott, Blake Appelqvist, Brittanie Shipway and Jerrod Smith. Previously announced cast members include Stellar Perry, making her musical theatre debut, and Monique Sallé.

The young cast features some of Australia’s most exciting voices:

  • Stellar Perry makes her musical theatre debut as Oberon. The 2020 finalist of The Voice, Stellar Perry has co-written, co-produced and top lined for songs with DJ’s and Producers worldwide for almost two decades with several reaching the top of the Dance charts in the US and Australia.
  • Monique Sallé is a rising star in musical theatre and will star as the mischievous Puck. Sallé’s most recent roles include originating the role of Janette in ATYP’s debut Australian musical The Deb earlier this year and starring in the 25th Anniversary production of RENT as Maureen at the Sydney Opera House.
  • Natalie Abbott takes on the role of Helena. An actress, singer and performer, Abbott’s love of performing began back in 2013 after winning the Bell Shakespeare regional performance scholarship, and this marks her first role in one of the company’s productions. Abbott recently appeared as the leading role of Muriel Heslop in the national tour of Muriel’s Wedding The Musical in 2019, as Phebe in As You Like It with the Melbourne Theatre Company, and in the ABC TV series Aftertaste.
  • Blake Appelqvist stars as Demetrius. A Maori (Ngati Porou) and Swedish multidisciplinary artist, Appelqvist recently played Harry on the Aria-nominated Fangirls World Premiere Cast Recording (Ghostlight). Their previous musical theatre credits include Oaken in Frozen, Miss Understanding in Priscilla Queen of the Desert, Ziegfeld Tenor in Funny Girl, Esteban in Kiss of the Spiderwoman, West Side Story, Ghost, and Angel in Kinky Boots.
  • Brittanie Shipway stars as Hermia. A singer, actor, writer and dramaturg, Shipway recently wrote and starred in her debut play A Letter for Molly at Ensemble Theatre which was a semi-finalist in the Rodney Seaborn Playwrights Award in 2021. Brittanie is a recipient of the prestigious Dreaming Award from Australia Council of the Arts and her latest play, Senser, will debut in late 2022 at Theatre Works. Currently, Brittanie is developing a new Gumbaynggirr musical, Yellow Rock. Her other performing credits include starring alongside Natalie Bassingthwaite and Paulini as the Arbiter in Chess, Kay in a national tour of The Sapphires, The Witch in Big Fish, Claire in Ordinary Days, Lauren in Kinky Boots, Mary in Jesus Christ Superstar, Fanny Brice in Funny Girl and Bianca in Othello.
  • Jerrod Smith will star as Lysander. Smith grew up in a large musical family and was encouraged to pursue his skills in performance at a young age. He graduated from the Queensland Conservatorium with a Bachelors Degree in Musical Theatre, and has since been touring Australia as a professional actor and musician, performing alongside talents such as Patti Lupone, Lucy Durack and Josh Piterman. Most recently he stared in The Mitchell Old Company’s production of Heathers in the role of J.D. Jerrod is currently writing, recording and performing his original music.

One of Australia’s most exciting playwrights at the forefront of composing new Australian work, Laura Murphy has been developing this project for the past 12 years. The Lovers will give audiences a fresh perspective on Shakespeare’s classic tale, exploring the magic and mishaps of romantic love, with original pop songs sung by the cast and accompanied by a live band.

The production will be directed by award-winning director Shaun Rennie (Rent, Baby Doll) with a bright and vibrant aesthetic realised by set and costume designer Marg Horwell, who was behind the design of the recent critically acclaimed production of The Picture of Dorian Gray at Sydney Theatre Company.

The Lovers has been my passion project for the past 12 years and it’s an absolute dream for me to see it finally coming to life,” said Writer Laura Murphy. “I am so excited to announce the full cast and am blown away by their talent.”

“These are truly some of the best musical talents Australia has to offer, and I can’t wait to see what they do with the roles as we start rehearsing.”

“For this production, I wanted to take Shakespeare’s text and look at how it relates to us now, by reinventing it with a contemporary voice through original lyrics and a modern pop score.”

“Our infatuation with romantic love began long before Shakespeare was writing about it 400 years ago, and The Lovers explores how those narratives have either evolved or remain the same today,” said Murphy.

“We’ve been looking for a musical project for a while now, but it had to be the right one,” said Bell Shakespeare Artistic Director Peter Evans. “When I saw one of the first workshops of Laura’s work, I knew we had found something special, and I think it will be around for a long time.”

Director: Shaun Rennie | Featuring: Natalie Abbott, Blake Appelqvist, Stellar Perry, Monique Sallé, Brittanie Shipway, Jerrod Smith | Music Director: Andrew Worboys | Designer: Marg Horwell | Lighting Designer: Trent Suidgeest | Sound Designer: David Bergman | Choreographer: Yvette Lee | Fight & Intimacy Director: Nigel Poulton | Writer & Composer: Laura Murphy

The Lovers
Playhouse – Sydney Opera House, Bennelong Point (Sydney)
Season: 23 October – 20 November 2022

For more information, visit: for details.

Image: Natalie Abbott, Blake Appelqvist and Brittanie Shipway to star in The Lovers – courtesy of Bell Shakespeare