All posts by Ben Apfelbaum

My photography began when my father handed me the proverbial brownie box camera as a child. As cameras developed I went through Fujica and Olympus range finders graduating to my first single lens reflex camera, the Minolta SRT101, the latter being the greatest facilitator to my growth as a photographer. Digital photography has only added to this. I was a regular contributor to Camera Craft magazine (Australian Camera ) for over three years. During Australia’s Bicentennial year (1988) I made it a personal project to document the celebrations. This culminated in the creation of a book of my photos which was published in 1989. The book was called CELEBRATING AUSTRALIA and came with an accompanying calendar. My works have appeared in a number of publications including the coffee book entitled MY AUSTRALIA (1989), publisher Robertsbridge Severn. This book had a preface by the then Australian Prime Minister Bob Hawke. I was a co-photographer on a book entitled SYDNEY- DISCOVER THE CITY with text written by Robert Treborland. Major Mitchell Press was the publisher. Also for two years I was the photographer for calendars celebrating Sydney’s multicultural communities. The two calendars were entitled MULTICULTURAL SYDNEY. My work appeared in a group exhibition held at Sydney’s Town Hall pertaining to the diversity of life in South America to raise money for orphanages there. I have over one hundred photos stored in the New South Wales State Library archive. I had a solo exhibition held in 2007 entitled Ben’s Lens at the Sydney Jewish Museum which celebrated the vibrancy of the Sydney Jewish community. Some of these photos are on the Museum’s permanent display. I have exhibited internationally firstly at the Spruill Gallery in Atlanta Georgia, united states, and in an exhibition entitled Kosher and Co at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. Currently I am a regular contributor to J-Wire and this esteemed publication.


July is a quiet time in terms of scheduling a Festival in Sydney’s often hectic cultural calendar. Leo Schofield tried valiantly to launch an international choral festival at this time of year. Sydney has had a rich cultural cabaret tradition and now we have our own Sydney Cabaret Festival to celebrate.

Trevor Ashley is the Artistic Director of Sydney’s inaugural Festival. He has secured a number of venues to showcase the plethora of talent including the City Recital Hall, the Town Hall and the Seymour Centre which will be the cultural hub of the Festival. The Seymour Centre will feature nightly surprise performances in true cabaret style. 

Headlining the Festival is Jennifer Holiday who is a Tony and Grammy award winning Broadway artist with nine Studio albums and five top ten singles on the R & B charts. This will be her Sydney debut 

New York city diva Natalie Joy Johnson will be presenting a show called ‘Relentless’ featuring outrageous stories and soaring vocals.

Alison Jiear returns from a hugely successful UK residency to present a centenary celebration of Ella Fitzgerald’s music. 

UK’s most famous duo Frisky and Mannish will be presenting a witty and comedic show calledCheeky Cabaret’.

Local favourites include Tim Draxl, Jonathon Biggins  and Phil Scott, Rhonda Burchmore, Tom Sharah, Cath Alcorn, Genevieve Lemon and of-course Trevor Ashley, to name but a few 

One hopes that this festival will grow from strength to strength just as its Adelaide counterpart has. Trevor Ashley with its glittering lineup has got the Festival off to a great start.

Sydney’s inaugural cabaret festival runs nightly till Sunday 14th July, 2019.

Featured image-Tim Draxl, Alison Jiear, Trevor Ashley, Jennifer Holiday, Natalie Joy Johnson. All pics by Ben Apfelbaum


To create this extravaganza producer Andrew Guild spent eight months seeking out and signing up the most entertaining acts on the international circus circuit. This show boasts artists coming from Canada, Turkey, Cuba, USA, Colombia, Russia and a jaw dropping contortionist from  Dagestan. Prior to arriving in Sydney for its premiere season, ZIRK! toured South Africa and  Singapore garnering rapturous reviews. 

Eschewing animal acts, this cavalcade of circus stars create eighteen action packed acts and in some cases death defying performances without a net! These include athletic trampolinists, juggling clowns, aerialists, and a motorbike globe with a record breaking seven riders hurtling around at thrilling and dangerous speeds.  Continue reading ZIRK! CIRCUS – THE BIG TOP SPECTACULAR


The theatrical slogan ‘Back By Popular Demand’ in the case of MURIEL’S WEDDING THE MUSICAL is not a mere lure but absolutely true.

The initial season at the Roslyn Packer Theatre was over subscribed many times over. Nevertheless this time around it is only playing from July 4 for a strictly limited ten week season at the Lyric Theatre.

