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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
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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

  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • price 3 of 4
  • Melbourne
Update 27/10/21: Frozen reopens at Her Majesty's Theatre from November 12. Tickets are available now for shows until January 23. Guests aged 16 and over must be fully vaccinated to attend, while children under 16 must attend with a fully vaccinated adult. Masks are mandatory for anyone 12 and older throughout the theatre. Let’s start with the most important thing. Yes, Jemma Rix sings Elsa’s mega-hit song ‘Let It Go’ as the barnstorming closer to act one of this musical staged version of Disney’s Frozen. And yes, she absolutely goddamn nails it.  The story, as any seven-year-old could tell you, is this: Princess Elsa was born with the ability to create snow and ice from her fingertips, but after accidentally wounding her sister and best friend, Anna, she is convinced to hide her powers beneath thick gloves and a frosty veneer of detachment. That strategy is bad for sororal bonding but good for the safety of the kingdom, until the demands of a glove-free and highly emotive coronation day release a literal and metaphorical storm. Details get somewhat hazy after that, with various characters going up and down the mountain that overlooks the sisters’ home of Arendelle, but there’s a talking snowman, an affable reindeer and various degrees of cold and winter clothing involved. The animated version of the story is focused on Elsa, whose platinum fishtail braid adorns lunchboxes the world over. But the stage version is much more centred on Anna, a kindhearted goofball played with tr
  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Melbourne
Moulin Rouge! The Musical is every bit the “spectacular spectacular” fans have waited for, bursting onto the stage with the same visual splendour and captivating music that made Baz Luhrmann’s film such a hit. Make no mistake, the audience is attending the Moulin Rouge, not the Regent Theatre, with the set spilling out from the stage, conjuring the famous French nightclub in the heart of Melbourne. Performers spill out from the stage too, and it’s well worth taking your seat before showtime to watch as the ensemble slowly, deliberately loll about and casual stun with physical feats. The easy, graceful tempo is a ruse, however, because as soon as the curtain goes up, Moulin Rouge comes at you with guns blazing. Let’s get this out of the way first: if you’re familiar with the film – and presumably many in the audience are – you’re going to notice a lot of similarities and a lot of differences. The plot is thus; young Christian arrives in Paris, joins the Bohemian movement, and falls in love with the star of the Moulin Rouge, Satine. The love is reciprocated but made more difficult by the fact Satine must court the rich, villainous Duke of Monroth so he’ll save the Moulin Rouge from financial ruin.  Unlike the film, however, Moulin Rouge! The Musical opens with ‘Welcome to the Moulin Rouge’ – the famous medley featuring ‘Lady Marmalade’. It’s a big, bold, saucy number to lead with, and one that is triumphantly performed by the four “lady Ms” – aka Nini, Chocolat, Babydoll and Ar
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Harry Potter and the Cursed Child review
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • price 3 of 4
  • Melbourne
The first rule of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is that you don’t talk about Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Safeguarding spoilers is an expected responsibility for anyone who attends the Potter-verse’s first on-stage outing. There’s even a hashtag: #KeepTheSecrets. But in truth (as far as theatre critique is concerned, at least), JK Rowling needn’t have worried. This marathon, five-hour spectacle has a plot so dense and sprawling, so wonderfully, unashamedly elaborate, it would take many thousands of words more than any theatre review to even scratch the surface. While we may have been sworn to secrecy about Cursed Child’s plot, we can reveal that the hype – and rarely has a piece of theatre ever generated such fever-pitched buzz – is entirely deserved. And not just because of the quality of the production. The masterminds behind the show – led by Rowling, playwright Jack Thorne and director John Tiffany – have not merely set out to put on a play, but rather craft a rich and detailed immersive experience. To this end, Melbourne’s Princess Theatre has undergone a top to bottom $6.5 million makeover, transforming its interiors to match a Hogwartsian, Potterfied aesthetic. If this sounds like an unnecessary extravagance, it’s probably an indication this play isn’t for you. The success of Cursed Child, which has smashed box office records on Broadway and the West End, is powered by its unapologetic exclusivity. Those without any prior knowledge of Harry and co will be baf
