Long before it was an Academy Award-winning film, Chicago was a hit Broadway musical. Penned by musical theatre's dynamic duo John Kander and Fred Ebb, the musical was only a minor splash when it premiered in 1975. But when it was given a stripped back and sexed up new production in 1996, it became an immediate sensation and eventually the longest running Broadway revival of all time. That's the production which Sydney audiences will see, this time with Natalie Bassingthwaighte playing Roxie (the Renée Zellweger role) opposite musical theatre star Alinta Chidzey as Velma (the Catherine Zeta-Jones role). Vocal powerhouse Casey Donovan is taking on Matron Mama Morton, the prison warden who sings 'When You're Good to Mama', and Tom Burlinson is Billy Flynn. The show also includes 'Razzle Dazzle', 'Cell Block Tango', 'Mr Cellophane', and, of course, 'All That Jazz'.
Muriel Heslop is the designated loser of small-town Porpoise Spit. She stole a dress from Target to wear to a wedding, she flies away from reality on the wings of ABBA songs, and she bamboozles her mother into handing over the family credit card by exploiting her insecurities. And yet, when she steals her family’s money and runs away to Sydney to define life on her own terms, it’s exhilarating. We root for her every step of the way. Muriel (Natalie Abbott) is complicated and stubborn, and her actions can be thoughtless, cold or criminal. But in both PJ Hogan's 1994 film Muriel’s Wedding, and this disarmingly bold stage adaptation, she’s also deeply loveable. Muriel just wants to be loved, and don’t we all? Can’t we all understand the way her pain, and the rotten foundation of a cruel father and a small-minded community, have fuelled her to change her life by any means possible? And don’t we all want to cheer, or laugh, or burst into tears (or all three) when Muriel finally finds an ally in Rhonda (Stefanie Jones), a fellow Porpoise Spit-expat with a hedonistic zest for life? She takes down Muriel’s frenemies with a single line, beautiful in its precise obliteration of her targets, and suddenly anything feels possible. So off Muriel goes to Sydney, following Rhonda’s path to liberation. To her, Sydney looks endlessly exciting – a place full of queers, queens and weirdos coming together; her Sydney is a place is where you “finally get to be you.” And when she sees Sydney th
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 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. It means you'll be able to watch West Side Story on the harbour with the Sydney Opera House in the background next autumn, and then watch it inside the actual Opera House in winter. Woah. Sydney 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'.
Earlier this year, Time Out New York reviewed a new production of this musical by Angels in America playwright Tony Kushner and Fun Home composer Jeanine Tesori, writing: “Simply put, Tony Kushner and Jeanine Tesori's gorgeous portrait of a maid in 1963 Louisiana is one of the great musicals of the past half-century. This is a show that can actually change the way you see the world and the people in it on a daily basis.” That’s high praise for any musical, so it’s perhaps surprising that in the decade and a half since its premiere, there’s never been a professional production of the show in Australia. That’s about to change thanks to Hayes Theatre, which is staging an intimate new production starring Elenoa Rokobaro as Caroline. The musical is based in Louisiana in 1963 and concerns an eight-year-old boy and his family’s maid, a single mother of four. It raises pertinent questions about economic inequality and white privilege, all set to a score combining blues, spiritual music, soul, motown and Jewish Klezmer. Mitchell Butel is returning to direct at the Hayes after winning the Sydney Theatre Award for Best Director with Violet.
It's time to stretch those spirit fingers and prepare to be aggressive... be-be aggressive – Bring It On: The Musical is returning to Sydney with a season at the State Theatre this August. The musical is inspired by the beloved 2000 cheerleading movie, but tells the story of a new group of competitive cheerleaders. It premiered on Broadway in 2012 and is 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). The local production will be directed by Alister Smith, who was nominated for a Green Room Award for his production of Sondheim's Pacific Overtures. Given the challenges of the show, the producers have had to find not just triple threats but quadruple threats who can sing, dance, act and cheer. Choreographer Michael Ralph is joined by cheerleading coach Natalie Commons, who has represented Australia internationally and has been involved in cheerleading for more than two decades.
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 taking centre stage at the Sydney Opera House's Concert Hall. 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.
