From Wicked to Matilda to The Lion King, Melbourne loves a good musical. Here's our edit of the musicals Melbourne is getting excited about, from new releases to the best Melbourne shows coming soon. For more theatre information, check out our latest reviews and our guide to scoring cheap theatre tickets.
Musicals to see in Melbourne
Few pop songwriters have catalogues packed with as many hits as Carole King. From her early years churning out hits for popstars – she even penned 'The Loco-motion' decades before Kylie got her hands on it – through to her record-smashing solo album Tapestry, King's songs have endured. Beautiful takes a look at how King, a precocious young musician, rose to the top of her industry and finally found her voice. The slick Australian production of the Broadway hit is blessed with Helpmann Award winner Esther Hannaford in the leading role. She unleashes her killer voice on all of King's most memorable songs, including 'I Feel the Earth Move' and '(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman'. Read Time Out Sydney's four-star review.
Priscilla, Queen of the Desert is the crowning achievement of Australian commercial musical theatre. When the stage version of Stephan Elliott’s 1994 film premiered back in 2006 it was expected to have broad appeal, but few would have anticipated its ongoing success. Eleven years later, the musical has played every major theatre market around the world, including Broadway and the West End, and continues to tour. This return Australian tour is a victory lap of sorts for this beloved show, capturing all of the joy of that premiere production. A few changes have been made to the song list – ‘It’s Raining Men’ takes the place of former opening number ‘Downtown’ – and the show is a little slicker in its storytelling and execution. If there’s any criticism to be made it’s that the show is maybe now a little too slick for this sprawling and unruly story. Whether you’ve seen the film or not – and if not, what have you even been doing for the last two decades? – the stage version stands on its own two feet as a funny and surprisingly touching jukebox musical, packed with camp disco classics. The plot follows that of the film closely: Sydney drag queens, Tick (David Harris) and Felicia (Euan Doidge), and an older transgender performer, Bernadette (Tony Sheldon), travel in a ramshackle bus to Alice Springs, where they’ve been booked for a show. It’s a typical fish-out-of-water tale as the trio encounter the outback and its inhabitants. But it goes deeper than that – Tick is secretly t
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. In their 4-star review, Time Out London described it as "a spectacle worthy of the Palladium's heyday. Visually, this stage remake of MGM's 1939 special effects blockbuster is 'Over the Rainbow' and accelerating." The local iteration will star Australian veteran Anthony Warlow (who knocked our socks off in Fiddler on the Roof last year) as the Wizard, and a special double bill of Wicked alumni: Lucy Durack as Glinda the Good and Jemma Rix as the Wicked Witch of the West. Newcomer Samantha Dodemaide will play Dorothy, her first leading role in a major musical.
This new Australian production will star Natalie O'Donnell (who sung lead in indie show Next to Normal at the Hayes in 2015) as mother-of-the-bride Donna, and Sarah Morrison (who was superb in the lead role of precocious teenager Lesley/Lisa in Ladies in Black) will star as Sophie. Alicia Gardiner (Offspring) will play Donna's bestie Rosie, and Jayde Westaby (Dream Lover – The Bobby Darin Musical) will play Tanya. The three potential fathers will be played by Ian Stenlake, Philip Lowe and Josef Ber. Stephen Mahy (Jersey Boys) will play Sophie's fiancé, Sky. Gary Young (Georgy Girl) will direct. Mamma Mia! last had an outing in Australia in 2009, and before that in 2001 (where Natalie O'Donnell played Sophie, and Alicia Gardiner played Ali).
Melbourne, school is back in session and now it’s time to learn how to rock. The musical version of Jack Black’s hit 2003 movie School of Rock will open at the Her Majesty’s Theatre in October, fresh from successful seasons on Broadway and the West End, where it’s still running. Just as in the movie, Dewey Flynn is a struggling muso who fakes his way into a prestigious private school classroom to earn a little extra cash as a substitute teacher. But he soon finds himself as an unlikely mentor for these high achieving kids who need someone to look out for them. And he also turns the group into a kick-ass rock band. It’s the prodigiously talented kids who make the show and are blowing away audiences in New York and London by playing live music night after night. The show has a score of songs from the movie and new tunes by the godfather of British musical theatre Andrew Lloyd Webber. He might be the guy who wrote Cats, but he also started his career by writing one of the best rock musicals ever, Jesus Christ Superstar, so he knows his way around an electric guitar. His other unlikely collaborators are lyricist Glenn Slater and Downton Abbey creator Julian Fellowes, who has adapted the movie script for the stage. In a four-star review, Time Out New York wrote: “This is one tight, well-built show: underscoring the emotional arcs (Dewey as both surrogate kid and parent; the students’ yearning to be heard); gently juicing the romantic subplot between Dewey and buttoned-up sch