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Melbourne theatre and musicals in May

From Beautiful musicals to provocative takes on classics – we've got you covered for on-stage highlights this month

Photograph: Jeff Busby

Melbourne's theatre scene is firing on all cylinders in May, with plenty to see at just about every level. When it comes to major musicals, Beautiful is still going strong and The Wizard of Oz has finally touched down in Melbourne. Our mainstage companies have brought out the big guns, with MTC taking on Lorca's The House of Bernarda Alba and Malthouse bringing Peter Carey's Bliss to the stage.

But at the indie end of things, the biennial Next Wave festival is back to shake up Melbourne's art scene and light the way forward for our most adventurous artists.

Musicals

Beautiful: The Carole King Musical

4 out of 5 stars

he world is still recovering from the wave of jukebox musicals that came as a tsunami at the start of the century, when the hits of everyone from Billy Joel to The Proclaimerswere rehashed for the stage. With notable exceptions, it felt like every show in the genre believed the hard work began and ended with securing the rights to a vaguely prominent artist’s back catalogue. 

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Her Majesty's Theatre , Melbourne Until Sunday July 1 2018

The Wizard of Oz

Based on the 1939 film, but with added songs by powerhouse team Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber (whose best-know collabs include Evita and Jesus Christ Superstar), this production (directed by Jeremy Sams) premiered at London's Palladium Theatre in 2011. 

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Regent Theatre , Melbourne Until Sunday July 22 2018
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Oklahoma!

When Oklahoma! premiered in 1943, it completely revolutionised musical theatre and the way complex stories were told through music. Along with Showboat, Oklahoma! is responsible for the type of musical theatre that still dominates the theatrical landscape today – with songs fully integrated into scenes.

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Arts Centre Melbourne , Southbank Saturday May 26 2018 - Sunday June 3 2018

The Bodybag - The Panto

4 out of 5 stars

Nothing is sacred in Sydney drag-comedy stalwart Trevor Ashley’s new adults-only panto, not least the pop culture it skewers and spoofs: American thrillers, pop divas, jukebox musicals and British pantomime. 

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The Comedy Theatre , Melbourne Thursday May 31 2018 - Saturday June 2 2018
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Mainstage

The House of Bernarda Alba

Recommended

Patricia Cornelius is one of the most fearless and unique voices in Australian theatre, and although she’s won just about every prize available to a playwright in the country, she tends to fly under the radar at our biggest theatre companies. Now her work is coming to the Melbourne Theatre Company mainstage in this adaptation of The House of Bernarda Alba.

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Arts Centre Melbourne , Southbank Friday May 25 2018 - Saturday July 7 2018

Bliss

Peter Carey’s Miles Franklin award-winning novel about a fallen 1980s ad man facing his own mortality has held a special place in Australia's collective heart since it was released in 1981. Bliss been turned into a successful Barry Otto-led film and an opera staged by Neil Armfield, and will now become a play, penned by Tom Wright. 

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Malthouse Theatre , Southbank Until Saturday June 2 2018
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Wild

Unlike some actors who live in the spotlight, Darwin-born Anna Lise Phillips is a private person. “I don’t even like it when I go into a shop and the shop attendant asks me about my day,” she says. “I feel like saying ‘it’s none of your business. Why would I tell you about my day? I don’t even know you.’”

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Southbank Theatre (Melbourne Theatre Company) , Southbank Monday May 21 2018 - Saturday June 9 2018

Going Down

Catherine Davies spent most of 2017 touring Australia with Bell Shakespeare’s acclaimed contemporary take on The Merchant of Venice, but in 2018 returns to her first passion: new Australian plays. Michele Lee’s Going Down – which Davies compares in style to the US TV comedy Broad City – follows Natalie Yang, an Asian-Australian writer whose memoir about her sex life has failed to set the bestsellers list ablaze. 

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Malthouse Theatre , Southbank Until Sunday June 3 2018
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Puffs, or: Seven Increasingly Eventful Years at a Certain School of Magic and Magic

J.K. Rowling's West End play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child is set to open in Melbourne in early 2019, and is almost certain to break as many records locally as it has in London. But before Harry, Hermoine and Ron make their Australian theatrical debut, another group of Hogwarts students will take to the stage. 

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The Alex Theatre , St Kilda Saturday May 26 2018 - Sunday June 17 2018

Mid-range and indie

Next Wave

From an electro throw down at the Tote to an Edgar Allan Poe-inspired gothic art exhibition, the biennial Next Wave festival is a launching pad for some of our most exciting experimental artists. Founded by Andrew Bleby in that most Orwellian of years 1984, current festival director Georgie Meagher says there’s something of a dystopian feel to 2018’s line-up. 

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Around Melbourne , Melbourne Sunday May 20 2018

Right Now

3 out of 5 stars

Anyone who’s ever lived in an apartment – let’s face it, anyone who’s ever had neighbours – will recognise the peculiar discomfort that comes from forced intimacy; it’s a quirk of modern city living that, while we don’t want to seem completely shut off from those who occupy our adjacent spaces, we don’t necessarily want to get too close too soon, lest things get weird. 

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Sunday May 20 2018
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The Nightingale and the Rose

Little Ones Theatre has made some of Melbourne's most exciting indie theatre in recent years on the Theatre Works stage (The Happy Prince, Dracula, Psycho Beach Party). The queer theatre company is back with a fresh take on Oscar Wilde’s fairytale.

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Theatre Works , St Kilda Wednesday May 30 2018 - Sunday June 10 2018

Fury

This play from one of Melbourne’s favourite playwrights had its world premiere at Sydney Theatre Company in 2013 and will now be seen in her home state for the first time at Red Stitch Actors Theatre. The play follows Alice and Patrick, a couple who pride themselves on being thoughtful, educated and open-minded. Suddenly, their world is shaken when they discover that their son has vandalised a local mosque, and they immediately wonder where they went wrong.

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Red Stitch Actors Theatre , St Kilda Tuesday May 29 2018 - Sunday July 1 2018
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my sister feather

Playwright and director Olivia Satchell's my sister feather was shortlisted for both the Rodney Seaborn Playwrights’ Award and the Max Afford Playwrights’ Award, and will have its premiere at the La Mama Courthouse. It's the second play in a trilogy that Satchell is creating about grief and the female body.

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La Mama Courthouse , Carlton Wednesday May 30 2018 - Sunday June 10 2018

Dance

ab [intra]

It’s been almost six years since Rafael Bonachela last premiered a full-length work, but the Sydney Dance Company artistic director is unveiling his new creation this year. He’s kept fairly quiet about exactly what audiences can expect, but knowing Bonachela’s style it will be visually bold with a strong emotional sweep.

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Arts Centre Melbourne , Southbank Wednesday May 30 2018 - Saturday June 2 2018

mi:wi

Could a stronger connection to our ancestry and Indigenous cultures hold an answer for tackling climate change? That’s one of the questions posed by South Australian dancer and choreographer Taree Sansbury, who has spent several years working with leading contemporary dance-makers but is now stepping out with her own work. 

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Sunday May 20 2018
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