They say rain on opening night of an outdoor show is a good omen. Well, Handa Opera’s West Side Story on Sydney Harbour must be in for one hell of a run after the deluge that set in for a solid hour right on cue for the prelude to Act I.

The audience, dressed to the nines for the red carpet, rushed to purchase ponchos and attempted to keep dry for a few desperate minutes, before giving up. We all resolved to ignore the fact that we could see nothing through our glasses (someone really must invent windscreen wipers for spectacles), our hair and make-up which took hours to do was now undone in a matter of moments, our dry-clean-only gown and suede handbag were beyond salvaging, and our $20 program turned to pulp. After all, if the actors could sing and dance in the rain, we could sit and watch in the rain.

With good humour, determined to enjoy ourselves, we applauded and cheered as the actors burst onto the stage full of life, seemingly unaffected by the great flood. The fast-paced twirls, leaps and lifts, not to mention the scaling of ladders taking place on the raked stage seemed downright dangerous – an OH&S nightmare. Thankfully the dancers were all wearing sneakers and the floor had a rough surface, making the feat of their triple and quadruple pirouettes all the more impressive. Continue reading WEST SIDE STORY : SIZZLES EVEN WITH THE RAIN


Above: Jay Cullen as Judas Iscariot, Rickard Roach as Annas and Mark Gardner as Caiphas. Featured image: Kyle Nozza as Jesus Christ with ensemble. Photo credit- Grant Leslie Photography

This is solid entertainment and a stunningly updated version of Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s original 1971 classic. Audiences will be moved and leave the theatre singing the well known music which has been excitingly repackaged. I still am.

Successful lighting, filmic rear-stage projection, a multi-level set design and a diversity of modern costuming ensure that this show is a visual spectacle throughout. These production values bring us an engaging, edgy and entirely believable piece of suffering.

It is a current and relevant retelling Andrew Lloyd Webber and Tim Rice’s nod at the Christian story of a sacrificed Saviour. It pushes creative boundaries quite far but not too far and delights our modern and very visual sensibilities.

Several ‘superstars’ grace this stage. Vocally, James Gander as Pontius Pilate is forever rewarding with warm controlled tone and measured swoop to his acting. ‘Pilate’s Dream’ was a well carved out signpost of foreboding and a well delivered mood changer.

Ileana Pipitone brought the role of Mary Magdalene to the Sutherland Entertainment Centre with an open directness of physical approach and truthful tone and expert blend in ensemble moments. These exchanges reached a relaxed intensity of colour in ‘Can we start again, Please?’ where she ably led the group emotional statement.

The shifting emotions in the final week of Jesus’ earthly life were sung with formidable clarity and with pleasing stage presence by Kyle Nozza. He demonstrates an amazingly keen and humble conversational lilt whilst delivering us some huge direct-hit notes. Challenging shifts between types of vocal voice and many chest voice high register exclamations were attacked with thrilling passion here.

Above: Ileana Pipitone as Mary Magdalene and Kyle Nozza as Jesus with ensemble. Photo credit: Grant Leslie Photography.

This show’s  traditional larger-than-life King Herod as played by Lachlan O’Brien and dancers illuminates the stage here. It is such a theatrical number as this which proves audiences need to leave the lounge room and reality TV to discover emerging talent supplying the real deal live locally. Herod’s dancers are ably re-invented later as an angelic hoodie hip-hop troupe in another stellar stage innovation.

Acting highlights include the multifaceted edginess displayed by Jay Cullen in a restless yet vulnerable portrayal of the torments of Judas Iscariot. The temple priests are also a terrific presence with varied dramatic tone and attitude in equal portions. The busy ensemble are also believable and focussed as they move smoothly through the constant shifts of the stage storyboard.

Some moments exist where the active ensemble’s vocal part-singing and textural power could be stronger or more defined within the melee but these are brief. However the languid hypnotic mood created in the ‘The Last Supper’ scene. Here, gorgeous groove and well blended part singing are up with the most seamless to be found in any historical stage or screen version of this musical.

At all times the band played with well chosen tempi and with the necessary momentum this rock musical demands. They were at all times successfully sympathetic to the onstage sound level being produced.

