2024 in lists: Musicals, theatre, concerts, books and exhibitions

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Musicals and theatre

  • An Evening With: The First Ten Years, Hayes Theatre: What a night! Chockful of Hayes Theatre’s most talented and established performers in a celebratory concert and cabaret.
  • & Juliet: This was awfully fun, and we had to see it when it came to Sydney! I mostly left with admiration for Max Martin’s songwriting! Husband LOVED it and it was a great night. 
  • Tell me on a Sunday: A little-known one-woman show by Andrew Lloyd Webber, I found the orchestration and story pretty old-fashioned, and a depressingly male view of a young independent woman (breaks up because of being cheated on, hooks up with a Hollywood producer who treats her as a trophy wife, gets involved with another cheater, and then a married man). But Erin Clare has it all: a beautiful voice, acting chops and physical beauty. She’s a dynamo and made the show enjoyable. 
  • Reuben Kaye’s Apocalipstik at the Enmore Theatre, part of the Sydney Comedy Festival. This man is witty, intelligent, funny and political, in all the right ways. The last time we saw him was at the Seymour Centre, a small venue, and he hugged everyone coming in! So, I love his … personal touch … and glad to see him playing to such big audiences these days!
  • No Pay? No Way!, Sydney Theatre Company: An Australian adaptation of an apparently classic Italian comic play, I didn’t expect to enjoy this as much as I did: fantastic performances, cracking dialogue, and very, very funny. So glad we saw this. 
  • Ride the Cyclone, Hayes Theatre: I wanted to like this more than I did, as it’s Canadian and the cast were very charming, but I found the story a bit shambolic and silly. Still: not a bad night out. 
  • Patti LuPone: A Life in Notes, Sydney Recital Hall: I found it as entertaining to hear the crowd’s adoration for her, mostly old queens like me, but some straight women too (and no doubt other genders and sexualities). I also liked the way she sang to all the people around her, including those up at the sides. She’s a legend. And a trooper. I expected to not like ‘Ladies who Lunch’ as much as I did, because I’ve heard it so many times. But she’s done it so many times, she singing and acting up a storm with each word, perhaps each syllable. 


  • The Human League, Enmore Theatre: I discovered that I knew fewer of their songs than I thought, and I thought Phil Oakey was quite shouty and they didn’t have the mikes high enough on for Susan Ann and Joanne. But I adored hearing ‘Human’, ‘Fascination’, ‘Don’t you want me?’ and ‘Together in Electric Dreams’ live. And what a specific demographic. All 50 to 60 year olds, and a smattering of their kids.
  • Rickie Lee Jones, the Factory: I last saw Rickie Lee 8 years ago at the same venue. I think this one had an even better vibe: the crowd loved her. Her voice is as unique and strange as ever. And those songs! What a songwriter. I find it strange that with such a different life experience to me, and yet I find her musical so touching emotionally. I cried when she sang ‘Horses’. 


  • Robertson Davies’ The Deptford Trilogy. A Canadian classic that I’d never read. The reason, I remembered, as a young, cocky university student, was that I was interested in reading about more contemporary experiences, and these books, stretching back to World War I, didn’t appeal. But what did I know? Coming back to the books now, I was simply delighted by the storytelling and characters and the shifting points of view. While the book cover touts a mystery to be solved, I wasn’t driven forward by that anticipation: I was just enjoying the story. I can’t return the book to the friend that lent it to me without recording one of the sentences here that made me laugh: ‘You’re all mad for words. Words are just farts from a lot of fools who have swallowed too many books.’  And now that I no longer live in Canada, it was a pleasure to revisit the Canadian cities and towns, from Peterborough where I went to university (and where Davies was a newspaper editor) to Vancouver, where I was born and where the English theatre troupe plays in during their tour.
  • Stuart Barnes’s Like to the Lark. Vulnerability in poetry lends itself to the free-verse confessional, so it’s a wonderful juxtaposition (for me, at least) to see such playfulness of form matched with the open heart and a deep pool of emotion. Of course, there’s much more in this collection, and I think the other reviews here do the work justice. It’s engaging, innovative and a very contemporary voice. Bravo, I say.
  • Sharon Olds’ Stag’s Leap. 
  • Thomas Kevin Dolan’s ‘Little Fag: A Journey of Self-Acceptance and Healing‘.
  • George Orwell’s Animal Farm: A friend, James, gave me this as a gift, as it’s his favourite book. It was a strange experience reading it as I knew so much of it already from popular culture, but I don’t think I’d actually read it before. It is a chilling reflection of politics. While it may have been portraying Stalin, Trotsky and Lenin, current world leaders are using the same techniques of control and corruption.
  • Josh Stenberg’s nibs & nubs. My pal, Josh, has published his first poetry collection. Find it here.
  • Edith Wharton’s House of Mirth. Because I loved two of Jennifer Egan’s books SO much, when I read that this is one of her favourite books, I thought I’d give it a try. About a woman trapped by social conventions and expectations during the Gilded Age, it is beautifully written, and while it is set in such a different time, some themes seemed as relevant today: the social machinations and cruelties, the expectations on women. I found it a timeless disturbing trap, the way Wharton’s heroine internalises values that don’t serve her, and in the end, I found it a depressing read because of it.
  • Michael V. Smith’s Queers like me: Many, many years ago, I spent a season in Vancouver hanging out with two other young gay writers, Michael and George Ilsley. I love that we all went on to have books published and I love that Michael is still writing honest and intimate poetry like in his latest collection.
  • Rebecca F. Huang’s Yellowface: Read my review and some comments here.


  • The Art of Banksy: “Without Limits”. I’m so glad I got off my (sometimes) lazy arse and took myself to this exhibit. I’d read a lot about Banksy over the years and seen various images, but never really paid that much attention. I think he’s a really interesting artist, capturing movement and gesture, and most of all, protest, primarily in stencil-based images. And I admire that he’s travelled to Gaza and Ukraine, making art there, and funding a boat to rescue refugees in the Mediterranean. 
  • Dark Spectrum: As part of the Vivid Sydney lights show, they opened up an underground space, and filled it with a light show and soundtracks. The disused tunnels from the underground train system are quite cool, but there are parts that were most recently car parking, and that’s not so cool. And strangely, the lights look better through videos than in person. Oh well, it got us out of the house. 
  • Thin Ice, Virtual Reality, Australian Museum: I’ve only had snippets of VR before, so 20 minutes of a recreation, by Tim Jarvis, of Shackleton’s Antarctic trek, with a strong message about climate change, was incredible. Really. 


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