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The Phantom of the Opera in Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour’s 2022 production of The Phantom of the Opera at Mrs Macquaries Point.
Photograph: Opera Australia/Hamilton Lund

Sydney theatre latest reviews

Our critics offer their opinions on the city's newest musicals, plays, operas and dance shows

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There's always a lot happening on Sydney's stages – but how do you know where to start? Thankfully our critics are out road-testing musicals, plays, operas, dance and more all year-round. Here are their recommendations.

Want more culture? Check out the best art exhibitions in Sydney.

5 stars: top notch, unmissable

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Comedy
  • Stand Up
  • Newtown

I had a moment of trepidation when perusing the program for this year’s Comedy Festival. Would the great Rhys Nicholson, missing from last year’s program and now a bona fide television star with both a Netflix special and a starring role as a judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race Down Under, be too big to do a local show? But luckily for Aussie audiences, Nicholson is back, bringing their signature dry humour, arch sensibility and slightly oxymoronic combination of manic energy and world-weary ennui. This show both is and isn't about the pandemic and the past two years, as the neat praeteritio trick of "let's not talk about it, I don't want to talk about it, but..." lets Nicholson both respond to and ignore the lockdowns and attendant trauma. Like a lot of people, he used the lockdown to do some introspection and came to the conclusion that they were non-binary (Nicholson's preferred pronouns are either he or they). The show isn't really about that, but it is a jumping-off point for stories and jokes, including a side-splitting protracted bit about his childhood decision to lean into his own creepiness and call their mother "Mother Dearest". Bits about going to the gym or friends in bad relationships could be tired in another comedian's hands, but Nicholson makes them fresh and delightful. Thanks in part to the speed of their delivery, this is probably the show that scored the highest number of laughs per minute at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival. Nicholson is an absolute m

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Comedy
  • Parramatta

Northern Irish playwright David Ireland clearly takes a dim view of performative wokeness and lip service identity politics, if Ulster American is anything to go by. With one act, one location and three characters, Ireland cuts through layers of feigned concern and false empathy to reveal the grasping, narcissistic, human heart in all its grim glory. It’s a comedy at its core, but a very black one. You’ll know within three minutes if this one is going to work for you. The location is the London apartment of theatre director Leigh Carver (Brian Meegan, The Norman Conquests), who is taking a meeting with Oscar-winning American actor Jay Conway (Jeremy Waters, The Flick). Conway is starring in Carver’s latest work, a play about the Troubles in Northern Ireland. His fame has ensured the season is already sold out, even though rehearsals haven’t begun yet. Conway, on the wagon, sips Diet Coke and waxes philosophical about the difficulties of being a male feminist. Carver smiles into his wine and tries to guide the conversation back to the play at hand. Both their hypocrisies become all too apparent when the play’s writer, Ruth Davenport (Harriet Gordon-Anderson, Bell Shakespeare’s Hamlet), arrives. Conway, who has Irish Catholic roots, was under the impression he was starring in a play about a bold Irish rebel struggling under the heel of the British. But Davenport, a staunch Unionist who considers herself British rather than Irish, has written a pro-UK parable. Conway demands cha

4 stars: excellent and recommended

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Dawes Point

Set in a drought-stricken rural town in the post-Euphoria era, Muriel’s Wedding the Musical meets Puberty Blues in this brand spankin’ new Aussie musical. The Deb has a little bit of the pop-infused redemptive teenage angst that made Belvoir’s Fan Girls such a sensation, and a sprinkle of that camp Australiana-style magic that made Virginia Gay’s The Boomkak Panto so darn special. High school outcast and whimsical mega-dork Taylah (Katelin Koprivec) longs to be the princess of her own fairy tale, which isn’t easy in Dunburn – a dried-up Aussie town struggling for survival, where cool girls and footy hunks lead the pack. It’s finally her year to be presented at the local débutante ball, and she couldn’t be more keen to swap ripping open hay bales on the family farm for getting glammed up and feeling special in front of the whole town.  But doesn’t a “deb” – a centuries-old tradition where teenage girls (usually aged between 15 and 18) are dressed up in bridal-like gowns to make their formal debut to society, traditionally because they were considered old enough to be of a marrying age – feel like a debatable spectacle in the 21st century? That’s exactly what Taylah’s woke AF, inner-city cousin Maeve (Charlotte MacInnes) reckons when she unexpectedly arrives in town amongst the flurry of flammable dresses, fake tan, and diamante tiaras when she escapes some trouble she’s made for herself back in the Big Smoke.  Directed and co-written by Hannah Reilly (ABC TV’s Growing Up Grace

