Critics' choice Melbourne shows
Back in 2011, director Gale Edwards and designer Brian Thomson took Puccini’s smash hit La Bohème to the wild cabaret halls and streets of 1930s Berlin. The production was embraced by die-hard romantics, opera fans and newcomers alike, and is back yet again for Opera Australia's Melbourne season. The story, which follows a close-knit group of young, fiercely idealistic bohemians through first love to untimely death. La Bohème inspired Moulin Rouge, Rent and countless adaptations, including this Weimar-set production, starring international opera stars Maija Kovalevska and Yosep Kang alongside local favourites Jane Ede and Christopher Tonkin.
Move over My Fair Lady: the next vintage production coming to Australia is the original Evita, with Australian pop princess Tina Arena starring as Eva Perón. Opera Australia and John Frost are collaborating to revive the 1978 West End production of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s blockbuster musical, directed by Tony Award-gobbling musical theatre veteran Harold Prince. Appearing alongside Arena is a starry international cast: as Juan Peron is Brazilian operatic baritone Paulo Szot, who won a Tony Award for his performance in the 2008 Broadway revival of South Pacific. London-based Australian performer Kurt Kansley will play Che, the narrator, while Wicked star Jemma Rix will play Evita at some performances. (It's traditional that there's an 'alternate Eva' scheduled for certain performances each week given the almighty vocal challenges of the role.) Conceived as a concept album in 1976, Evita tells the story of Argentine political figure Eva Perón, who when she died at 33 from cancer had become one of the most powerful women in Latin America – and thereafter was afforded an almost saintly status. Following its 1978 premiere on the West End (with Elaine Paige in the title role), the musical went on to win the Olivier Award for best musical and transferred to Broadway (where Patti LuPone took on the role), where it was the first British musical to win the Tony Award for best musical. In 1996, Madonna starred in the film adaptation of the musical. The Australian revival
After winning season nine of RuPaul’s Drag Race and delighting audiences with her experimental drag aesthetic, New York’s own Sasha Velour is coming back to Melbourne. Velour will be bringing her 75-minute one-woman show Live and in Colour to the Plenary for one night only on Friday January 11, 2019. This show takes inspiration from Brooklyn’s drag scene with Velour set to perform a few of her favourite songs including ‘Cellophane’, ‘This Woman’s Work’ and ‘Don’t Cry Out Loud’. The show will bring Velour’s signature hyper-gendered queer fantasy to life – and maybe a little rose petal wig reveal, if we play our cards right.
At long last Melbourne muggles will be able to get a glimpse inside JK Rowling's Wizarding World with their own two eyes: Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is headed to the Princess Theatre. After becoming the highest selling play on both Broadway and the West End, Melbourne is the third stop on the Hogwarts Express. The official opening is set for February 23, 2019, but there'll be preview performance from January 16. The preview schedule will be announced soon. If you don't know a lot about the play, then here's the lowdown: it's a sequel to the series, based on a story written by Rowling herself and adapted for the stage by Jack Thorne. It's presented in two parts, which you can watch on the same day or across two consecutive evenings. We won't give too much away about the plot, but audiences can expect to find the gang 19 years on from the Battle of Hogwarts. While Harry himself grapples with the troubles of his past, his son Albus deals with living in the shadow of his famous father. The play won a record-breaking nine Olivier Awards in London and six Tony Awards in New York. It's also received rave reviews from just about every major publication in both cities. Time Out New York said: "Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is haunted by death and pain; it is often suspenseful and sometimes downright frightening. Yet amid the cinematic tumult and dazzle of the densely action-packed plot, Thorne and Tiffany carve out quiet scenes of intimacy and tenderness. Great car
Drag superstars, cult cabaret artists and gender-bending performance artists take over the city every summer – not to mention the swag of free parties, events and more. In the past few years,LGBTQIATIQiA-focused festival has began to come into its own as an international arts festival, pairing a suite of free events and parties with a program of theatre, cabaret, live art and music. It's been more than three decades since the first Midsumma launched, and the festival now attracts talen from all corners of the globe. Whether you're queer or an ally, there's an event for everyone at Midsumma, so break out those rainbow threads and get celebrating!