At the Media Call where two  numbers were show cased – ‘Sydney’ and ‘Here Coms The Bride’, the set designer and the cast seemed to relish the larger stage area afforded at  the Lyric.

It is also a victim of its own success as the original leads Maggie McKenna and Madeline Jones were spirited away from the 2019 season. Maggie McKenna is appearing in a US National tour of Dear Evan Hansen whilst Madeleine Jones is appearing in the Harry Potter and the Cursed Child show in Melbourne.

Despite Elaine Simpson, the show’s Assistant Director declaring at the Media Call that it was good to be back at the musical’s spiritual home, it did have an ‘off Broadway’ season in Melbourne.

The new leads Natalie Abbott as Muriel and Stefanie Jones as best friend Rhonda received rave reviews from the Melbourne press.

In its initial run it garnered five Helpmann Awards, seven Sydney Theatre awards, the David Williamson Prize, an  Awgie award and an Aria award nomination. This year  the show collected two  further Helpmann award nominations for Natalie Abbott as Best Female Actor In A Musical and Pippa Grandison for Best Female Actor in A Supporting Role In A Musical.

In its debut season, this sunny, warm and poignant musical was the perfect complement to a Sydney summer.  In a cold and sometimes rainy winter the generated heat, laughter, infectious music and dance, and sheer, glittering brilliance will bring  a radiant glow to  banish the winter gloom.

MURIEL’S WEDDING THE MUSICAL opens at the Lyric Theatre on Thursday 4th July, 2019.

For further details visit

All pics by Ben Apfelbaum



Despite the fact that Cirque Du Soleil’s KURIOS doesn’t premiere in Sydney until the 2nd October at the Entertainment Quarter, the promoters arranged a media call today with two of its star performers in attendance in full costume and makeup.

Prior to ‘their reveal, Jeff Lovari, touring Communications Director gave a brief overview of Cirque Du Soleil’s history and status today .

It has its headquarters in Montreal, sprawled over five city blocks, and is the largest live entertainment company in the world.

As well as several permanent residencies in Las Vegas and Florida, Cirque Du Soleil has approximately 25 other circus shows on the go, which has enabled it over the years to have visited 60 countries.

Emphasising the employment of many local tradesmen (for example in the ten day construction of the Big Top), furthermore it did not use any grid electricity but only drew on Sydney’s water supply.

Julie De Simone, head of wardrobe, stressed the high maintenance needed to keep the costumes in sparkling and fresh condition and in good repair for each vigorous performance.       

The touring company itself has four seamstresses and draws on another four in each city that it visits.

The show itself owes much to the imagination of Jules Verne and the visual genius of pioneering French filmmaker Georges Melies.                  Continue reading CIRQUE DU SOLEIL ‘KURIOS CABINET OF CURIOSITIES’


Like fine wine there are years of vintage quality and years of good quality. This year  was a good quality year.

I admit that I did not attend the Vivid satellite displays at Chatswood and Taronga Park zoos but confined myself to Circular Quay, with a hurried excursion to Darling Harbour.

I found that there seemed to be less light displays around the Quay and there seemed to be an over emphasis on twinkling lights and neon poles. This may be due to the fact that the artists put on these displays at their own cost and mounting the light sculptures is very expensive.

Nevertheless the Harbour  Bridge, the Sydney Opera House, Customs House, the Museum of Contemporary and Cadman’s Cottage had displays of riotous colour.

The Customs House display complemented the Sydney Opera House projections with the theme of local underwater species and organisms. As a tribute to the growing impact indigenous artists have on the wider visual arts community, much of the Sydney Opera House display was in ochre colours.

I found the displays in the Botanical Gardens and Darling Harbour were more imaginative and to fill the gap of artists  not submitting works the corporate/ advertisement industry has gleefully filled the vacuum.

Last year 2.25 million people visited Vivid and its concerts  amd shows.

I don’t know the figure for this 12th Vivid but like the Royal Easter show, inclement weather can keep numbers down and there was quite a bit of this during its three week run.

Due to the fact that the construction work on the Circular Quay end of the light rail had been completed, there was this year a smoother and uninterrupted flow of people around the Quay, especially mid week.

Like a moth, I cannot resist displays of multi coloured light and I will be back, I hope, for Vivid number 13.



A visit to the State Library used to take about an hour when one visited an exhibition that took up the two main original galleries with space going to the Shakespeare Place entrance to the Level One Galleries. However when I attended the newly expanded Gallery spaces it took me several hours to view the exhibitions and even then I could not get to the ground and lower ground exhibition spaces. Accordingly the Gallery now has up to seven exhibition spaces.

