2017 in lists (Concerts & shows, theatre, books, movies, TV)

Concerts, Shows, Theatre & Words

  • Ladies in Black, Lyric Theatre, January: An Australian homegrown musical with music by Tim Finn of Crowded House, this show got great reviews when it was being developed a year go… though the reviews of this run, for the Sydney Festival, have been decidedly mediocre. There’s just not much originality and punch in the storyline, a young woman trying to find her way in the world. She sings about finding herself and overcoming fear, much like any musical heroine. When I’d first read about rules for writing songs in musicals, the number one rule was to show what was happening, but not say it. So each time I heard characters plainly sing ‘I’m happy’, ‘I’m sad’, ‘I’m sterile’… I cringed. The biggest attraction of the musical seemed to be its references to Australia, now and in the 50s, and the audience lapped it up. And it wasn’t terrible overall, it just could have been much better.
  • Nude: Live, AGNSW, January: Seven members of the Sydney Dance Company, solo and in groups, dancing, nude, in front of extraordinary art, and in an immersive “Sleep No More” fashion where spectators move in and out of rooms, and view the dance at different angles. Fabulous.
  • Jann Tiersen, Sydney Opera House, January: Amazing French musician and composer, best known for the Amelie soundtrack. I thought his music intricate and beautiful. Just as amusing was his complete lack of engagement or interest in the audience, which gave him rapturous appreciation. He’s all about the music!
  • Tomboy Survival Guide, Spiegeltent, Sydney Festival, January: Wow. Ivan Coyote and friends, and a wonderful show of spoken word performance backed up by a cool band (and some music and singing too). Witty, poetic, funny and most of all honest. The universal feeling of not fitting in matched with an introduction to a very different world. Loved it. Amazing.
  • Cabaret, Hayes Theatre, February: It seems to be getting mixed reviews, but I liked it. Incredible performers. Perhaps a little frantic (and Paul Capsis’s interpretation of the emcee is more than terrifying), but an apt production for these present times.
  • A night with David Helfgott, Sir Stamford Hotel, March. Review here. 
  • James Vincent McMorrow, Sydney Opera House, March. I love this guy. Love the voice. Love the music.
  • Andrew Bird, Sydney Opera House, April. Has it really been so long since I first started listening to Andrew Bird (Noble Beast, 2009)? Yup. This concert tour sees him playing with a band of three others. At times, with his flexible, lazy voice, and all the fiddling, it could be bluegrass Americana, but then the violin takes on almost classical tones, and the insistent plucking of violin strings that he uses as his most common percussive background, plus his virtuoso whistling, all takes this music into completely original territory. Plus his playful and complex lyrics, and a few self-deprecating anecdotes, had me as transported as the first time I saw him. Last time we saw, my pal M called him a ‘mad genius’ (it was a solo show, with much more looping). He still seems like a mad genius, really. I think the extra band members lifts the energy, though makes the show feel slightly less personal.
  • Sydney Dance Company, Orb and Ocho: An amazing double-bill. Quite different than what I’ve seen from them before. Loved both pieces. 
  • Sweeney Todd, Barrow Street, NYC: Holy cow what an amazing show. Review here.
  • Pacific Overtures, Classic Stage Company, NYC. Review here.
  • Amelie, Walter Kerr, NYC. Review here.
  • Waitress, Brooks Atkinson Theatre, NYC. Review here.
  • Hello, Dolly! Shubert Theatre, NYC. Review here.
  • Sunset Boulevard, Palace Theatre, NYC. Review here.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Lunt-Fontanne Theatre, NYC. Review here.
  • Dear Evan Hansen, Music Box Theatre, NYC. Review here.
  • Come from Away, NYC. Review here.
  • Sweat, Studio 54, NYC. Review here.
  • Groundhog Day, NYC. Review here.
  • Only Heaven Knows, Hayes Theatre, Sydney. A homegrown Australian musical from 1988 written about the 40s and 50s. Interesting.
  • Blue: The Music of Joni Mitchell, Queenie Van Zandt, Hayes Theatre. I love Joni and Queenie told an interesting story of her through her songs. Love Queenie’s voice.
  • Mark Crawford’s Bed and Breakfast, the Belfry Theatre, Victoria, B.C., Canada. The theatre right around the corner from my brother’s place, opening night, a sweet and entertaining play about a gay couple opening a bed and breakfast in small town Ontario.
  • Coro Innominata’s Lux Aeterna: An afternoon concert of Australian choral music: loved being introduced to the work of Dan Walker, James Humberstone and the Translucent Duo and of course, hear Sally Whitwell’s compositions, magnificent piano playing (of Philip Glass) and her musical direction.
  • James Vincent McMorrow, Factory Theatre: The Factory Theatre in Marrickville is a strange venue, very casual, a combo of a bar, convention centre and RSL. This makes it a great and intimate venue for artists; I shall never forget seeing Rickie Lee Jones here. And McMorrow’s show was also memorable for me: great view, proximity and sound for this amazing guy with soaring vocals, unusual song structures and an intensity in his lyrics and delivery. He is GIVING himself while singing, I could feel the emotions deeply and I could feel him. A wonderful concert.
  • 2 One Another, Sydney Dance Company: I love the SDC. I loved the amazing lighting design, the costumes, the music and of course the dance, the shapes and gestures of the dancers, what seemed particularly mathematical in terms of staging for this show, the various marching lines and trios and duos and solos and how they were placed on the stage.
  • Bittersweet Obsessions: Monteverdi & Bach, Brandenburg Orchestra: Some staged opera scenes with costumes and a set; so an interesting eclectic mix including the coffee cantata.
  • Me & My Girl, Neglected Musicals, Hayes Theatre: Trevor Ashley directing a cast doing this fun, old-fashioned musical. The two leads were outstanding. The cast was having fun. A good night.
  • Merciless Gods, Griffin Theatre: Interesting adaptation of short stories by Christos Tsiolkas. Some amazing acting, and a little too operatic at times, I find, like some of the scenes in his novels.
  • Trevor Ashley’s The Bodybag: First Christmas pantomime in four years for Ashley and writer Phil Scott. As expected, raucuous and entertaining.
  • Beautiful, Lyric Theatre: I liked this show. How could you go wrong with the music of Carole King? Esther Hannaford gets the role she seemed born to do.


