Betty Who Takes on Broadway: From Pop Star to Persephone

Australian pop star Betty Who, known for their queer stage presence and catchy synth-pop tunes, makes their Broadway debut as Persephone in the acclaimed musical Hadestown.

Betty Who, the stage name of Jessica Newham, has long been a beloved figure in the pop music scene, captivating audiences with their infectious energy and unique blend of Eighties pop and synth influences. However, their latest venture has taken them into uncharted territory – the world of Broadway. In an unexpected turn of events, Newham has taken on the role of Persephone in the hit musical Hadestown, showcasing their versatility as an artist and performer. This article explores Newham’s journey from pop star to Broadway actor and the challenges and triumphs they have encountered along the way.

A New Role, A New World

Newham’s foray into Broadway began with their casting as Persephone in Hadestown, a Tony Award-winning musical that reimagines the ancient myth of Orpheus and Eurydice with a folk-pop twist. While Persephone is a supporting role, her character is a vital force in the show, bringing life and vitality to the stage. Newham admits to feeling like a fish out of water in the world of theater, but they embrace the challenge and the opportunity to explore a new artistic medium.

From Cello to Pop Stardom

Before their success as Betty Who, Newham was a classically trained cellist with dreams of a career in music. They dabbled in pop music while pursuing their cello studies, eventually signing with RCA Records in 2013. Over the past decade, Newham has built a dedicated queer fanbase and evolved their sound and gender presentation. Their gender fluidity and unique style, combining masculine and feminine elements, have become a signature of their pop persona.

Embracing the Feminine

In Hadestown, Newham fully embraces the feminine aspects of their character, Persephone. With a curly ombre wig, voluminous dresses, and towering heels, they embody the divine feminine, a departure from their usual gender presentation. Newham sees this as an opportunity to explore a different facet of their identity and fully immerse themselves in the role. The contrast between their pop persona and their portrayal of Persephone adds depth and complexity to their performance.

A Different Kind of Love Story

As Persephone, Newham shares the stage with their co-star, Phillip Boykin, who plays Hades. Together, they bring a new dynamic to the relationship between the Greek gods. Newham’s natural warmth and joy infuse the role with a sense of playfulness and flirtation, transforming the traditionally moody and intense relationship into one that is relatable and emotionally resonant. Their performance highlights the enduring love and the eons of misunderstanding between Hades and Persephone.

Navigating Criticism and Staying True

Newham’s casting in Hadestown has faced some backlash from die-hard fans who believe they are not the right fit for the role. However, Newham remains steadfast in their commitment to the job and the authenticity of their performance. They acknowledge the criticism but choose to focus on the genuine connection they create with the audience every night. They trust the people who believed in them and gave them the opportunity to shine on Broadway.


Betty Who’s transition from pop star to Broadway actor has been a transformative and rewarding experience. Through their portrayal of Persephone in Hadestown, they have embraced a new side of themselves and brought their unique energy and talent to the stage. Despite facing criticism, Newham remains dedicated to their craft and continues to surprise and delight audiences with their authenticity and passion. As they look towards the future, Newham is excited for the next chapter in their career, ready to explore new opportunities and continue pushing boundaries.






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