Get us in your inbox

Search
On stage at Blackie Blackie Brown Malthouse
Photograph: Phoebe Powell

Critics' choice theatre shows in Melbourne

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

Written by
Time Out editors
Advertising

Our theatre critics spend a scary amount of time sitting in dark rooms, so they usually know what's what when it comes to Melbourne's stages. Here are all their tips for the best shows to see right now, as well as the upcoming shows that we haven't seen yet, but think are going to set your heart racing. 

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

Critics' choice Melbourne shows

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Melbourne
After the past few years, it’s probably no wonder that we’ve seen a raft of productions that err on the side of melancholy. Moulin Rouge’s Satine was destined to find true love and die before she is able to realise her happy future. Girl From the North Country’s collection of characters are perhaps more appropriately described as a collection of tragedies. Alexander Hamilton dies in a duel, and Alanis Morissette's Jagged Little Pill deals with heavy themes such as rape and addiction. So to bring a big, unabashed fairytale to Melbourne – and a Disney-endorsed, Rodgers and Hammerstein fairytale at that – feels like a big hug after a hard couple of years navigating the worst. As the streamers descended upon the audience during the final bow of opening night, a man behind me declared it was nice to experience a “traditional, cheerful musical for once”. He was right ­– watching Cinderella at the opulent Regent Theatre was almost like a reset; like we all suddenly remembered that it’s OK to smile. That we can actually enjoy a happy ending, true love, and all the rest. But I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the beginning. Originally a live-to-TV musical written specifically for the small screen by the duo, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella hit the airwaves in 1957 (about seven years after the Disney animated version). Julie Andrews played the titular role, and her star shining brightly – with a little help from the fairy godmother, of course – she was beamed out to an ep
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Melbourne
Is Hamilton, the smash-hit American history musical that won a whopping 11 Tony Awards and a Pulitzer Prize when it debuted on Broadway in 2015 and won the hearts of critics and audiences the world over, as good as everyone says? In a word, yes. If you want to stop reading here and just book your tickets, we’ll understand.  There is a reason it is the most hyped show on Earth, and its writer and first star, Lin-Manuel Miranda, is now a household name. Some 3 million people watched the musical when it appeared on Disney+ in July 2020, and almost 8 million more have seen it live, in cities across the US, in London’s West End and in Sydney. Now it’s Melbourne's turn, with the show taking over Her Majesty's Theatre.  With the soundtrack available on Spotify and the original Broadway cast version available to anyone with a Disney+ account on demand, Hamilton is competing not so much with other musicals for your dollars and attention (there are no other shows of this type that can match the show’s tactical brilliance), but with itself. Most in the audience are at least familiar with the show by this point, and quite a few are able to mouth along to every word behind their masks. If you can see the original Broadway version any time you want and listen to the soundtrack 24 hours a day, what power does the staged version still hold?  In a word, magic. The entire cast is extraordinary, with every one of Andy Blankenbuehler's dance moves sharp as a tack and the constantly shifting stag
Advertising
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • price 3 of 4
  • Melbourne
It’s Christmas for Potterheads. Three years after its celebrated opening at the expensively refurbished Princess Theatre, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is taking an apt step back in time with a second premiere, this time of a streamlined one-play version that carves a good three hours off of its original running time. There are various motivations for this. Even for ardent devotees or seasoned theatre veterans, six hours in a seat is a slog, and once killed-for tickets had become readily available. But what could have been a cynical hatchet job has turned out to be the making of this show. The main pillars of the story remain – picking up where JK Rowling’s novels ended, we meet the children of famed wizard Harry Potter as they depart for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. However, the enduring friendships that kept Harry alive are elusive for Harry’s awkward son Albus, and when he fails to live up to the towering expectations of not just his school but the entire wizarding world, his sole friendship becomes both his greatest refuge and his biggest vulnerability. But while you might reasonably assume that this is a play about magic, you’d be wrong. This is a play about love. Which should come as no surprise – love is quite literally the most powerful, death-defying force in JK Rowling’s seven-book saga. What is surprising however, is how one of the greatest juggernaut fiction franchises of all time has leaned – comfortably, credibly, with heart-rending sensitivit
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Southbank
Often artistic works that attempt to draw a parallel between classic novels and modern pop culture tend to be overly wrought or uninteresting in their execution. The metaphor is sometimes so laborious that it comes off contrived, underestimating the intelligence of the audience. But Sydney Theatre Company’s critically acclaimed adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray does the opposite; it demands more from us, asks us to keep up, and, to put it frankly, blows our tiny minds.  That Eryn Jean Norvill is incredible is almost a given at this point – I wouldn’t be the first to note that her mesmerising and exhilarating performance was probably the catalyst for its pending journey to Broadway. As a writer, I often note that those who fancy writing as an easy task haven’t read a great novel; it is also true that those who fancy themselves an actor probably haven’t seen Norvill in this. To see her at the height of her powers, enthralling and clearly thriving on the overwhelming task of bringing to life 26 fully formed characters in quick succession, is to understand that truly great acting is a delicate and difficult craft. Sydney Theatre Company artistic director Kip Williams’ use of multiple live cameras and smartphones – including live-on-stage picture manipulation – is not only clever, but it pushes the boundaries of anything you ever expected of a theatre/technology crossover. This artistic innovation is only made better by the perfect combination of composer and
Advertising
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Melbourne
