2018 was a great year for theatre.
Among the highlights were Evita with Tina Arena, The Resistible Rise of Arturo Ui with Hugo Weaving, Diplomacy with John Bell and John Gaden, Harp in the South Parts 1 and 2, the female only cast of Accidental Death of an Anarchist, and Candide.
Next year there are six shows I’m particularly looking forward to:
- Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
- Muriel’s Wedding
- In the Heights
- Life of Galileo
1. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
These are certainly the hottest tickets of the year. It opens in Melbourne on 16 January and is already selling until December 2019. The play is presented in two parts.
This is the eighth story in the Harry Potter series, and is based on an original story by JK Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany. In its opening year in London (2016) it won the most awards in the history of Britain’s Olivier Awards. It opened on Broadway in 2018 and won six Tonys.
This show is full of stunning special effects. Harry (Gareth Reeves) is now grown up and is the father of three school-age children. Lucy Goleby plays his wife Ginny and Sean Rees-Weymyss plays their son Albus. Gyton Grantley is Ron Weasley and Paula Arundell is Hermoine Granger.
2. Muriel’s Wedding
This was part of Sydney Theatre Company’s (STC) season last year and sold out. This year the show has been moved from STC’s Roslyn Packer Theatre to Her Majesty’s in Melbourne and to the Lyric in Sydney.
Playing Muriel this year is Natalie Abbott,. This is 23-year-old Abbott’s first professional role. It was her predecessor Maggie McKenna’s professional debut also, and she has since gone on to star in the US tour of Dear Evan Hansen. Her best friend Rhonda is played by Elizabeth Esguerra.
I found the 2018 musical to be even better than the much loved movie; the Abba songs almost made me clap with glee. The original music and lyrics written by Kate Miller-Heidke and Ken Nuttall were clever and apt. I told all my friends to see it after I saw it in preview last year but it sold out very quickly. It opens in Melbourne in March and Sydney in June.
3. In the Heights
This has a very short run, and like Muriel’s Wedding it was sold out when it played at the Hayes in 2018. The season runs from 16-20 January only in the Sydney Opera House.Written by Hamilton genius Lin-Manuel Miranda (currently starring in the Mary Poppins movie sequel), In the Heights is a salsa-filled, fast paced high energy musical about the Latin community in Washington Heights, New York City. It is an absolute must for musical aficionados.
Last month I had the privilege of attending a Sydney Writers’ Festival special event – an interview with Eric Idle who has just written his autobiography Always Look on the Bright Side. While the plan appeared to be a one-hour interview by ABC presenter, Richard Glover, Eric gave an almost one-man show where he spoke for exactly 60 minutes and reminded me just how funny he and the Monty Python crew really are. He talked about many things – from Beatle George Harrison funding The Life of Brian, to Elvis doing Monty Python impressions in bed with girlfriend Linda Thompson and to Spamalot.
I originally saw Spamalot on Broadway almost 10 years ago. When I saw that the Hayes was putting it on from 6 March I booked my tickets immediately and some for my friends also. It shouldn’t be missed. For me the highlights were the songs:
He is not dead yet
You won’t succeed on Broadway (if you don’t have any Jews)
Always look on the bright side of life
The Hayes cast includes Marty Alix, Blake Appelqvist, Cramer Cain, Rob Johnson, and Jane Watt.
5. Life of Galileo
For the non-musical lovers, Bertolt Brecht’s Life of Galileo is one of the standouts in Belvoir’s 2019 season. Billed as an invigorating guide for how to navigate the age of Trump/Brexit/Putin, it’s a typical Brechtian play about political suppression. Colin Friels (most recently seen in Belvoir’s Dance of Death) says he has yearned his whole life to play this part. He stars with Peter Carroll, Penny Cook, and Vaishnavi Suryaprakash. The season starts on 3 August.
Special mentions go to a reprise of Diplomacy which sold out last year(back at the Ensemble in June), and Packer and Sons (by Tommy Murphy who wrote Holding the Man) in November.
And also to West Side Story on Sydney Harbour, 2019’s Handa Opera. One of the best musicals of the 20th century, to me this is really Sondheim at his very best. Opera stars Julie Lea Goodwin is Maria, and Alexander Lewis is Tony. They will be supported by an all-singing, all-dancing cast. The Australian Opera is also presenting West Side Story in Melbourne Arts Centre in April and Sydney Opera House in October. Sophie Salvesani is Maria and Todd Jacobsson is Tony in the AO production.