The first thing to know about The Miss Behave Gameshow is that it does exactly what it says on the tin: it is an actual game show with competitors, points, winners and losers. As the audience enters the theatre they’re divided into two teams – iPhone users on the right and everybody else on the left – who pit their wits, spirit, tenacity and bodies against each other in a series of simple games for the next hour and a bit. Some of the games involve your phone – be prepared to take a selfie and text in an answer – but most are analogue and simply require you to shout out, stand up in your seat, dance, get up onto the stage or “do anything for a point” (a lusty onstage pash or flashing your particularly funny underwear might get you over the line). And make sure you pay attention to the cardboard-covered set if you’re looking for a bonus point. Overseeing the competition and guiding the audience through the pumping music and fierce competition is hostess and games mistress Miss Behave, a glittery human mirror ball and the alter-ego of London cabaret artist Amy Saunders. Saunders has spent several years touring with La Clique and La Soirée, swallowing swords and acting as a host. This is a totally lo-fi show by comparison, with a much smaller cast (it’s mostly just Miss Behave and her glamorous assistant Tiffany), but it manages to be more explicitly fun, from beginning to end. Miss Behave is a commanding presence but flexible enough to respond to whatever might be happening
Muriel moved from Porpoise Spit to the big lights of Sydney for her world premiere in November 2017 and now she's finally headed to Melbourne's Her Majesty's Theatre from March 2019, before heading back to Sydney in June. The musical was adapted for the stage by PJ Hogan, who wrote and directed the original 1994 film starring Toni Collette. It features an original, Helpmann Award-winning score by Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall, which Time Out Sydney described as "irresistible" (seriously, we challenge you to leave without humming one of the tunes). But ABBA fans needn't worry about the prospect of an original score – the Swedish supergroup's songs and spirit are threaded through the whole show. Casting is still underway for the upcoming tour. Maggie McKenna, who played Muriel in the original Sydney production, has recently scored a role in the US tour of Dear Evan Hansen. She won't be reprising her role, but other actors are expected to return. The original production of Muriel's Wedding The Musical was produced by Sydney Theatre Company and Global Creatures, who were behind the Strictly Ballroom and King Kong musicals. We fell head over hells in love with the show when it premiered and we're willing to bet Melbourne will too. To put it simply, it's the best Australian musical to premiere in years. It's distinctively homegrown but with plenty of flair and great laughs. And it's directed by Simon Phillips, who did Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and just about every ot
Anouk van Dijk has been artistic director of Melbourne's most provocative contemporary dance company, Chunky Move, since 2012, and has led the company through some extraordinarily theatrical and challenging dance works. In 2018, she premiered a full-length dance piece that explores the uniting facets of humanity; or rather, the common ground upon which we all stand. The work is having a return season in 2019 at Malthouse for the biennial Dance Massive festival. "There is an incredible sense of instability in the world – social, political, economic and environmental, this affects us on a visceral level, and in this new full-length work, I’m exploring this and how we can stand together," van Dijk says. Described as "a choreographic game of chess where engrained rules are upturned by unexpected moves", the piece is for two dancers. Tara Jade Samaya has been with Chunky Move since 2012 and has been artistic associate at the company since 2016. Helpmann Award winner Richard Cilli has performed with many of Australia's best contemporary dance companies, including Chunky Move, Sydney Dance Company and Lucy Guerin Inc.
Even if you missed his Tony-winning musical Matilda (and more fool you if you did), even if you missed his scene-stealing turn as Judas in Jesus Christ Superstar, you know and love Tim Minchin. The Perth comedian and singer-turned-global superstar is bringing his irreverent humour to Melbourne as part of his Back tour, which he describes as "old songs, new songs, fuck you songs". And there are plenty of the latter – Minchin's version of 'I Still Call Australia Home' provided a small beacon of light during Australia's shameful marriage equality plebiscite debacle, and his 'Come Home (Cardinal Pell)' threw pointed barbs at Cardinal George Pell, now facing sex abuse charges of his own in Australia. Minchin recently sold out his one-off Dark Mofo show in 15 minutes, and tickets to this one will go quickly too. Tickets go on sale on Thursday, September 6, so get your credit card ready. You don't want to miss this one.