Sydney loves a triple threat, and plenty of them pass through our theatres on a monthly basis. Here's our edit of the shows setting our stages alight right now.
For a musical largely set in a Northampton shoe factory, Kinky Boots is surprisingly energetic. Directed and choreographed by Broadway favourite Jerry Mitchell, it’s buoyed by buckets of charm, a gung-ho approach to storytelling, and – in this Australian iteration – superlative performances. The show barrels along in a shower of sequins and triumphant lyrics – almost distracting its audience from significant narrative issues. The true story turned 2005 film turned Tony-winning Broadway hit follows Charlie Price (played here by Sydney’s Toby Francis, a fine actor with a winning rock tenor), who inherits a struggling shoe factory from his father. With no real passion for the business (or anything much, including his fiancée Nicola) he undertakes the near-impossible job of saving the family business and the livelihoods of its workers. How does he do it? Inspired by a chance meeting with drag performer Lola (Callum Francis, an irresistible onstage presence), Charlie decides to go into the business of ‘kinky boots’ – making shoes in typically female design, but with the ability to support the weight of drag queens. Lola comes from London to tiny Northampton to help design the new line. Every story beat from here is what you would expect: Lola and Charlie are paralleled as men with father issues; Lola and the ‘unsophisticated’ blue-collar men butt heads; Charlie discovers his true passion in life (shoes, and a new love interest); and there’s a late-stage conflict that throws the
Premiering on London's West End in 2012, Alexander Dinelaris's musical version of The Bodyguard is based on the 1992 film starring your ’90s boyfriend Kevin Costner as an ex-Secret Service agent hired to protect a superstar from her stalker, and Whitney Houston as the damsel-in-distress, Rachel Marron. It's coming to Australia in 2017 (thanks to producers Michael Harrison, David Ian and John Frost) with Fijian-born singer-songwriter and original Australian Idol Paulini making her theatrical debut in the role of Rachel Marron, and the rest of the cast TBC. Tickets are on sale from October 31. Check out what Time Out London said about The Bodyguard.
Even reconfigured into a 12-person ensemble piece, we wonder how director Tyran Parke is going to fit this musical – which features, among other things, a mermaid, a giant and a man shot out of a cannon – into the tiny space of the Hayes. Big Fish is based on Daniel Wallace’s 1998 novel and Tim Burton’s 2003 film of the same name, with a score by Andrew Lippa (The Addams Family). Parke's indie production will star Phillip Lowe (Georgy Girl) as travelling salesman Edward Bloom, whose tall stories have kept his friends and family entertained for years – until his son starts to search for the truth behind them. Adam Rennie (Love Never Dies) and Kirby Burgess (Dirty Dancing) also star, along with Katrina Retallick (Dirty Rotten Scoundrels) as Edward’s devoted wife.
Below is our 3-star 2016 review of My Fair Lady at Sydney Opera House, with a slightly different cast. My Fair Lady made Julie Andrews a star when it opened on Broadway in 1956, beginning a juggernaut career for the future Mary Poppins and Maria von Trapp. For its 60th anniversary, Andrews has moved to the director’s chair for a nostalgic production at the Sydney Opera House. The show has an oddly beloved, enduring place in our collective Western consciousness. Based on George Bernard Shaw’s play Pygmalion (though it’s far less bleak), My Fair Lady is perhaps the most popular adaptation of the story, where a young working-class woman is transformed into a ‘lady’ by two older gentlemen, as part of a wager. Andrews’ revival comes with an extra gimmick: her production faithfully recreates each detail of the original run (then directed by Moss Hart) from sets to costumes and beyond. Old designs and designer assistants were tracked down and studied to make a show that looks just like any given night of its record-breaking 2,717-night run on Broadway in the 1950s – with the exception of fresh choreography by Tony-award winner Christopher Gattelli, which is inspired by Hanya Holm’s original work. Unlike other adaptations of Pygmalion that embrace contemporary culture and suggest that these class or makeover experiments also change the men for the better (e.g. She’s All That or the swiftly cancelled but not without promise TV series Selfie) this replica My Fair Lady remains a pro
Alex Harding’s coming of age story, first produced at Darlinghurst's Stables Theatre in 1988, pulls back the curtain on Kings Cross in the 1940s and 50s – at a time when it was both a home for the bohemian set and the epicentre of Sydney’s gay community; and over a period in which Australia transitioned from post-war euphoria to the austerity of the Menzies era. Shaun Rennie (Hayes Theatre Co’s You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown) returns to direct an excellent cast that includes Hayden Tee (Les Miserables), Tim Draxl (Foxtel’s A Place to Call Home), Blazey Best (Hayes Theatre Co’s Miracle City) and Matthew Backer (Sydney Theatre Company’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream). Only Heaven Knows was previously revived in the 1990s with David Campbell in the lead. Rennie says the musical’s message endures to this day: “At its heart Only Heaven Knows is about community and the family we choose. By looking back it reminds us of how far we’ve come, but also forces us to see how far we have yet to go.”