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Southbank
Although it was originally slated to premiere in late 2020, it feels entirely appropriate that As You Like It, Shakespeare’s buoyant romantic comedy, should be the production to reopen Melbourne Theatre Company post lockdown. The company couldn’t have planned it better if it had tried, with an unexpected easing of restrictions just hours before opening night meaning it would be the last performance requiring audiences to wear face masks. Coupled with a visually luscious set, earnest performances and a score of uplifting Shakespearean folk-pop from Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall, Simon Phillips' As You Like It feels like theatre’s warm, golden dawn after a stormy grey winter.  Gold permeates the entirety of As You Like It without feeling ostentatious, all thanks to Alicia Clements’ set and costume design. From the earliest moments, gilded winks are thrown at the audience through golden highlights on the columns and in the sombre, 18th century-inspired costumes of Duke Frederick's usurped court. This dark set and staging of the first act serves to provide a magnificent contrast when our heroine Rosalind (Christie Whelan Browne) and cousin Celia (Georgia Flood) are exiled from court and flee to the bucolic Forest of Arden. When the courtly setting lifts to reveal a verdant and sublime hillside that feels ripped straight from Rupert Bunny’s ‘Pastoral’, audible gasps and applause escape from the audience – punctuated by the first of the band’s first of many overtures.  It’s n
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  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Melbourne
If you're an Alanis stan who has been singing ‘All I Really Want’ since they announced, and then postponed, the arrival of Morissette’s hit musical Jagged Little Pill in Australia, then do we have some massive news for you. Rogue Traders and Neighbours alumna Natalie Bassingthwaighte – the beloved star of musical hits including Chicago, Chess, Grease, Rent and more – has been cast in the lead role for Jagged Little Pill when it comes to Melbourne's Comedy Theatre from January 2.  The whole jam-packed cast has just been announced, including musical theatre darling Maggie McKenna as Jo (best known for originating the title role in Muriel's Wedding the Musical, they also blew our socks off in Fun Home and just returned from performing in the US tour of Dear Evan Hansen), Tim Draxl as Steve Healy (television's A Place to Call Home), Aydan as Phoenix (Fangirls) and the musical theatre debut of Emily Nkomo as Frankie Healy. Bassingthwaighte, who is also soon to appear on cinema screens playing Elvis’ step-mum in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming biopic starring Tom Hanks, is stoked to take on the lead role of under-pressure Mary Jane Healy in this musical drama that weaves in Morissette’s biggest songs from the smash hit album Jagged Little Pill.   “I am beyond excited and privileged to be part of this incredible show,” Bassingthwaighte says. “I have such admiration for the key creative team in Alanis, Diablo Cody and Diane Paulus who have created a show full of heart, courage, determinatio
  • Things to do
  • Fairs and festivals
  • price 0 of 4
  • Melbourne
Drag superstars, cult cabaret artists and gender-bending performance artists take over the city this summer... and this time around we actually mean summer. Last year's festival was moved to autumn due to a certain unpleasantness at the end of the year, but this year it's back where it belongs: smack bang in the middle of summer. Melbourne's LGBTQIA+ arts and culture festival returns for 2022, rising like a glittering phoenix from the garbage fire of 2021. From January 23 to February 13, venues all over Melbourne will host events championing queer communities and creatives through visual art, performance, parties, film, music and more.  This year's festival commemorates the 40th anniversary of the decriminalisation of homosexuality in Victoria with an extra-special Melbourne Pride event on February 13. The event will finish up the festival with a huge celebration somewhere in Melbourne's north.  The famous Midsumma Pride March is happening on February 6 in Fitzroy Street, St Kilda, as always. And after an unfortunate hiatus last year, the annual Midsumma Carnival is back to open the festival with the biggest, most fun queer picnic and dance you've ever been to. You can explore the full Midsumma program by visiting the website. 
