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The cast of Phantom of the Opera
Photograph: Supplied/Daniel Boud

Sydney theatre latest reviews

Our critics offer their opinions on the city's newest musicals, plays, operas and dance shows

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There's always a lot happening on Sydney's stages – but how do you know where to start? Thankfully our critics are out road-testing musicals, plays, operas, dance and more all year-round. Here are their recommendations.

Want more culture? Check out the best art exhibitions in Sydney.

5 stars: top notch, unmissable

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Haymarket

Beauty and the Beast the Musical revives Disney’s 1991 animation in a theatrical masterpiece that captures a tale as old as time, through the panorama of a multi-sensory spectacle in this two-and-a-half hour production. Before you see anything, it’s what you hear that captivates your attention. The orchestration by Danny Troob and sound design of John Shivers completely shifts the atmosphere in each scene, accentuating that gravitas of emotional range of the characters and their circumstances. The presence and influence of the music and orchestration is truly felt in the few moments of its absence. In an artform where too much music can easily become overkill, the sound design shifts seamlessly between diegetic and non-diegetic to support transitions between dialogue and musical scores.  Shubshri Kandiah, who plays Belle (and who also played princesses in Disney’s Aladdin, Roger and Hammerstein’s Cinderella and Belvoir St Theatre’s Into The Woods), has become Australia’s go-to princess, and deservedly so. Kandiah’s performance carries the youthfulness and animation of a Disney cartoon while exuding the elegance of a woman born to be royalty. While Belle’s disdain for Gaston (Jackson Head) falters in the pair’s duet, ‘Me’, this oversight is beyond compensated for in her timbre and melody throughout the rest of the performance.  Head plays the repugnant role of Gaston delightfully. His performance elicits a tug-of-war of admiration for his execution but also an unease at the

  • 5 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Sydney

Visitors are meant to leave. Right? The premiere of Jane Harrison’s The Visitors at the Sydney Opera House marks the second rendition of the acclaimed play since its smash-hit debut at Sydney Festival in early 2020. The performance, directed by the legendary Wesley Enoch and produced by Moogahlin Performing Arts and Sydney Theatre Company, is a fantastically critical and speculative historical fiction that leaves you inspired and hopeful. Harrison’s play is set in 1788, where seven Elders from each respective nation across the region we now know as Sydney gather to discuss the looming nawees (the First Fleet) sailing towards the Eora nation (Botany Bay). The play focuses on the discussions within that meeting, and explores the varied suggestions for what to do about the strange boats heading closer towards their shore.  ...this play humanises history and recenters Indigenous presence and engagement, simultaneously in the past and for the future. The premise is simple: how do we come to an agreement about understanding the unknown? Each character represented provides dimension into what becomes a very difficult question to resolve. Both Harrison’s meticulous dialogue and the deeply considered character development of each Elder adds colour and complexity to this question. It is very easy for performances about historically marginalised and colonised groups to become patronising or dogmatic parables – this production completely evades such superficial discussions, executing a p

4 stars: excellent and recommended

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Redfern

Think Jay Gatsby hosted the best roaring '20s parties? Not anymore. It’s time to crack open some Champagne, because this scintillating smash-hit show is back for a third encore run! The sparkling toast of the Sydney summer, Blanc de Blanc Encore has been wowing audiences since it opened in January in the totally refurbished cabaret venue the Grand Electric (on the Redfern side of Surry Hills). Clearly, Sydney can't get enough of this much-loved cabaret, circus and burlesque show. The Blanc experience serves up the top shelf of cabaret-burlesque-circus entertainment with a devilish smile and a knowing wink. This show is bubbling over with hilarious hosts, talented perfomers dressed up (and down) in dazzling couture-fashion-level costuming, interactive stunts and so-rude-it's-right jokes. It's quite an accomplishment to stage a variety production that can so seamlessly gear-change from clownish wielding of crotches to superb aerial artistry, and from phallic percussion to a soulful pop crooner – all while maintaining a fun, playfully risqué vibe.  The internationally sourced cast packs some of the most stunning talents from near and far, with numerous Cirque du Soleil alumni in the ranks. Want an idea of the calibre? The inimitable Jake DuPree (they/them) – burlesque performer, fitness instructor, lingerie model and the first non-binary person to perform at the famous Crazy Horse in Paris – recently came direct from LA to join the Blanc de Blanc Encore cast for a strictly limi

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Millers Point

Would an Earnest by any other name still be as eligible? Apparently not, according to the myopic affections of Gwendolen Fairfax (Megan Wilding) and Cecily Cardew (Melissa Kahraman), the two fickle bachelorettes with a rather specific kink for names at the heart of Oscar Wilde’s ‘trivial comedy for serious people’. And they aren’t the only puddle-deep paramours in this genteel world of afternoon tea and alter egos. Algernon Moncrieff (Charles Wu) and John Worthing (Brandon McClelland) are equally shallow in their wants, creating phony personas that allow them to save face in polite society while living it up on the side. The imperiously pompous Lady Bracknell (Helen Thomson) sums it up most succinctly: “We live, I regret to say, in an age of surfaces.” Who needs scruples, genuine or otherwise, when you look the part (and have the right name)? In James Gillray’s satirical cartoons of the early 1800s, the upper classes he so vividly lampooned literally embodied their elite excesses – gorged bellies, gaudy fashions and features warped into avian extremes. Later that same century, Wilde would unleash his own withering commentary on the gentry through the written word, but director Sarah Giles seems to have taken a leaf from Gillary’s book to amplify the wit and wisdom of Wilde’s final and most popular comedy.  This is slapstick with all the wit and subtly of Wilde’s razor-edged one liners, neither word nor action sparring for attention, but rather working together in harmony. In

