Musicals to see in Melbourne
There are few musical theatre songs that have attained the anthem status bestowed upon ‘Don’t Cry for Me Argentina’. Most composers dream of creating just one tune so universally hummable – the kind that keeps the money rolling in in the form of royalty cheques long after the composer has passed on. Andrew Lloyd Webber, who penned that earworm for his 1978 musical-cum-rock opera, Evita, is responsible for a handful of them. So it’s quite a moment when, at the start of Evita’s second act, Australia’s own Tina Arena steps forward on the balcony of the Casa Rosada as Argentina’s controversial first lady, Eva Perón, to deliver the song. The clarity and warmth of her voice is astonishing as she, along with the Opera Australia orchestra, weaves a musical tale of triumph and yearning. And, of course, it’s glorious. Wrenching. The kind of singing that makes you hold your breath, anticipating the next phrase. The stuff that musical theatre dreams are made of. Eva is declaring her love to the working-class people of Argentina, who’ve just elected her husband to power. She appears to be pouring her heart out and seducing the nation. And then, something unexpected happens. She turns away from the crowd, her whole demeanour changes – the spell of seduction is broken – and she sings nefariously to her husband: “Just listen to that, the voice of Argentina. We are adored, we are loved.” That cynicism and winking eye is a large part of the appeal of Evita, which tracks the meteoric rise o
Last in Melbourne in 2009, Broadway smash Jersey Boys is back in 2018 with an Australian cast led by Ryan Gonazalez and Daniel Raso (sharing the role of Frankie Valli), Cameron MacDonald, Thomas McGuane and Glaston Toft (reprising his role as bassist Nick Massi). In our 2010 review, we wrote: A loving recreation of the beginnings of the band, their hits, their behind-the-scenes antics and bitter rivalries, it's a riveting and tightly worked homage. More importantly, it's an engrossing story that traces the story of four boys from New Jersey through their struggle for recognition, underworld entanglements and exponential rise to stardom. It also covers the deep rifts that formed over money, women and personal differences.For long-time fans the tunes and attendant storyline will be familiar, but it also works as an introduction for yet-to-be fans – it may be a surprise to younger audience members that 'Oh, What a Night' is sung by the same band as 'Can't Take My Eyes off You' and 'Walk Like a Man'. It may also surprise that their clean-cut image masked some gritty realities – this may have been the era of Leave it to Beaver, but these boys have more in common with the Sopranos (salty language included). The story is in four parts, each narrated by one of the original band members. The usual pitfall with the jukebox musical is that the songs are but tenuously related to the storyline, and often come off as contrived (because they are). Using the songs of a band to tell its ow
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
Next year is shaping up to be Opera Australia's big year of West Side Story. Not only is the company presenting a massive outdoor production in Sydney as part of its annual Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour, it's just announced a production for theatres in both Melbourne and Sydney. That's a big year for singing and dancing youth gangs. Melbourne has seen this production before: it's directed by Tony nominee Joey McKneely and played an Australian tour back in 2010. It's a fairly faithful take on the show, using all of Jerome Robbins' original Broadway choreography. The production stars Todd Jacobsson as Tony, fresh off a season of The Book of Mormon, and relative newcomer Sophie Salvesani as Maria. For those who've somehow never seen West Side Story, it's a 1950s musical take on Romeo and Juliet with music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim and a book by Arthur Laurents. Instead of warring families, it features warring – if not too fearsome – New York City gangs. The score features songs like 'Tonight', 'Maria', 'America', 'Something's Coming' and 'Somewhere'.
Long before Hugh Jackman donned a top hat and tails, the story of circus innovator and entertainment impresario PT Barnum was brought to life on stage in a musical. Barnum premiered on Broadway in 1980 (starring Jim Dale and Glenn Close) and had a string of successful productions around the world in the decades following. Now it's headed back to Melbourne in a new production that's promising to bring the spirit of the big top to the Comedy Theatre, melding circus with showstopping musical numbers, penned by Sweet Charity composer Cy Coleman. (Sorry, the show does not feature 'This is Me'.) In the title role is Todd McKenney, who's no stranger to sharing roles with Jackman – he originated the role of Peter Allen in homegrown musical The Boy from Oz before Jackman took the show to Broadway. He's joined by musical theatre star Rachael Beck, who'll play his wife, Charity. The show will be directed by Tyran Parke, who'll bring all of Barnum's most famous wonders to life – including the world's oldest woman; the magnificent elephant, Jumbo; and Swedish nightingale, Jenny Lind – with the help of the National Institute of Circus Arts (NICA).
Stephen Sondheim's Sweeney Todd is widely regarded as one of the greatest musicals ever written, and its two leading roles – the titular demon barber and Mrs Lovett, a pie shop owner and Todd's unlikely ally – are both mountains that many actors dream of conquering. Now it's time for Australia's leading man of musical theatre, Anthony Warlow, and comedy star Gina Riley to take on the roles. Warlow, who's best known for his star-making turn in the original Australian production of The Phantom of the Opera, has long wanted to play Sweeney, a barber who returns to London after many years banished from his home, wife and daughter. But far from the sweet family man who once left, Sweeney is now on a mission for revenge, to take down those powerful men who destroyed his family. Although Riley has made most of her career in TV comedy and is best known for playing Kim in Kath and Kim, she's no newcomer to musical theatre, having appeared in Chicago, Into the Woods and The Rocky Horror Show. And that voice you hear at the top of every episode of Kath and Kim belting out "the joker is me"? That's Riley. She's playing Mrs Lovett, the enterprising pie chef who works in a restaurant under Sweeney's barbershop. When his customers start dropping like flies, she comes up with an ingenious – though stomach-churning – solution to her meat shortage woes. It sounds like a pretty dark show – and it definitely is – but it's also packed with comedy and some killer tunes like 'Johanna', 'A Li
It's time for Melbourne's boys to don their ballet shoes – Billy Elliot the Musical is on its way back to Australian shores for a tenth anniversary tour.
Come from Away is set to open at the Comedy Theatre in July 2019, joining upcoming Melbourne premieres of School of Rock and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. The historic Comedy Theatre will get major refurbishment and new seats in time for Come From Away's Australian opening.