Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has a bit of a chequered past as a stage musical. It opened in a huge, lavish production on London’s West End in 2013, and although sheer spectacle helped it run three years, it wasn’t exactly a smash hit, and reviews were lukewarm. In 2017, the show was given a brand new production for Broadway, which got some things right – it added more songs from the 1971 film to the new score by Scott Wittman and Marc Shaiman – but was savaged by a bunch of critics for its apparently uninspired score, scenes and underwhelming staging. It closed after just nine months, which is a pretty damning indictment on a musical based on such a popular family-friendly story. But that hasn’t stopped Australian producers bringing the show to our shores in this production by director Jack O’Brien, based on his own Broadway production. It’s certainly not the charmless disaster those scathing Broadway reviews would have you believe – O’Brien and the Australian company have nailed some of the comedic elements and created a show that generously reaches out to its audience and keeps them totally entertained. But they can’t quite overcome the problems in the show itself. Things get off to a shaky start when the curtain rises on mysterious chocolatier Willy Wonka (Paul Slade Smith), who tells the audience about his mission – he’s going to disguise himself as a chocolate seller and find an appropriate heir to his candy fortune. He meets Charlie near immediat
Maeve Marsden and Libby Wood are the brains (and voices) behind the brilliant Mother’s Ruin: A Cabaret About Gin and the musical comedy troupe Lady Sings It Better. Now, sick of being referred to as “buxom” and “appropriately curvaceous” (appropriate for what?) in reviews, they’re reclaiming the power of Broadway for the less skinny leading ladies among us. With songs from Chicago, Calamity Jane, Frozen, Sideshow, A Chorus Line, Wicked and Cats to name a few, expect plenty of the pair’s wicked wit as well as a hefty dose of feminist outrage. It’s part of Darlinghurst Theatre Company's inaugural Comedy Fest.
Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour has been going strong for seven years now, bringing a touch of spectacle – and a boatload of fireworks – to Sydney each autumn. But things will be a little different in 2019 as the company steps away from the operatic repertoire with its first outdoor musical, West Side Story. Leonard Bernstein's score is about as operatic and sophisticated as musical theatre gets, meaning the show has long been performed by opera companies. Opera Australia artistic director Lyndon Terracini said: “I’ve always loved West Side Story, it’s one of the greatest pieces ever written, and I’ve been wanting to include it in the Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour repertoire since we started the program seven years ago. “The setting is perfect, with the city skyline in the background, you won’t get a better stage backdrop in the world, and I’ve said from the start, if a piece is right, then we’ll do it, we don’t want to be bound by preconceptions.” For this new production, Opera Australia is reuniting two members of the dream team behind La Traviata, the first ever Handa Opera on Sydney Harbour in 2012: American director Francesca Zambello and veteran Australian set designer Brian Thomson (who's designed everything from the stage version of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert to the first ever production of The Rocky Horror Show). Tony will be played by Alexander Lewis, who recently won rave reviews in the company's The Merry Widow, and Maria will be Julie Lea Goodwin, who previo
The 1977 movie Saturday Night Fever is known for a few things: extraordinary disco dancing, some of the greatest songs ever written for the dancefloor, and John Travolta. Travolta mightn't be in this stage musical based on the movie, but two out of three ain't bad. The film was first turned into a musical in 1998 for the London's West End, where it ran for two years, before heading to Broadway. This new version premiered in Paris last year and features Bee Gees hits 'Stayin' Alive', 'How Deep Is Your Love', 'Night Fever', 'Tragedy' and 'More Than A Woman'. In this version, most of those songs are performed by a group of singers – led by Australia's disco queen Marica Hines with Paulini and Bobby Fox – who'll perform alongside a cast of dancers, including Euan Doidge as Tony and Melanie Hawkins as Stephanie.
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
Sydney, Muriel has arrived. With an updated book by original screenwriter PJ Hogan and music by pop intelligentsia Kate Miller-Heidke and Keir Nuttall, Muriel’s Wedding the Musical will leave you smiling for days. Directed by our finest big-picture showman Simon Phillips, this is the film-to-stage adaptation critics, audiences and creatives dream of: an updated and evolved version of the original story that stands proudly as its own creation. Muriel (Maggie McKenna, in an astonishing debut) is the outcast in the fictional, Tweed Heads-inspired coastal town of Porpoise Spit. The locals worship beach bodies and traditional gender stereotypes (the women, the ensemble chirp, don’t have any pubic hair). Muriel, who still listens to ABBA in 2017, and isn’t stick-thin or blessed with social graces, is an outsider. She’s bullied by family and friends. She hates herself, and the reality of that loathing is never downplayed, her anguish sensitively explored in numbers ‘Lucky Last’ and ‘Why Can’t That Be Me?’ Her only allies are ABBA (Jaime Hadwen, Sheridan Harbridge, Mark Hill and Aaron Tsindos) – who appear in Muriel’s times of need as her friends, confidantes, and conscience. Their magical appearances satisfyingly solve the dilemma of adapting this film into a musical: how to marry its memorable use of ABBA songs with a brand-new and contemporary score? Of course, Muriel isn’t the only person suffocating in Porpoise Spit. Her mother Betty (a heartbreaking Justine Clarke) is her
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'.
Recently announced shows
It's time for Sydney's boys to don their ballet shoes – Billy Elliot the Musical is on its way back to Australian shores for a tenth anniversary tour.
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.