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Comedy
  • Darlinghurst

Tits up, girls! Follow me. The most outrageous show in Sydney is here for a limited time, but you’ve gotta be in the know. Just take a turn out of Kings Cross, and high-kick your way down to that little theatre in the former horse stables. In there you’ll find a portal to the bright lights of Brisvegas – as reflected through the funhouse-mirror imagination of one of the country’s most cunning writers, Nakkiah Lui (Black is the New White; Black Comedy). From the moment the spotlight illuminates the first performer, you might think you’ve stumbled into a high-end drag-burlesque show – with the head bitch of the Blaque Showgirls, Chandon (Jonathan Jeffrey), voguing the house down with a rapturous dance devoted to the sacred “bin chicken”. But, friends, this is proper theatre – and it only gets more silly and surprisingly solemn as it goes on. [Blaque Showgirls is] so silly, so full of heart and so poignantly honest. Taking inspiration from the so-bad-it's-good raunchy cinematic masterpiece Showgirls, this farcical play is built on the foundation of Lui’s trademark mix of wit, social commentary and balls-to-the-wall silliness – with a throughline of First Nations pride. Stephanie Somerville (Chalkface, The Bleeding Tree) leads the all-Indigenous cast as fair-skinned dance enthusiast Sarah Jane Jones. When the naive Sarah gets a whiff of evidence of her Indigenous ancestry, she high-tails it to the glitziest casino in Brisvegas. Her mission? To land a role in the First Nations bur

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Musicals
  • Darling Harbour

I was in Year 9 when I first saw the video on Youtube of Idina Menzel performing ‘Defying Gravity’ from Wicked at the 2004 Tony Awards. It was the first time that I could watch an original Broadway cast perform a new musical – and as a young musical theatre enthusiast, I was captivated. What was this song? Who was this character? Why was she green? Menzel went on to win a Tony for Best Leading Actress in a Musical that year and then moved beyond the stage, permeating the zeitgeist on screens everywhere through Disney properties. But before there was Frozen’s Elsa, there was Elphaba. Before she told girls everywhere that “the cold never bothered me anyway,” she told us that “everyone deserves a chance to fly.” Like me, Elphaba was different – the antithesis to the perfectly blonde G(a)linda the Good. She was awkward, misunderstood, judged for her skin colour, and trying to figure out where she belonged. Twenty years after it opened on Broadway, Elphaba’s journey to find herself through justice, self-love, and friendship still resonates. The new cast surpasses expectations by infusing their own unique interpretations into these fan favourite characters Wicked is one of the longest running musicals in the world, and Sydney’s 20th anniversary production has been a much-anticipated affair. Based on Gregory Maguire’s novel Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West, the musical shares the untold story of the mysterious Wicked Witch of the West, who is revered and fe

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  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Dawes Point

Is God Is opens with a person whose head is encased in a burning house, foreshadowing the homicidal acts that destroy the very fabric of familial ideals. Twin sisters Racine and Anaia have been estranged from their mother for 18 years, however a letter sent from her death bed reconnects them. All three bear the scars of their father’s attempt to burn their mother alive, and on their mother’s directive, they decide to reap violent vengeance upon him. American playwright Aleshea Harris' breakout hit comes to Australia thanks to this co-production from Sydney Theatre Company and Melbourne Theatre Company. The play features an all-black cast, with co-directors Zindzi Okenyo and Shari Sebbens continuing their acclaimed streak of steering stories that strike a communal resonance, including their recent hit co-directorial debut, Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner. Henrietta Enyonam Amevor (STC's Hubris & Humiliation) stars as the timid Anaia, with Masego Pitso killing it as the assertive Racine. Cessalee Stovall plays their mother, referred to as the eponymous 'God', with an authority that resounds throughout the play as the driving intention behind the twins’ mission.  Is God Is is a captivating tale of retribution with exceptional performances that draw you in through a sinister premise. The journey traverses the Deep South to the Californian desert to Connecticut, taking its stylistic inspiration from spaghetti westerns, hip-hop and afropunk. It strings together ideas of ques

  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Theatre
  • Drama
  • Darlington

There are many conspiracy theories about who “really” wrote Shakespeare’s works. It’s almost always suggested that an uneducated, modest man from Stratford surely couldn’t have had enough “genius” to produce the hugely influential body of work he is credited with. Leading contenders for the authentic author include Sir Francis Bacon, Edward de Vere and Christopher Marlowe. But with enough time stretching between Shakespeare’s heyday and today, who “really” wrote the works might be the wrong question altogether. Venus and Adonis, from Sport for Jove Theatre Company’s artistic director Damien Ryan, suggests that “who was Shakespeare really?” is indeed the wrong question. The play instead posits that Shakespeare was a “merciless magpie” stealing from the books, artworks and people around him. One of those people was Aemilia Lanyer, the first female poet ever published in the English language (in her own name!) and believed to be one of Shakespeare’s many lovers. Venus and Adonis is a poem, within a play, within a play – and it’s a magnificent adventure through the delights, tragedies and passions of making art from life (Shakespearean or otherwise). The play, written and directed by Ryan, is based on a similar film released by Sport for Jove in 2020, which is in turn based on Shakespeare’s erotic poem of the same name. In the central storyline, Shakespeare is asked to present a performance of Venus and Adonis as the opener for Elizabeth I’s own masque performance. Shakespeare as

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