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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Southbank
The 1998 Drew Barrymore-Adam Sandler film The Wedding Singer is a mulleted, leather-gloved, parachute-panted nostalgia trip to 1985. The stage musical, now much further from 1998 than the film was from 1985, has an extra layer of nostalgia, recalling both the fashions and gender politics of the 1980s and the uncomplicated innocence of a late-’90s romcom.  Far from being weighed down by these expectations, however, the show fizzes and pops like Mentos dropped into New Coke. It's as high energy as a Jane Fonda exercise video, sweet as a Ring Pop and pulls you in like a dancefloor filler at a wedding.  The gist, in case you haven’t seen the film, is this: wedding singer Robbie Hart (Christian Charisiou) and waitress Julia Sullivan (Teagan Wouters) meet-cute the night before Robbie is left at the altar by his fiancĂ©e. Julia soon gets engaged to her Wall Street boyfriend Glen (Stephen Mahy), who cheats on her, worships money and fulfils his obligations as a panto villain. No points for guessing whether there’s a wedding at the end.  As the two leads, Charisiou and Wouters have far more chemistry than Sandler and Barrymore ever did - and here both parties are charming and adorable. They are both vocal powerhouses, with Broadway voices made for this kind of music. Charisiou is particularly outstanding, with an expressive face that telegraphs his emotions all the way to the last row of the dress circle. A lesser actor would be upstaged by that tightly permed mullet, but self-assured
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • St Kilda
You wouldn’t necessarily expect an opera company to be taking on the music of the Who, but that’s exactly what Victorian Opera is doing. After being postponed twice, the company is staging the first professional Australian production of Tommy at the Palais Theatre, with Acid Queens and Pinball Wizards aplenty. It makes a fair bit of sense when you consider that Tommy is a rock opera in the truest sense of the term: it’s almost completely sung-through (i.e. no dialogue) and tells a story of epic proportions, as the titular “deaf, dumb and blind” kid rises to superstardom thanks to his prodigious pinball talents. When it debuted way back in 1969, Tommy was a hit, winning five Tony Awards (plus three Olivier Awards and a Grammy) and going on to spawn a 1975 film starring Elton John and Tina Turner. It's both a psychedelic trip to the 1960s and a true underdog story that is going to leave you standing on your seat cheering for more.  Tommy is showing at the Palais Theatre from February 22 to March 1, with tickets on sale now.
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  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Melbourne
It's official: Hamilton is coming to Melbourne in 2022. The juggernaut musical has confirmed it will play at Melbourne's Her Majesty's Theatre from March 16 2022, following its 2021 Australian premiere in Sydney. For those unfamiliar with the hit show, Hamilton takes the story of American founding father Alexander Hamilton and turns it into a banging musical underpinned by an incredibly catchy score of music spanning hip hop, jazz and rap.  With the book, lyrics and music written by Lin-Manuel Miranda (who, to top it off, also starred as Alexander Hamilton in the original production), the show debuted on Broadway in 2015, before premiering in Australia in Sydney in March 2021 to rave reviews (you can read our five-star review here). The Australian cast features Jason Arrow as the titular Alexander Hamilton, Chloé Zuel as Eliza Hamilton, Lyndon Watts as Aaron Burr, Akina Edmonds as Angelica Schuyler, Matu Ngaropo as George Washington, Victory Ndukwe as Marquis de Lafayette/Thomas Jefferson, Shaka Cook as Hercules Mulligan/James Madison, Marty Alix as John Laurens/Philip Hamilton, Elandrah Eramiha as Peggy Schuyler/Maria Reynolds and Brent Hill as King George III. Find out more about the cast by reading our interviews with Lyndon Watts and Victory Ndukwe. Hamilton's original US producer, Jeffrey Seller, said: "I am grateful that so many Australians have embraced Hamilton since its Sydney premiere in March. The entire creative team and I are thrilled that Hamilton will call Melb
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Melbourne
Melbourne's fairy godmother has really come through for the city. Rodgers and Hammerstein's opulent production of Cinderella is coming to the city from May 2022, bringing with it all the magic and music of the Tony Award-winning Broadway show.  The fairytale musical is known for its beautiful set, which premiered on Broadway in 2013 and was so popular that it ran for two years. What you might not realise, however, is that this production of Cinderella was originally written for television. It first aired on the small screen in 1957 starring Julie Andrews and garnered more than 100 million viewers (a record for the time). It's been remade for television several times (including notably in 1997 starring Brandy in the lead role and Whitney Houston as the Fairy Godmother), but the 2022 season marks the first time Australians have been able to see the enchanting show on local stages. The Australian season of Cinderella stars Shubshri Kandiah (Aladdin, Fangirls) as Ella/Cinderella, Ainsley Melham (Aladdin, Merrily We Roll Along) as Prince Topher, and Silvie Paladino (Mamma Mia!, Les Misérables) as Marie the Fairy Godmother. Expect a performance filled with glittering glass slippers, bewitched pumpkins and extravagant gowns, all tempered with a few unusual twists. This Cinderella is no damsel in distress and knows how to fight to make her dreams come true. Cinderella will make its Australian premiere at Melbourne's Regent Theatre on May 20, before going on to play at Sydney's Lyric

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