The ‘John 19:41’ 39 lashes scene is one of this version’s many standout action segments . As led again consistently commandingly by James Gander’s’ Pontius Pilate it uses the assembled sinners of mankind to slash n mark the Saviour in what is indeed a directorial and choreographic  master stroke. The macabre energy level and pace never wanes throughout this sequence.

Miranda Musical Society’s Jesus Christ Superstar concludes its run on Sunday Mar 23. Fans of blockbuster musicals should save the dates of September 25-29 for this group’s production of Les Misérables.





I love shows like this where one gets to know some things about the person behind the work. Work wae there plenty of in Enright’s case. He left a large canon of work and his plays are still regularly performed on our stages.

These are just some of my jottings from the show.

Enright was born in Maitland  and went to school at Riverview where he was Drama Captain. He was obsessed with theatre from very early on. There’s a story of how he stood by the stage door at the Capitol theatre attired in his school uniform so he could meet Nancye Hayes.

He was a prolific poet with many of his poems having a light, comic touch.

With his film script Lorenzo’s Oil, which he co-wrote with George Miller, he was offered the chance to settle in Los Angeles but he rejected it, wanting to stay based in Australia. He was very patriotic and he wrote definitively Australian characters with Aussie vernacular.

There’s a lovely scene during the play where the Peter Allen song ‘I Still Call Australia Home’ is sung with audience participation. Some may not know that Enright wrote the book to the international hit that was The Boy From Oz. Continue reading ENRIGHT ON THE NIGHT @ THE GENESIAN THEATRE


Truth in advertising, the set of THE BED PARTY is a bloody big bed, big enough for a quintet of quilt comrades to congregate for a party of polemics and queer politic.

It’s the boudoir of Jasmine and Finn, but it becomes the platform for their flatmates to trundle out their troubles and woes.

First to claim the cot, in a coitus interruptus moment, is Tara, equivocal and prevaricating in her sexuality, insisting she is bi, but bemoaning the fact that blokes abuse her. She is anxious to debrief about her recent dud date, which incenses Jasmine to the point of furore.

Into the fray comes Bri, former flatmate, who has just fled her new lover, Kelly, over issues of procreation. Kelly craves parenthood which is anathema to Bri. Continue reading THE BED PARTY: EXTENDED SEASON


Its Christmas and theatre director Will Drummond is having a huge mid life crisis.

Nothing is certain any more. His parents are suddenly old, his professional world is changing, everyone around him seems to be losing faith and losing the plot and it feels as if society had lost its soul.

For Will, it’s going to be a time of reckoning and a journey of discovery towards a deeper if not especially comfortable awareness of himself.

One of  Australia’s leading playwrights this Michael Gow play was first performed at Belvoir Street in 2014. with BHrendan Cowell in the lead role.

This is a dark play with Will dealing with his mother’s demise as a result of pancreatic cancer. I have to say that I found it particularly dark as I lost my own mother as a result of this very insidious and fast moving form of cancer. Continue reading ONCE IN ROYAL DAVID’S CITY @ THE NEW



Miguel Castro (Ibarra)

NOLI ME TANGERE is a new Australian musical based on the novel, of the same name, by iconic Filipino nationalist and hero Dr. José Rizal, that inspired a nation during the tail end of the Spanish colonial period of the Philippines ‘The Noli’ (as it is called in the Philippines) was the “first major artistic expression of Asian defiance to European colonialism” and is now widely known as the great novel of the Philippines.

As we are at Riverside Theatres quite often and have been watching how many people pick up the flyer for the show to discuss it with curiosity and interest we wanted to bring our readers some insights into a new grand musical.  The Guide had the chance to put some questions to Miguel Castro who plays  Ibarra and Susana Downes, playing Maria Clara. Continue reading NOLI ME TANGERE – INTERVIEW WITH ‘IBARRA’ AND ‘MARIA CLARA’


Sydney has secured the 2019 premiere of the multi-award winning, record breaking musical CHICAGO. Produced in Australia by John Frost and Suzanne Jones, this Australian production will premiere from August 20 at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre.

The sassy musical will star some of Australia’s most talented performers. Starring as the irreverent and determined Roxie Hart, is one of our most versatile entertainers, Natalie Bassingthwaighte and joining her as the empowered and glamorous Velma Kelly is musical theatre star Alinta Chidzey. Much adored Casey Donovan joins the duo as the tough and sassy prison warden Matron ‘Mama’ Morton.

