Musicals to see in Melbourne
Stephen Sondheim is widely regarded as musical theatre's greatest composer, having written hundreds of unforgettable tunes for shows including Sweeney Todd, Into the Woods and Follies. But there's one song of his that will outlive all the rest: 'Send in the Clowns'. It's been covered by everybody from Kenny Rogers to Barbra Streisand, and remains Sondheim's most recognisable tune. But not everybody is familiar with the show it comes from, a bittersweet and frequently funny musical about missed opportunities and old flames. Sondheim based the musical on Ingmar Bergman's comedy Smiles of a Summer Night, which culminates in an ill-fated weekend in the country. Victorian Opera is reviving this lush production directed by Stuart Maunder, bringing to life Sweden in the early 20th century with plenty of glamour and sophistication. Operatic soprano-turned-cabaret star Ali McGregor plays Desirée, a formerly successful actor hoping to rekindle a love affair (she's the character who sings 'Send in the Clowns'). Les Misérables star Simon Gleeson plays the object of her affections, a widowed lawyer named Frederik. The cast also includes theatre veteran Nancye Hayes, Alinta Chidzey and Verity Hunt-Ballard.
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.
Bring It On: The Musical is returning to the Athenaeum Theatre in 2019 with a new, yet-to-be-announced cast. Read our review of the 2018 Melbourne season below. Did we need a musical based on Bring It On, the popular 2000 cheerleading movie that had so much to say it needed five sequels? It’s not the worst idea, but we did not need this iteration of Bring It On, which suffers from turgid dialogue, forgettable songs, a predictable and overdone plot, and at least in this production, a significant lack of pep. That Bring It On is not better is a mystery, since it was written by an A-Team of contemporary musicals, with a book by Tony Award-winner Jeff Whitty (Avenue Q) and a score by Hamilton genius Lin-Manuel Miranda, Tom Kitt (another Tony Award-winner for Next to Normal) and Tony nominee Amanda Green (Hands on a Hardbody). But while there are flashes of Miranda’s exquisite harmonies and clever wordplay (particularly in ‘Move’, the big number that opens the second act, and in some of the raps), the music is mostly underwhelming. Ballads build but then fade away, and none of the melodies grab a hold of you. In this high-stakes world of competitive cheerleading, the music should rev up an audience, but it’s not distinctive enough to have much impact. The mixing does not help, either; the music overpowers the voices in parts, with critical lyrics difficult to hear. The musical is not a retread of the movie; rather, it features new characters but a plot very similar to the sec
From August this year, Melbourne audiences will step into a world of pure imagination with the new musical version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. The show, which just wrapped up a three-year run on the West End and a short stint on Broadway, is heading south from Sydney, where it's been selling out performances at the Capitol Theatre. It will have its Melbourne premiere at Her Majesty's Theatre. The musical is based more on Roald Dahl's 1964 book than the beloved 1971 film, but does feature a couple of the songs you know and love, including 'Pure Imagination', 'Candy Man' and 'I've Got a Golden Ticket'. The rest of the music is penned by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman, who are best known for writing the score for the musical Hairspray. You already know the plot: the eccentric master chocolatier Willy Wonka opens up his mysterious factory to four young children, looking for an heir to take over the kingdom. Four of the children have been spoiled rotten and *spoiler alert* suffer horrible fates inside the factory – Augustus gets sucked up a tube after gorging himself on chocolate, Violet turns into a giant blueberry, Mike's TV addiction gets the best of him and Veruca gets her comeuppance via squirrel – but the poor, young Charlie Bucket manages to prove his integrity. The musical was an audience favourite in London, but received a cooler reception in New York, where it got mixed reviews. Time Out New York's critic wasn't the greatest fan – you can read his two-star r
Hair is one of the musicals that forever changed the face of musical theatre. When it premiered in 1967 with its authentically rocking score, anti-war message and famously controversial nude scene, it became an immediate sensation, and ran for four years on Broadway. When it arrived in Australia in 1969 it made a star of Marica Hines. Fifty years later, it's returning with a new production which is touring the country, stopping in at the Geelong Performing Arts Centre in early September. Hugh Sheridan is flexing his musical theatre muscles as Berger while Paulini will play Dionne, who kicks off the whole show with the anthemic 'Aquarius'. We can already hear her belting out the opening strains: "When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars." The musical – which also features 'Good Morning Starshine', 'Easy to be Hard', 'Let the Sunshine In' and, of course, 'Hair' – follows a tribe of hippies as they resist authority, call for peace and celebrate free love. As for the famous nude scene that ends the first act and got the musical banned in a bunch of places? Well, there is a content warning of full frontal nudity, so let's assume it's happening. Producer David M Hawkins has pulled together a stellar creative team. Declan Greene, best known for his fiery and provocative productions of plays (including Blackie Blackie Brown) is directing his first major musical. He's joined by a team of musical theatre veterans: set designer Michael Scott-Mitchell, costu
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.