2023 in lists: Musicals, theatre, concerts, books and exhibitions

Musicals and theatre

  • La Cage Aux Folles, The Concourse, Chatswood: I was surprised at how silly and old-fashioned this musical was, and to find out what a huge success it was at the time. Times change, I guess. 
  • Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, the Capitol Theatre: Listen, the cast are enthusiastic and super-talented, but I think this is a dog of a show.
  • Tick, tick … boom! Lyric Theatre. I was very interested to see this show compared to the Netflix version. Interesting to see Hugh Sheridan, who I think is very talented, try to embody Jonathan Larsen. It’s an odd show with not much story or coherence, though you can hear, see and feel the flashes of brilliance that later made Rent a worldwide phenomenon. The other cast members were great but Elenoa Rokobaro was a sensation.
  • Into the Woods. Belvoir. Bogans behind us talking during the play and songs (I told them to please stop talking at intermission and boy, were they hostile) and someone in front of us fricking texting during the show. Fark! But it wasn’t enough to dim my love for this musical and some sensational performances. It really is one of my all-time favourites. 
  • City of Angels. Hayes Theatre. I’ve known the song ‘You’re Nothing Without Me’ for more than 20 years, but have never seen the musical it came from. And what a delight it was. Funny, clever and busy, with dense, witty lyrics and joyous music. The assembled cast, as always at Hayes, is hugely talented and charismatic. 
  • Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Darlinghurst Theatre. I really, really liked this. The multi-instrumentalist and multitalented cast, the staging, the music. I enjoyed it so much, I was OK with the story, which was sort of meh, and marvelled at how the vibe and talent outweighed it. The musical reminded me a bit of Sunday in the Park with George, where the plot was about art and being an artist, and this was about existing and being alive. 
  • Murder for Two, Hayes Theatre. It felt like this crazy musical was written by a pair of extremely talented friends who were having a ball doing it. What’s surprising was that it could be recreated, and so successfully, considering the talent that it takes to put it on: two actors who can both play piano really well and then act and sing and one of them doing more than a dozen characters. This conceit never faltered, and Gabi and Maverick were so amazing. The audience LOVED it, and so did we.
  • The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, Hayes Theatre. I saw a production of this years ago in Sydney, at the Seymour Centre, but when was it? 2015? It feels longer ago than that, but since this musical hit Broadway in 2005, it must have been well after that. No matter. I’d forgotten that it is nearly a perfect musical. It’s very funny and engaging, and moves along at a quick pace. Interestingly, all the songs are in the service of carrying the story forward. They’re tuneful and fun but I’m not sure if any stand on their own outside the musical. The cast was amazing. The only minor quibble is that I didn’t feel as emotionally moved, as with some shows, but it wasn’t really that kind of musical. Really: this was quite perfect. 
  • The Dismissal. Seymour Centre. Very, very impressive to turn a political event into a musical, with amazing songs and performances. Not being so familiar with Gough Whitlam’s Dismissal, I found some of it not aimed at me, as it had the feeling of a big in-joke, and some of the storytelling was unnecessary and faltered (like the video and television montages). But all in all, entertaining and quite amazing. 
  • A Little Night Music, Hayes Theatre. I always love the productions at the Hayes Theatre and this was not an exception. Great casting and performances and staging. I find the material dour (a friend said it’s a bedroom farce, but it’s not light like a farce) but loved seeing a production up close (rather than when I saw Bernadette Peters on Broadway). Seeing Nancy Hayes at the theatre named after her perform (wonderfully) and die on stage was … a highlight. 
  • The Face of Jizo, The Old Fitz. A Japanese play from 2001 about surviving Hiroshima; a friend directed and starred in it. Poignant, in this time of war, and thinking of the bombs coming down on Gaza as the play talked about the bombing of Hiroshima. 
  • Light, Hayes Theatre. I saw Act 1 of a development presentation of a new musical about South Asian Australians. The first time it was presented to an audience but it was really fun: full of talent and charm. I hope it goes further. 
  • If/Then, Neglected Musicals and Hayes Theatre. An on-the-book production of a musical I’ve heard about and was interested (because of Idina, of course). Blown away by talent and how polished the performances were with limited preparation. And as with ‘Next to Normal’, I found the music and vocal arrangements beautiful and stirring … and yet, the songs are always in service to the story. I wish at least one could be made universal and sung outside the show. I think the idea of it all fell apart in the second act. It was too glum, really, two realities ending so badly, with only a moment of hope at the end, and so much New York City neuroses and anxiety. 
  • Murder for Two: Christmas Edition, Hayes Theatre. A friend from out of town wanted to see an interesting show, and I took him to this, though I’d seen it before. Kala Gare is great as Marcus (as was Gabbi Bolt) but I think Maverick is even better now that he knows the role(s) so well. He is an absolute star; I hope everyone who hasn’t seen Murder for Two will find this out too, and soon.
  • Trevor Ashley’s The White Mermaid or The Little Lotus: A Musical Fable. Trevor is apparently off to London for a year or two, so it was good to catch his annual Christmas panto, where he did a wicked Jennifer Coolidge impersonation and enlisted Carlotta and three talented beefcakes to do what he does best: make us laugh. 