“We are so thrilled to have this incredible Australian cast join us in bringing this New York institution back to Australia. CHICAGO has everything that people love about Broadway, a story of fame, fortune and all that jazz, one show-stopping number after another and the most amazing dancing you’ve ever seen as well as the most sizzling score” said producer John Frost.

Producer Suzanne Jones added, “We cannot wait to see Natalie, Alinta and Casey make these iconic roles their own whilst supported by a slick ensemble cast. We are so privileged to have the most exceptional performers joining us on this production who are sure to bring the razzle dazzle!”

The Kander & Ebb musical has been seen by over 31 million people worldwide in 36 countries and is the winner of six Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards and a Grammy Award. CHICAGO continues to play on Broadway and around the world in multiple languages and is the longest running American musical in Broadway and West End history.

Set amidst the razzle-dazzle decadence of the 1920s, CHICAGO is the story of Roxie Hart, a housewife and nightclub dancer who murders her on-the-side lover after he threatens to walk out on her. Desperate to avoid conviction, she dupes the public, the media and her rival cellmate, Velma Kelly, by hiring Chicago’s slickest criminal lawyer Billy Flynn to transform her malicious crime into a barrage of sensational headlines, the likes of which might just as easily be ripped from today’s tabloids.

Whether you’re looking for your first Broadway musical, whether you’ve seen the Academy Award®- winning film and want to experience the show live on stage, whether you’ve seen it before and want to recapture the magic or whether you are after a perfect night of pure entertainment, CHICAGO always delivers.

Season: From August 20th (performance times vary – see Ticketmaster for specific shows)

For more about Chicago, visit
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Monkey Baa, the award-winning theatre company for young people, is proud to present a brand new stage adaptation of POSSUM MAGIC, based on the picture book by Mem Fox and Julie Vivas.

The show will premiere at the ARA Darling Quarter Theatre on 30 th March before embarking on a national tour of 62 venues throughout 2019.

POSSUM MAGIC has captivated and enchanted young readers for generations and this magical new production promises an unforgettable experience for children and adults alike.

Lovingly adapted by Monkey Baa creative directors Eva Di Cesare and Sandra Eldridge, the show is directed by Eldridge and stars Claudette Clarke, Sarah Greenwood, Alex Packard and Michael Yore.

Monkey Baa has assembled an astounding team of creatives to help bring the book to life including production designer Emma Vine, Sydney Theatre Award-winning composer and sound designer Nate
Edmondson, and magic and illusion designer Adam Mada .

Director Sandra Eldridge said, “It’s tremendously exciting to bring one of Australia’s most loved iconic stories to the stage, and we are honoured to have the support of Mem and Julie. With this
show, we really wanted to highlight how important it is for young people to find their own voice and visibility, and for those who are older to encourage and support their journey because it leads us
somewhere new too.”

Author Mem Fox said, “Back in 1978, when I wrote a children’s story as a university assignment, I’d have died of joy if I’d known it would eventually become POSSUM MAGIC. In 2019, the magic goes on.
POSSUM MAGIC is a now play! And although I’m as old as Grandma Poss, I’m as excited as a child.”


Production images: Kate Williams

As they watch for us to enter there’s an electricity between the two figures eagerly waiting in the sand by the swings as the sea swells quietly in the background.  Jess and Joe are ready.  They have rehearsed their presentation, have worked hard on what they will show us and “in this moment” they will share a beautiful, soul-soothing story to lift the spirits of anyone who is there.  JESS AND JOE FOREVER by Zoe Cooper is a sand gem of a production which shines and glimmers in the tuck of the basement at Belvoir Street Theatre.

Jess and Joe have a burning desire to tell their story.  Of how they met at approximately 9 ¾ and where their tween love takes them.  She has an au pair and a holiday home in Italy, he is a bit of a battler on his Dad’s farm.  She is a bit tubby and he is physically shy, too.  He is practical and she poetic; she chats and he reacts.  For our benefit they will act out how they met, became friends, and the individual tales that happened away from each other that made their time together so important. Continue reading JESS AND JOE FOREVER – SOUL SOOTHING THEATRE


July this year will herald the inaugural Sydney Cabaret Festival, celebrating both international and Australian cabaret stars. Tickets are on sale as from today, 

The 2019 Sydney Cabaret Festival features the legendary Tony Award-winning Jennifer Holliday, appearing for the first time on Australian soil, alongside local legends like Phil Scott and Jonathan Biggins, to New York downtown darling Natalie Joy Johnson.