It's time to don your ballet shoes and practice your plié – Billy Elliot the Musical is on its way back to Australian shores for a tenth anniversary tour. The British musical blockbuster is opening at the Sydney Lyric in October, with four freakishly talented youngsters sharing the title role: Omar Abiad (12, from Brisbane), River Mardesic (10, from Melbourne), Wade Neilsen (12, from Newcastle) and Jamie Rogers (12, from Canberra). They're joined by Australian musical theatre stalwart Kelley Abbey as the tough-as-nails ballet teacher Mrs Wilkinson, and Justin Smith as Billy's father. The musical is set against the background of the 1984/85 UK coal miners' strike and tells the story of Billy, a miner's son who dreams of becoming a professional ballet dancer. Lee Hall, who wrote the popular 2000 film upon which the musical is based, adapted the story for the stage with musical superstar Elton John, who penned the score. Elton John said: "Billy Elliot for me is one of the most rewarding and creative works of my career. I have very fond memories of the Sydney production in 2007 as it was the first city outside of the UK we mounted the show and found many incredibly talented children who would go on to carry the show through its successful Australian run." After opening on London's West End in 2005 – where it scored a five-star review from Time Out London – the show had its Australian premiere in 2007, winning a record-equalling seven Helpmann Awards including Best Musical. Tw
This is a review of the 2018 Melbourne premiere of School of Rock. Casting is yet to be confirmed for the Sydney premiere season. The Rock Musical is a subset with a very chequered past. For every Hair there’s a Rent; for every Hedwig and the Angry Inch there’s an American Idiot. Andrew Lloyd Webber might have seemed an odd choice to adapt the 2003 Jack Black film School of Rock for the stage, but then the man was synonymous with the rock musical when Jesus Christ Superstar ruled the world back in 1970. Some people think that show had as much to do with rock as Phantom of the Opera has to do with opera, but that’s kind of beside the point. It worked as a musical, more or less, and its songs entered the musical theatre canon almost instantly. School of Rock does seem now like a fairly obvious vehicle for a fully realised musical, but that’s hindsight talking. A lot could have gone wrong on the way to actualisation: the source material has a painfully thin plot, with really only one central gag; the music needs to be a pastiche but also has to convince as a completely integrated score; and the kids really have to be as talented as the story promises they will be. Any one of those could have brought this project to its knees, and not in that rock-god, slide-across-the-stage kind of way. While that plot might be thin, thankfully it’s still pretty good. Dewey (Brent Hill) is a man baby who mooches off his friend Ned (Zachary Pidd) so shamelessly that when posh private school Ho
Here's an ogre-sized announcement: Broadway's musical version of the much-loved 2001 Dreamworks movie Shrek is making its Australian professional debut in January 2020 at the Sydney Lyric Theatre. The musical premiered on Broadway in 2008, where it was nominated for eight Tony Awards and ran for more than a year, during which time it was filmed for DVD and Blu-ray release. It then opened in London in 2011, where it ran for nearly two years. It's very much the ogre-meets-princess story you know and love from the original film. We regret to inform you that the stage version doesn't open with Smash Mouth's 'All Star', but it does end with 'I'm a Believer', and features a stellar bunch of other songs by Broadway heavyweight Jeanine Tesori. Ben Mingay will be greening up for the title role and will be joined by Lucy Durack as Princess Fiona and Marcia Hines as the dragon.
Sing along if you know this one: Divorced, beheaded, died, divorced, beheaded, survived. After becoming a surprise West End hit, Six the Musical is set to have its Australian premiere season at the Sydney Opera House from January 4 2020. Much like Hamilton before it, the pop musical is making history buffs out of legions of musical theatre tragics, telling the story of the six wives of Henry VIII. The premise of the show is sort of hilarious: all six are members of a pop band and trying to decide who should be the lead singer. It's basically a pop concert in which all six wives compete to determine who had the worst time with old mate Henry, and who should therefore be the star of the sextet. Together, they're a little bit Spice Girls, a little bit Destiny's Child and a little bit Little Mix, with a set of songs inspired by the pop stars of today. The original soundtrack has become a hit, having garnered 40 million streams on Spotify since its release. The musical was penned by young Brits Toby Marlow and Lucy Moss, who wrote the show while they were studying at Cambridge. It went on to tour the UK extensively and played a season on the West End where it was nominated for five Olivier Awards. It's just announced it'll open on Broadway in March 2020, which means Sydney audiences will get to see it first.
Recently announced shows
Sydney: are you ready to be in the room where it happens? By “it”, we mean Lin-Manuel Miranda’s record-smashing hip hop musical Hamilton, which is officially heading our way.
For the first time in forever, Sydney's getting something first: the Broadway musical based on Disney's hit movie Frozen will have its Australian premiere in July 2020 at the Capitol Theatre.
Praise the musical theatre gods: three massive shows have just been announced for Sydney over the next two years. That means it’s time for local musical nerds to start saving up their pennies.
In 1990, Jimmy Chi's musical about a runaway teenage Aboriginal boy on a wild and eye-opening road trip became a surprise hit.