  • Lil Nas X: A We’re not really fans but wanted to see the phenomenon, and it was a phenomenon! A sold-out concert with a very diverse crowd, including children, who all seemed to know all the words to the song. Being at the Hordern Pavilion, I couldn’t see much from where we were; I’d plan better next time to try to grab a seat at the side. All in all, I’m amazed and pleased that a gay black rapper and musician has become so popular and loved. 
  • Ásgeir, City Recital Hall. I always liked this Icelandic singer but didn’t expect him to be even better live. His voice was even more interesting and emotional, the orchestrations were punchy and tight. He sounded both very contemporary and like the first folk pop music that I heard that made my young heart ping with delight.
  • Ottoman Baroque. The Australian Brandenburg Orchestra with the Whirling Dervishes of the Mevlana Foundation. A mix of modern choral music, interpreting Rumi’s ‘This Marriage’, and traditional Ottoman-Turkish music then a religious Mevlevi ceremony. And we saw it here in Sydney instead of Istanbul! A curious evening. 
  • Culture Club with special guests Berlin. My friend Freddy booked these tickets but couldn’t go so I went with his husband. Our seats were a little too far back to feel very engaged but the crowd seemed to love it. 
  • Taylor Mac’s and Matt Ray’s Bark of Millions, Sydney Opera House. I watched nearly all of this marvelling that I was enjoying myself so much and yet had no idea what was going on. It would have helped to have read something in advance: 54 songs about queer icons, one for every year since Stonewall. Mac describes the show as sort of a trance, and that’s what it was: just giving into the pleasures of amazing artists, varied and beautiful music and song and the most colourful costumes ever.
  • Cécile McLorin Salvant, City Recital Hall. A friend suggested checking her out and I listened to some songs on Spotify and found them interesting. But live was another thing all together. We were completely blown away. Her voice is a magnificent instrument, technically amazing, but never losing its warmth and emotion. Backed by three amazing musicians, this was one of those concerts where I felt grateful and amazed to experience a live performance and become a fan.
  • Nat Bartsch, Phoenix Central Park. What a great thing to discover a musician you LOVE for the first time. I adore her music: it’s beautiful and melodic and hits me in all the right ways. A talented band. And in such a beautiful space. 
  • Sophie Hutchings, City Recital Hall, Sydney: Such beautiful music and she’s Australian, right under my nose, and I hadn’t heard of her. But is making exactly the kind of music I love, piano-based with beautiful, quiet, contemplative melodies. 
  • Jimmy Webb, City Recital Hall, Sydney: Legendary songwriter of MacArthur Park, By The Time I Get to Phoenix and Wichita Lineman (and a favourite of mine, If These Walls Could Speak), Jimmy is still telling stories and singing at 77 years old. I’m used to these days being one of the oldest people in the room, but at this concert, I felt like a young ‘un. 
  • Evita Manji, Phoenix Central Park. I loved this 45-minute performance from this Athens-born artist, electronica and dance and a big of Bjork influence I’d think. Completely unique. The lighting made me feel like I was inside a video game. 


  • Andrew Sean Greer’s Less is Lost. Review here.
  • Kevin Wilson’s Now is Not the Time to Panic. Review here.
  • Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem. Review here.
  • Sharon Old’s Balladz. Review here.
  • Frans Stiene’s The Way of Reiki: The Inner Teachings of Mikao Usui. 


  • Sydney Modern: We finally visited the new addition to the Art Gallery of NSW and what a weird place it is. Absolutely loved some of the exhibitions and art, such as the theme of home, and the big primal sci-fi constructions in the oil tank in the basement. And yet there was no much open space and the greenery hasn’t grown. It felt in places like a convention centre. 
  • Studio A’s Rainbow, Mermaid, Fireworks: An immersive exhibition by Rosie Deacon and Emily Crockford, these artworks are joyful and colourful. 
  • Monet in Paris, Perth: These big interactive shows have been touring for a while, and I was very curious about them, with most people giving them great reviews (and the photos looking impressive). But I found it strangely unengaging and busy, a big slide show, basically. I’ve seen many of the artworks featured and my experience, when seeing them, is quiet and awe, seeing the exact colour the artist produced, and the exact scale intended. So that I was trying to feel what they saw, and see what they intended, not huge projections and a jaunty period soundtrack and sometimes live images of say, snow or leaves. I somehow did *feel* something with some of the Paris street scenes, and maybe Monet’s images of London’s Big Ben, but generally, I was more confused than engaged.

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