UK’s most famous duo Frisky and Mannish return after a ten year hiatus, as does the thrilling diva Alison Jiear, described as having a “bring down the house voice” by the New York Times

. Sydney favourite Tim Draxl will appear in a world premiere of his new show, along with Kim David SmithReuben Kaye and Brian Nash, plus circus and variety show Cheeky Cabaret, direct from their home in Brunswick Heads.

Australian pop culture fan Tim Benzie returns to Sydney with the hilarious Solve-Along-A-Murder-She-Wrote. The Festival also includes a cabaret for children, Petit Cabaret, and masterclasses with Jennifer Holliday and Alison Jiear, as well as the Grand Final of the restored Sydney Cabaret Competition.

 Festival Artistic Director Trevor Ashley is thrilled with the program he has assembled. “I have loved Cabaret as long as I can remember. As a confused child growing up I discovered this incredible artform that celebrated unique personalities, and more than that, an irreplaceable bond between artist and audience. Seeing artists like Lorrae Desmond, Julie Anthony and Geraldine Turner live, made me believe I could be anyone I wanted to be. It changed my life.

 I have long dreamed that we could bring cabaret home to Sydney so I am immensely proud to present the inaugural Sydney Cabaret Festival, which in its first outing brings together some of my favourite artists from around Australia and the globe. From our headliner, the legendary Jennifer Holliday, through to Alison Jiear, Kim David Smith and Reuben Kaye – three artists at the top of their game, who were born here, but now call London and New York home, there is something for everyone. Variety, comedy, jazz, and more belting than you could poke a stick at, we are coming out with a bang.

 I invite you to celebrate this truly life changing artform, and hope that you’ll join not only artists you know and love, but take a chance on someone you’ve never heard of before. Every single one of these acts is at the top of their game, and I can’t believe we will have them all in one place at the same time.”

 In the immortal words of Fred Ebb: What good is sitting alone in your room? Come to the Cabaret, playing between the 5th and 14th July, 2019.


Captain Marvel is rocketing up the multiplex box-office at the moment, but, for my money, there’s a major marvel playing at Riverside Theatres at the moment that beats the kapow! out of that CGI blockbuster.

Like Captain Marvel, GROUNDED features a female Air Force top gun, a fighter pilot, highly trained, with an abiding love for the big blue, the limitless sky, the ecstatic freedom of flight.
She’s smart and sassy and has attained the rank of Major, a veteran of the Desert Wars.

Then, drinking with her mostly male aviator cohort in a bar, she is approached and wooed by a fella that fells her with one sweet swoon and a wild weekend in the sack.

Bliss blooms in her womb. She wants the child and so does the man. The only drawback to the pregnancy is that she will be grounded.

She finds being wife and mother wonderful, but yearns to take to the skies again, resume her career.
Husband is supportive, so much so that when she is stationed in Las Vegas, he relocates, finds a job, sets up the domestic majestic.

Her home life is grounded, in the best sense of the word – secure, loving, supportive – but her career is grounded in the worst sense of the word – curbed, static, stalled. Instead of taking to the air she is given a chair, an assignment to pilot drones. Out of the blue, and into the grey. Literally and metaphorically.

From Air Force to Chair Force, she sits in one desert while waging remote control war in another.
This assignment changes the whole dynamic of her vocation, taking her from confident and committed combatant, an actor in kill or be killed confrontation, to desk chair assassin anonymity, morally and physically disarming her.

George Brant’s script is grounded in complexity, compassion, empathy and exhilaration. If the play was a plane it would be admired for its grace and agility and in the National Theatre of Parramatta’s production it is piloted by an ace actor.

Emily Havea gives a soaring performance, aerodynamically adroit in physical and vocal presence, knowing when to steep and bank, go full throttle, and glide. Quite simply, she flies.

Director Dom Mercer expertly traffic controls the production navigating plenty of air space for his performer and marshalling the exceptional talents of John Hindmarsh, set and costume designer,
Alexander Berlage, lighting design, and sound designer Mary Rapp.

GROUNDED delivers thrilling theatre, from take off to landing. A major marvel. Come fly!