  • Nude: Art from the Tate collection, AGNSW: Such an amazing variety of images and sculpture, and what a story is told, from the heroes and gods to women bathing and then artists painting themselves or pushing boundaries. A compact and very interesting exhibition and the way they’ve lit and placed Rodin’s The Kiss was awesome.
  • Guggenheim Museum: ‘Visionaries: Creating a Modern Guggenheim’; ‘Thannhauser Collection’; ‘Brancusi’; Jackson Pollack’s Alchemy; Anicka Yi’s Life is Cheap.
  • Whitney Museum: ‘Fast Forward: Painting from the 1980s’; ‘Where we are: Selections 1900–1960’; Whitney Biennial 2017.
  • MoMA, NYC: Robert Rauschenberg, Women Artists and Postwar Abstraction,
  • American Museum of Natural History: I liked the meterorites and gems the best
  • The Met: Rei Kawakubo, Age of Empires (Han & Qin Dynasty art), Y. G. Srimati and the Indian Style, Chinese Hardstone Carvings


  • The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant (short fiction):  I started this last year, and took a long break, and finally finished it in January while travelling. Still trying to get my head around it. 
  • Peter Ho Davies’ The Fortunes (fiction)
  • Berndt Sellheim’s Awake at the Wheel (poetry)
  • Celeste Ng’s Everything I Never Told You (fiction)
  • Viet Than Nguyen’s The Sympathizer (fiction)
  • Paul Kalanithi’s When Breath Becomes Air (autobiography)
  • Richard Siken’s Crush (poetry)
  • Jonathan Galessi’s Muse (fiction) – except it was so terrible I couldn’t finish it.
  • Susan Cain’s Quiet (non-fiction)
  • Ta-Nehisi Coates’s Between the World and Me (non-fiction)
  • Edmund White’s Inside a Pearl: My Years in Paris (biography)
  • Bill Hayes’s Insomniac City: New York, Oliver and Me (biography)
  • Jack Viertal’s The Secret Life of the American Musical (non-fiction)
  • Gerald Stern’s In Beauty Bright (poetry)
  • Simon Fitzmaurice’s It’s Not Dark Yet (autobiography)


  • Bridget Jones’s Baby: OK. I’m a fan of Bridget Jones. I didn’t see the last one which sounded terrible, but really, this was just fine for airplane viewing.
  • La La Land: I liked it. It was fun and engaging, and romantic. The two leads are charismatic. I liked that the tone of the fantasy ending was bittersweet. I’d rather have films winning awards that have a stronger message than nostalgia and entertainment but…
  • Moonlight: Review here. Amazing.
  • The Great Wall: Surprisingly, not terrible. Review here.
  • Miss Sloane: Review here.
  • Arrival: I thought this was a really interesting and beautiful film; great ideas; and putting a women linguist as the hero: loved it.
  • Captain Fantastic: An odd film with some terrific performances. Not sure whether I really liked the story or not!
  • Sing!: Man, this got mediocre or bad reviews, but singing, animated animals. I can’t help myself. I liked it.
  • Lion: Pretty good, I thought, though I’m not sure I was as taken with it as the rest of the world. Nice to see Dev Patel grown up and playing a mature part.
  • Adriana’s Pact: an amazing documentary seen at the Latin American Film Festival. If you get the chance… go.
  • The Cakemaker: My sense of the film was borne out by reading about it later. A first film by a first-time filmmaker, it packs in too much. Is it going to be a food porn film (Like Water for Chocolate or Chocolat), a thriller, a meditation on grief and loss, something about gay identity, or a look inside conservative Israeli society and the politics of kosher food and identity? Some nice performances and cinematography, but too much happening here.


  • Transparent, Seasons 1, 2 and 3: How did TV become better than movies? Truthful, funny and frantic.
  • The Crown: Amazing TV.
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 9
  • Survivor, Season 34
  • Survivor, Season 32 (missed this one when it came around)
  • Game of Thrones, Season 7
  • Handmaid’s Tale, Season 1
  • The Good Place, Season 1 (We’re liking this!)
  • Sense8, Season 2 (Loved Season 1, a little lost during Season 2)

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