What if the Spice Girls did a concept album about King Henry VIII’s wives – and Baz Luhrmann directed the concert video? That, in a nutshell, is Six’s vibe: an up-tempo, empowering, all-singing, all-dancing account of the lives of the six key ladies in the Tudor monarch’s orbit. Much like Hamilton before it, the pop musical is making history buffs out of legions of musical theatre tragics, and making musical theatre tragics out of pop and hip hop lovers. A decent knowledge of Tudor history might help in getting some of the deeper cut references, but the bar to entry is low – you’re much better served by a willingness to go with the flow and get in the groove. There’s darkness at the core, though. As the lyrics remind us, the fates of these women are “divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived” – and the show makes no bones about the abuse and misogyny they suffered. The rousing climax is meant to absolve us of that sin, of course, but we’re still left with food for thought.  It's high concept, high quality, and highly enjoyable. With its cast of queens and unapologetic, celebratory feminism, Six rules.
  • Theatre
  • Comedy
  • Southbank
Following its Australian premiere at Sydney's Darlinghurst Theatre Company in autumn 2021, Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner is finally winging its way to Melbourne in winter 2022. And with a rave reviews (including a phenomenal, five-star rating by Time Out Sydney) you bet we're excited. British playwright Jasmine Lee-Jones's exciting work draws on the social media vortex, deploying GIFs, memes and emojis to consider questions of cultural appropriation, racism, homophobia and online trolling. It all spirals out of an online argument about the success of 23-year-old “self-made billionaire” and reality TV star Kylie Jenner, that sets best friends Cleo and Kara against one another.  A collaboration with Green Door Theatre Company, the show stars the inimitable Moreblessing Maturure and Iolanthe, as co-directed by proud Bardi and Jabirr Jabirr woman Shari Sebbens, and actress and musician Zindzi Okenyo. “Jasmine Lee-Jones has written one of the greatest debut plays I will ever have the privilege of reading, turning even the simple act of page formatting into a thrill,” Sebbens says. “The voices of Cleo and Kara bust through the atmosphere of a global shift every one of us should be feeling right now, bringing big pain and big heart. They crack open the URL, the IRL and force us to look at the space we hold each other in.” Maturure, who is also a co-producer and community engagement specialist on this project, adds: “My cheeks hurt the whole train ride when I first read this
Advertising
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Melbourne
Spooky things are happening on stage. The lighting is dim, and you peer through the gloom. There at the back, is that... alive? Did it used to be? Then the lights go out, and the theatre is plunged into darkness. But it's only a play, isn't it? Nothing can get you while you're safe in your seat, right? Right? This is Ghost Stories, a British horror-themed play written by Jeremy Dyson (The League of Gentlemen) and Andy Nyman (Derren Brown TV and live shows, Peaky Blinders) that has played in London for many years, including in the West End.  The producers are keeping their spooky surprises a secret, but there will be scares aplenty during the five-week season of Ghost Stories at the Athenaeum. This is the first time the West End version has come to Australia, though other iterations of the show have visited our shores in the past. “You haven’t experienced horror until you’ve seen it live on stage,” says Nathan Alexander, producer at Realscape Productions, which is presenting the Australian version. “The show is thrilling, chilling and we couldn’t be more excited for Australia to experience the rollercoaster that is Ghost Stories.”  Will there be jump scares? Based on the trailer on the website, almost certainly. Will there be creeps, crawls and general bumps in the night? Most definitely. The show comes with a warning label that it's not for the faint of heart or those with nerve conditions. Fearless Melburnians can see Ghost Stories from October 5 to November 13 at the Athena
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Southbank
We've spoken about ghosts at the Arts Centre Melbourne before, and the lights left on to keep them company. But now the greatest phantom of them all is set to haunt the performance hall. Opera Australia, in association with the Really Useful Group, are striking up the discordant organ to announce, with a caped flourish, the arrival of arguably Andrew Lloyd Webber's most famous musical. The Phantom of the Opera is coming to Arts Centre Melbourne in 2022, with West Side Story star Josh Piterman in the title role (and ghoulish half face mask). The Aussie star was  recently bringing The Music of the Night to the West End, playing the Phantom in London right up until that production was forced to shut down. The main cast is rounded out by Amy Manford as Christine and Blake Bowden as Raoul. Unbelievably, it's the first time the box office smash will grace the Arts Centre Melbourne in its 35-year history. And you can bet it's going to dazzle, right down to the fateful plunge of the centrepiece chandelier. This spectacular staging, conjured by Cameron Mackintosh, will be brought to life in Melbourne by director Laurence Connor and will show off the fabulous original costume designs of Maria Björnson.  "I am thrilled to be able to bring this exciting new production of The Phantom of the Opera to Arts Centre Melbourne with its spectacular new staging by director Laurence Connor and fabulous designs by Paul Brown and Maria Bjornson," says Mackintosh.  This is set to be one of the larges
Advertising
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • price 3 of 4
When gloal hit musical Come From Away touched down in Melbourne last year, this big hearted show was an unexpected salve in the wake of lingering hard times. Now the show is set to recommence a national tour in 2022, landing at Comedy Theatre, Melbourne from August 27. Tickets for the Melbourne season are on sale soon, and you can sign up for the waitlist here. Read on for our review from the 2021 season: There is something perfect about Come From Away being the first theatre back on Melbourne's main stages. The musical is set on 9/11 in the tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland, to which 38 planes were diverted when United States airspace was closed in the wake of the terrorist attack. The almost 7,000 passengers on board, terrified, claustrophobic and desperate for news about what was happening, were taken in by the people of Gander and surrounding towns, nearly doubling the population for five days. The townsfolk gave them food, shelter and most importantly, kindness and comfort during the most horrific time in recent American history – until 2020, of course.  The underlying message of kindness and compassion in the face of unspeakable horror is one that's sorely needed right now. When the planes begin to land, the women of Gander start up a collection for donations, with a song that could have been penned last year: "Can I help? Is there something I need to do, something to keep me from thinking of all the scenes on the tube? I need something to do 'cause I can't watch the ne

What's showing this week?

Recommended
    You may also like
      Advertising