My main aim to visit the Library was to see somewhat harrowing and graphic photos of the Canon World Press Photo Awards. These were held in a brand new gallery called the Martin Crouch Gallery. I was told by one of the Security Guards that this beautiful new space with hand painted drapes by Wendy Sharpe was a result of the freeing up of office and administration spaces.                             Continue reading NEW GALLERY SPACES @ THE STATE LIBRARY OF NEW SOUTH WALES



MATADOR  is a combination of burlesque and circus which has become popular in the last few years. It is often performed in Spiegeltents which give these type of performances an intimacy and vibrance that you cannot get in the larger venues where burlesque and circus used to inhabit.

Although it does not have the mirrors of a Spiegeltant the Studio at the Opera House has the intensity and rapport that these smaller venues capture.

Bass Fan, creator of this production, has produced a visual feast cleverly  interspersing the circus aerial acts with the hip thrusting of various members of the ensemble featuring fourteen dancers. Continue reading MATADOR @ THE STUDIO


When the 66th Sydney Film Festival wrapped up at its closing night gala at the State Theatre for many film attendees there was a moment of sadness as for them this was one of the most beloved of Sydney’s festivals. There were as many as a hundred and sixty sold out sessions with a record attendance of nearly 200,000 people. The Festival also coincided with the State Theatre’s 90th anniversary.

Screening over 300 films and hosting some 120 filmmakers both locally and international, the Sydney Film Festival deserves its award as one of 13 UNESCO film festivals.

As well as the State Government announcing a $5,000,000 boost to facilitate the Sydney Film Festival travelling regionally, the Film Festival Board extended Nashen Moodley’s contract to continue in his role for a further four years, rewarding him for growing the Festival in the past eight years as itsArtistic Director. Continue reading SYDNEY FILM FESTIVAL : THE WRAP


This is the 40th anniversary production of SWEENEY TODD whose full title is SWEENEY TODD THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET – A MUSICAL THRILLER.

When Stephen Sondheim saw a play directed by Christopher Bond in 1973 he saw the possibility of composing a musical regarding the murderous Sweeney Todd. Enlisting the aid of Harold Wheeler to write the book, Sondheim went about writing the music and lyrics for the new musical, and when it debuted on Broadway in 1979 it garnered eight Tony awards.

This 40th anniversary production runs for only four days at the International Convention Centre. I am puzzled by this as this is a very ambitious and wonderful production. Perhaps it was the fact that the cavernous Convention Centre would be difficult to fill for a more lengthy season which is a shame. Continue reading SWEENEY TODD A MUSICAL THRILLER @ ICC THEATRE


The opening night film of the 66th Sydney Film Festival was literally a family affair with Rachel Ward directing her husband Bryan Brown and daughter Matilda Brown. It was even more familial due to the fact that the ensemble cast were very good friends of the Browns and each other. Sam Neill and Bryan Brown in particular have worked on many projects together over the years.

Due to its injection of a $5,000,000 worth of funds to facilitate the Festival’s penetration into regional New South Wales, both the Minister of the Arts Don Harwin and the Premier Gladys Berejiklian were in attendance. IO can’t recall the last time a Premier has attended the opening night of the Sydney Film Festival. Due to the camaraderie of the cast there was a lot of kidding around and tomfoolery on the red carpet making it extremely difficult to get a decent shot of the participants. Many of their industry friends were in attendance with the newly appointed Governor of New South Wales Margaret Beazley brought a bit of decorum to the rambunctious Palm Beach cast.

Featured image – Sam Neill and Greta Scacchi. All images by Ben Apfelbaum


When Billy Elliot premiered at the Capitol Theatre in 2007 it had two unique qualities apart from the originality of the show and its talented cast.  At the media call, Louise Withers, the producer of the original and this production revealed these unique quirks.

The first of these  qualities is that the original Australian production was the first of its kind to premiere outside the United Kingdom’s  2005 debut ahead of its season on Broadway. The second unique quality was that due to its staging design, an archaeological dig  had to be excavated below the basements of the Capitol Theatre in Sydney and Her Majesty’s Theatre in Melbourne to allow Billy Elliot’s bedroom to be elevated onto and then lowered below the stage. This meant that the 2007 production could only be seen in  Australia’s two largest cities.                         Continue reading THE FOUR BILLYS HAVE ARRIVED