Critics' choice Melbourne shows
Melbourne's theatre scene might look to be totally dominated by a certain boy wizard in 2019, but there's another big show headed our way from Broadway. Come from Away is set to open at the Comedy Theatre in July. The historic theatre will get major refurbishment and new seats (anybody's who's sat through long show at the theatre knows the seating is a necessity) in time for Come From Away's Australian opening. The musical has been a bit of an unexpected hit in North America, set in a small Canadian town in the days following the September 11 attacks. Written by Canadians Irene Sankoff and David Hein, it tells the true story of Gander, where 38 international flights carrying 7,000 passengers were forced to land, effectively doubling the population of the town with stranded passengers for several days. The vibrant score has Celtic flavours, and the show's cast recording was nominated for a Grammy Award. The musical started out with a 2013 Ontario production, and then went on to tour the US before landing on Broadway in early 2017. It was nominated for seven Tony Awards last year and picked up the award for Best Direction of a Musical for Broadway veteran Christopher Ashley, who'll be overseeing the local production. Read Time Out New York's four-star review here.
There’s no individual who has had a bigger influence on modern theatre than ye olde William Shakespeare. So it makes sense that he’s a central character in Melbourne Theatre Company’s biggest show for 2019. They're pulling out the big guns for the show, with director Simon Phillips (Muriel’s Wedding the Musical, Priscilla, Queen of the Desert the Musical, Love Never Dies). It’s based on the 1998 Academy Award-winning Gwyneth Paltrow and Joseph Fiennes film, which imagines an affair between Shakespeare and Viola de Lesseps, a woman who disguises herself as a man to audition for Shakespeare’s theatre. The film was previously adapted for the stage in 2014, when it premiered in a lavish production on London’s West End. The MTC production will use the same music and script, adapted from Tom Stoppard and Marc Norman’s screenplay, but will be otherwise entirely made by a local creative team. You can expect it to look a million bucks, with costumes and sets designed by the great Gabriela Tylesova. “It will be a brand-new vision for the work, and I’m very excited about where Simon may be taking that,” says MTC artistic director Brett Sheehy. According to Sheehy, the production came to MTC through Phillips, who was approached by its original producers, Disney Theatrical, to create a new version of the show. It’s intended that the MTC version will be able to tour around the world.
Blackie Blackie Brown was such an epic hit in its first Melbourne season, Malthouse is bringing it back for a short stint in 2019. Read our four-star review of the 2018 Malthouse season below. The revenge fantasy is alive and well, and it’s putting down roots at the Malthouse’s Beckett Theatre for the month of July. It can only be a month, because that’s how long super heroine Blackie Blackie Brown has to complete her deadly mission: to wipe out all 400 of her victims, the descendants of those who brutally murdered her great great grandmother. That’s a lot of killing in a short space of time. But let’s face it, in this country it’s hardly unprecedented; it’s almost a piece of cake.Playwright Nakkiah Lui is something of a comedic sensation – and audiences who’ve seen previous works such as Blak Cabaret or ABC’s Black Comedy will have some idea of what to expect – but Blackie Blackie Brown represents a solidification of her talent. It has an absolutely genius conceit, an in-built entertainment generator, but it’s also expertly crafted and forensic in its approach to its satirical targets. This is a playwright who knows precisely what she wants to say and how she wants to say it.Jacqueline Brown (Dalara Williams) is an Indigenous archeologist, working for a mining company who wants the all-clear to exploit the local land for profit. When she discovers a human skull that opens her to her heritage, it’s both devastating and empowering. The skull gives her uncanny powers, but it
The ballet Sylvia falls very firmly into the “neglected classic” category, and has been rarely performed since it premiered more than 150 years ago. “It’s sadly neglected, and I think it has one of the great scores written for ballet,” Australian Ballet artistic director David McAllister says. And you don’t have to believe just McAllister; Tchaikovsky famously said that Léo Delibes’ score was better than anything he had written, including Swan Lake. The ballet draws its narrative from Greek mythology, following Sylvia, a chaste, ferocious huntress who swears off love but eventually falls for a human man. “The thing that’s always been difficult is that the story is fairly convoluted,” McAllister says. “Sometimes those Greek, Arcadian stories don’t really play for a modern audience. But Stanton has done a lot of work to make it a lot more resonant today, and not just looking at Sylvia and Diana, but the whole idea of Greek mythology and how it fits into our lives today.” The female dancers of the company will be getting in touch with their inner warriors (much like the male dancers did last year with Spartacus) and will learn to sword fight for the production. “The boys have been battling each other up in Spartacus, and now the girls are going to be fencing themselves into a frenzy next year.”
This musical from Kander and Ebb (the songwriting team behind Cabaret and Chicago) has never before had a professional mainstage production in Australia. Melbourne Theatre Company's artistic director Brett Sheehy says he’s reversing that “unconscionable neglect” with this new production starring Australia’s own Broadway and West End star (she played the leading role in Chicago on Broadway), Caroline O’Connor. It’s based on Manuel Puig’s 1976 novel set inside a South American prison where two men are sharing a cell. One is a Marxist revolutionary, and the other is a gay window dresser who escapes into a fantasy world of movies starring the fabulous diva Aurora. That’s where O’Connor comes in. The cast also includes Adam Jon Fiorentino, Natalie Gamsu, and Bert LaBonté (The Book of Mormon). Helpmann Award-winner and musical theatre dynamo Dean Bryant directs.
Every couple of years, globe-trotting circus company Cirque du Soleil pops up its Grand Chapiteau in Melbourne for a season of good, old-fashioned spectacle and entertainment. Its next show to come to town has got a decidedly retro vibe and has been widely praised as the company's best in years. When it was in New York back in 2016, Time Out gave it a glowing five-star review: "Cirque du Soleil’s Kurios – Cabinet of Curiosities is a procession of wonders: the Canadian circus giant’s sharpest, sexiest, most stylish production in years. In a departure from the otherwordly themes for which Cirque is best known, writer-director Michel Laprise embraces a steampunk aesthetic: metal and leather, chunky robots, glowing filaments under glass, a singer with a phonograph horn on her head. The style may be retro, but the acts—and the technical ingenuity that makes them possible—are fully up-to-date. The show is a mad scientist’s lab of wild invention, in which circus artists from around the planet perform routines of breathtaking beauty and precision." Kurios is at Flemington Racecourse from March 12, 2020. Tickets go on sale March 18, 2019 at 9am.