Stage Times: & Juliet star Miriam-Teak Lee

Miriam-Teak Lee talks going from dance competitions in school halls to becoming a West End leading lady

When someone draws up a list of the most memorable Juliets to grace the West End, Miriam-Teak Lee will definitely be high on the list. In a short space of time, the remixed love story & Juliet has built a cult audience and seen Lee take home the Best Actress award at the 2020 Olivier Awards for her captivating performance.

“People come and think, ‘OK, Romeo and Juliet‘, but they don’t really know what they’re gonna get; it’s completely different to any expectation,” Lee told us. “When they realise they know a lot of the music and that it’s really taking them on a journey, they actually start to see the poignant story of it and the messages of self-love and confidence and being true to who you are. People come out of the musical feeling really empowered in a way that they never expected. It’s an absolute dream for me to get to be a part of it.”

But it was far from the bright lights of the West End that Lee got her start. We spoke to her this week about some of her memorable moments on stage.

The First

Well, I used to perform in my local dance school. We used to do dance competitions so the first time I ever performed in front of a big audience was in a competition, but I was super shy. I was literally like five years old and I would forget my dance and run off the stage. So it’s crazy how things changed because it actually was because my brother – who’s a year and a half older than me – loved the arts and loves to perform. When we became duet partners, he was the one who inspired me and helped me find my confidence. And then I was like, “Ok, yeah, this is definitely where I want to be.”

But my first professional experience on stage was actually at Regent’s Park, in On the Town in 2017, where I played Clair de Lune. And that was just incredible. I think what I also loved was, it was the first time that I’d worked with people that weren’t just my age, you know, so to work with people that are completely different ages and so much older and just learn from them. And the fact that we all have that common ground of loving to perform was amazing.

The Best

There was a time when we were in dance competitions, my brother and I, and we were at the All-England finals. I was just not feeling right that day, like super uneasy and just a bit sick. I just didn’t know what was wrong with me, I was feeling dizzy and it was literally the finals. I was just telling myself, “I have to do this, I have to go and do this. I have to go out there and do it”.

So I went out and I remember I couldn’t even really see. I was just feeling where my brother was. It was by the grace of God that we got through the journey. I was so proud of myself after and I couldn’t believe it when we placed second. It was incredible.

A week later I found out I had measles, so I definitely was unwell.

The Worst… or was that also the worst?

It wasn’t the worst because it was such a rush because I just was like, “I’m gonna do this. We can do this” and we made it happen. We literally came second in all in the All-England finals. It was huge even if I wasn’t feeling 100% – it was pretty surreal. I’ll never forget that memory.

The Biggest 

I feel like that has to be & Juliet. This has definitely been such a huge, huge step in my career and to perform in front of all these people night after night and to be leading a company is a very surreal, special experience. When you’ve trained in musical theater, it’s kind of the pinnacle, it’s what you’re aiming to do. So it’s just amazing to be doing that and living the dream right now.

The passion drives me and I just love going out there every night and being in the moment, I kind of thrive off of that. I love all of that energy, and just the fact that it’s live theater, and we all experienced this, the cast and the audience at once, in real-time, is amazing.

The Smallest

It would definitely be back at competitions because we used to perform in the local school or something like that. So sometimes it would be so small, maybe just a few chairs out the front. I remember always trying to maneuver the dance and make sense of it on a much smaller stage but it was still great. But I’ll tell you one thing when it’s in a smaller venue, you know for sure if somebody likes it – you can literally see everyone’s faces.

The Weirdest  

There was a time when we were at Regent’s Park, it felt like lots of people were getting injured. It was almost like we felt we were cursed because someone got injured then the next week someone else got injured. Then a few days later, another person got injured. We lost so many people and had to bring in so many new cast members.

I was playing opposite this guy, Jeremy was his name, and I think in about week two, he injured his ankle. He pulled something and he literally had to pull out of the rest of the run, which was heartbreaking. I’d never experienced that before, just the changeover and having to deal with I was yeah, it was really bad.

The injuries felt constant, some happened in rehearsal and then some started happening on stage because it was very dark and obviously the show itself was great but at Regent’s Park, it’s very much dependent on the weather and it rained quite a bit so you’d have slippery stages. And so it was kind of just like a disaster waiting to happen.

Catch Miriam-Teak Lee in & Juliet at the Shaftesbury Theatre until March 2023. Get tickets here.