Lorna Courtney's '& Juliet' Tony nomination celebrates representation on Broadway
The first-time Best Actress nominee talks about representing Queens and the Black community, and why the musical is the kind of show audiences need right now.
Lorna Courtney is stronger than yesterday. One Tony Award nomination stronger, that is.
On May 2, Courtney earned a Best Actress nod for playing the title character in & Juliet, a spunky spinoff of Romeo & Juliet in which the heroine gets a new lease on life and love instead of an untimely death thanks to rewrites by Shakespeare's wife, Anne Hathaway. The show earned nine total nominations, including Best Musical, and you could hear the cast and creatives roar.
"We were all screaming, sending voice memos and texts," Courtney said.
Courtney made her Broadway debut immediately after graduating early from the University of Michigan, joining Dear Evan Hansen as a standby for two roles. She later became the understudy for Maria in 2020's brief West Side Story revival. & Juliet marks her first time originating a lead role on Broadway. In fact, of & Juliet's nine individual honorees, six — which include Broadway veterans and fresh faces — are up for a Tony for the first time.
To be honored for one's first major part is particularly meaningful — especially with 24-year-old Courtney being nominated alongside repeat honorees like Into the Woods's Sara Bareilles, Sweeney Todd's Annaleigh Ashford, and Kimberly Akimbo's Victoria Clark, plus Parade's Micaela Diamond — with whom Courtney shares a connection.
The morning of the Tony Award nominations, Courtney shared what her nomination and the recognition of & Juliet means to her — and why this larger-than-life show deserves celebration.
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How does it feel to earn a Tony nomination for your Broadway principal debut?
It is my first lead role in a Broadway show! I am feeling all of the emotions; I’m just overwhelmed and overcome with emotions in the best way possible.
It feels so great to be nominated and just represent my community as a person of color and as a New Yorker from Queens. I couldn’t be more proud of my show.
What does & Juliet mean to you?
It means so much to represent this show at this time. The show stands for everything positive and uplifting. It stands for multigenerational love, it stands for equality. It has a woman of color, a Black woman, in the leading role, and it’s representative of what Broadway should look like and what audiences are and what our world looks like. There are non-binary actors in our show, and it means the world.
It’s an uplifting show. Everyone is having so much fun. There’s so much love and support going on on stage, and it’s also the same way off stage.
It’s a great time to have this show on Broadway because we just came from the shutdown, and two years ago, we didn’t know where we were going to be, what we were going to be doing. Some of us, maybe, were doubting ourselves and wanted to change careers. But Broadway is back, and I’m just so thrilled for my castmates. I’m thrilled for all the other nominees. And I’m also thrilled for the people that weren’t represented in this year’s nominations because everyone is working really, really hard, and we’re doing the best to make Broadway alive again.
What do you expect the audience reaction to be like now that & Juliet is a Tony nominee?
The audience reaction is already crazy; I can only imagine how wild it will be tonight. But my job as the actor is to tell the story and stay grounded and focused and make sure they have the best time possible.
Are any other nominees particularly special to you?
One of the nominees, Micaela [Diamond], we actually went to high school together. She is a year younger than me. We were in Beauty and the Beast together, and I was Belle and she was Mrs. Potts. She is so phenomenal; I’m so happy for her. And we were just in high school! Now we’re nominated in the same category. It’s crazy.
It also feels amazing to be nominated alongside ... Audra McDonald is also nominated, of course, because she’s incredible, and she’s one of my musical theatre idols, so I’m so happy because that means she was watching this, and now she knows my name.
In one of my auditions, I actually met her in an elevator, and I was just so starstruck and stunned. This was when I was in college. My spring break, I went to New York, and instead of going on vacation, I signed up for the non-Equity list at 5 a.m. and just started auditioning for things. And here I am today, and it feels so great.
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This interview has been condensed and edited for length and clarity.
Photo credit: Lorna Courtney. (Photo courtesy of production)
Originally published on