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& Juliet
Photograph: Courtesy Matthew Murphy& Juliet

Critics' choice theatre shows in Melbourne

The best new and upcoming Melbourne theatre, musicals, opera and dance

Written by
Time Out editors
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Our theatre critics spend a scary amount of time sitting in dark rooms, so they usually know what it takes for a production to light up Melbourne's stages. Here are all their tips for the best shows to see right now

For more Melbourne theatre information, check out our latest reviews and our guide to scoring cheap theatre tickets.

Critics' choice Melbourne shows

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Melbourne
  • Recommended
My first encounter with the viridescent power of Wicked was through the sliding door of a suburban dance studio. Face pressed against the glass, I strained to hear the optimistic refrains of ‘One Short Day’, eyes bulging and dopamine levels skyrocketing. So widespread is the pop-cultural impact of this fan favourite musical, that half of Melbourne likely has a similar memory of discovering Wicked.  This faithful revival of the bewitching blockbuster sees the show fly into Melbourne for the third time in 15 years with an abundance of pine-hued pizazz, after celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Broadway premiere at the Sydney Lyric Theatre. It’s also worth noting that the Gregory Maguire novel that forms the basis of the plot was published back in 1995. After all this time, it’s only fair to check in and ask: does Wicked remain evergreen? The costumes, choreography and sets are as slick as they come, which is exactly what’s expected from a show that’s had this many chances to get it ‘right’. This version of Wicked is not reinventing the wheel – instead it’s the cast who keep the cogs turning in a fresh way.   There’s no mistaking that these performers are magical. While Melbourne always loves to get a show before Sydney, our advantage here is that the cast has had time to fully take command of their characters – and they’re flourishing.  Courtney Monsma’s G(a)linda is slap-your-knees, let-out-a-squeal funny. She re-shapes the virtue-signalling mean girl role and makes Glinda
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Southbank
  • Recommended
After acclaimed performances in Sydney last year, Melbourne Theatre Company is bringing Julia to the Southbank Theatre stage from May 31 until July 13. This production from Sydney Theatre Company and Canberra Theatre Centre documents one of the most pivotal moments in Australian political history: former Prime Minister Julia Gillard's famous 2012 'misogyny speech'. Demand for this play looks to be robust, so we recommend heading to the Melbourne Theatre Comany website to secure your tickets sooner rather than later. Time Out Sydney reviewed Julia when it played at the Opera House in 2023. Read on for that four-star review:  When Julia Gillard’s distinctive ocker voice first emerged from Justine Clarke’s mouth on Opening Night of Sydney Theatre Company’s production of Julia, the audience literally gasp-screamed. It was, without mincing words, pretty freaky.  STC’s production of Julia is a long-awaited response to one of the most iconic (and spicy) speeches made in Australian history. Written by Joanna Murray Smith, directed by Sarah Goodes, and starring national treasure Justine Clarke as Julia Gillard herself, this deeply Australian story is an amorphous re-imagining of all the forces that led up to that moment in 2012 when Julia Gillard so perfectly and viscously roasted Tony Abbott in the House of Representatives.  Julia is an intoxicating and fascinating experience that hits something deep and resounding within us We all know *that speech* (and if you don’t, watch it right
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  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Parkville
  • Recommended
Melbourne Uni’s swish new, blue-hued Union Theatre seats 398 people. It’s a number made quietly devastating by Western Sydney playwright S Shakthidharan’s sprawling family epic Counting and Cracking.  Spanning almost 50 years, four generations and multiple countries – connecting Colombo, the capital city of Sri Lanka, to Sydney – much of what occurs is informed, one way or another, by the terrifying devastation of Sri Lanka’s Civil War. The fighting was ignited by the Black July riots of 1983, a pogrom that cruelly claimed countless souls. Bob Hawke’s Labor government offered 100 visas to the predominantly Tamil minority fleeing the country-wide wave of violence, or one for every fourth audience member. A pin-drop moment. But there’s much more on offer here than grasping despair.  It’s been five long years since Belvoir St Theatre first presented Counting and Cracking at the Sydney Town Hall during the 2019 Sydney Festival. Having travelled around the world since, snapping up a bunch of awards along the way, it’ll land in New York in September. But first, Melbourne audiences can see this glorious work of love and understanding as part of Rising.  Opening with a flourish of culture-clash comedy, an abundantly effervescent Shiv Palekar’s awkwardly topless Siddhartha is deeply uncomfortable about wading into the Georges River. He’s been ordered to do so by his overbearing yet bountifully loving mum Radha (a fabulously commanding Nadie Kammallaweera) to ceremonially scatter the a
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Melbourne
  • Recommended
When Red Stitch Actors' Theatre put on Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in late 2023, the gripping play enjoyed a critically acclaimed run. Now, in a historic partnership between Red Stitch, GWB Entertainment and Andrew Henry Presents, the production is returning for a mainstage commercial season at the Comedy Theatre in June and July.   For the first time in Red Stitch's 23 year history, the Melbourne-born theatre company has secured a commercial partnership which will see the production transferred from its 80-seat converted church hall home, to a mainstage theatre. This landmark partnership is reminiscent of arrangements common in major theatre capitals like London and New York, where independent theatre productions often transfer to the mainstage. Time Out reviewed Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? during its initial run last year. Read on for our 2023 review of the production. The Red Stitch Actors' Theatre in St Kilda East – piled with books and boasting a fully stocked bar – sets the stage for a night of emotional warfare in Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The space is cosy, which will later prove constricting for bottle throwing and violent throttling, but works to confine Martha (Kat Stewart) and George (David Whiteley) in their suburban marital hell.  Albee’s script endures for its unflinching dissection of a marriage marred by rage anddisillusionment, sharpened with barbed insults and clever repartee. Debuting in 1962, theplay echoes the era’s anxieties

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