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Sydney

A magnificent piece of stagecraft opens the orchestral work-turned-movie-turned ballet-infused musical theatre show An American in Paris. Jonathan Hickey sits alone at a spotlit piano dwarfed by the darkness of the theatre. He portrays Adam Hochberg, our narrator, an American Jewish man and gifted musician with a wounded leg and heart. He reminds us that while the war may be over, with Paris of 1945 finally liberated, there’s no magic switch to make everything right after this nightmarish cataclysm. The city is still standing, but its citizens are starving and great swathes of the country lie in ruins.  Setting the scene for us, Adam and his piano are then magically whisked away as the first jaw-dropping use of the production’s vast digital sets bathes the theatre in hellfire. The terrifying red of Nazi flags that sweep upwards to the heavens are seconds later pulled down and replaced by the Tricolore. This digital iteration, conjured by set and costume designer Bob Crowley, is seamlessly replaced by a physical French flag borne aloft by the gifted (and marvelously attired) ensemble. Suddenly, the computer-generated backdrop depicts a phalanx of five fighter jets flying high over l’Arc de Triomphe.  This moment is our goosebump-inducing introduction to dashing star Robbie Fairchild. He plays American GI Jerry Mulligan – famously depicted by Gene Kelly in the Oscar-laden 1951 movie by Vincente Minnelli – who turns to the audience with a jaunty salute. Fairchild, a former princ

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Potts Point

The former home of one of Kings Cross’s most popular bars is your conduit to be transported back to the roaring ’20s for this original immersive theatrical experience. Be beckoned into a sparkling world of jazz, extravagance, romance, betrayal and booze at this two-hour and 20-minute experience inspired by F Scott Fitzgerald’s 1925 novel. All three levels of the Wonderland Bar (formerly the teapot cocktail-slinging World Bar) have been gutted and glitzed up for this ambitious production, which takes the audience weaving through multiple rooms, hidden nooks and crannies, and even through the fire escape and a dark alleyway. Audiences are encouraged to get their flapper on with Gatsby-inspired costumes, but word to the wise – wear comfortable shoes. If you’re inclined to wear a pedometer of some kind, you may also get a kick out of counting how many steps you clock up as you traipse up and down stairs on this expedition.  We would also advise rocking up with plenty of time for a pre-show tipple in the publicly accessible jazz bar draped with lush red velvet curtains, so that one might acclimatise to the atmosphere before stepping into two hours of non-stop immersive theatre. You might also want to have a bite to eat before you head into Potts Point – it gets late before you know it when you’re immersed in this world with a couple of drinks under your belt. Directed by Beth Daly and written and produced with passion by Aaron Robuck, this is a proper play, broken up with intermit

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Dawes Point

In early June of 2020, playwright and actor Meyne Wyatt delivered a performance on ABC’s Q&A that was hailed as a watershed wake-up call to the reductive ways First Nations people are misrepresented and commodified through the white gaze. This blazing monologue, an excerpt from City of Gold, became an instant viral moment, not only for the content's raw truth but also for its delivery's gut-punch power. But as urgent and sobering as this speech is in isolation, it gains an extra dimension of emotional heft within the context of the story from which it's lifted. Wyatt’s debut play, which premiered in 2019 at Sydney’s Griffin Theatre before touring across the country, offers the experience of a grieving family as the microcosm to unlock a much broader discussion about identity and discrimination. Preservation of culture, the struggle to hold onto country and community, and the myriad entrenched systems of violence and mistreatment faced by First Nations people are brought into harrowing focus through the fractious relationship of three siblings struggling to cope in the wake of their father’s death. The play opens with a warped vision of Aboriginality, a figment of colonial myth that still persists as true blue Australiana today. Breythe Black (Wyatt) is an actor on the set of an ad promoting lamb for Australia Day barbies, spear in hand and a canoe at his feet. While the storyline claims to be about unity and reconciliation, its hamfisted imagery is offensively white-washed. B

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Comedy
  • Stand Up
  • Marrickville

Just whose bright idea was it to lock children in a room for 12 years and treat them all exactly the same, no matter their individual talents, interests and needs? And what happens to kids who are not suited to that style of education, or particularly good at the narrow range of subjects taught in that way? Jude Perl has some answers to those questions (an advisor to the King of Prussia, in order to build compliant and efficient soldiers to fight Napoleon; and nothing good). The first answer might not be entirely accurate, but the second certainly is. Switching jackets to inhabit a pop star in a bullying PSA, herself in grade 3, a bully in her grade 3 class, a schoolteacher with boundary issues, and the aforementioned royal advisor, Perl has put together a show that’s smart, sharp, just a little bit sad and extremely, riotously funny. She interacts with a multitude of recorded voices to bring the audience back to the cringe-inducing days of sport carnivals, slap bracelets and Lisa Frank-palette shell jackets. Her younger self might not be particularly good at running (or basketball, or maths, or…), but she keeps turning up anyway, and sometimes there’s a reward for that. She’s an accomplished and funny actor, but Perl has an ultimate secret weapon: she’s an extremely talented singer-songwriter, heading to the onstage keyboard to belt out satirical pop songs that have the audience in stitches. There are a lot of comedian-with-an-instrument acts in the Melbourne International

Looking for something a little less dramatic?

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