2016 in lists (art, books, entertainment, shows)

Concerts & Shows

  • Defying Gravity, Theatre Royal: A collage of Stephen Schwartz with the composer on stage at the end of the show himself, it was really amazing to see top Broadway performers letting loose with these songs: Sutton Foster and Aaron Tveit. I wasn’t familiar with Joanna Ampil. She was amazing. I enjoyed Helen Dallimore’s comic timing. Betty Buckley was the special guest. I’ve always been a fan of David Harris, such a beautiful singer (and man). I knew this show was going to be good, but it was even better than I thought… and bringing along an enthusiastic show queen friend was perfect.
  • Helen Dallimore, in cabaret, Hayes Theatre: Madonna, Dolly Parton, Marilyn Monroe and Mae West. We got our money’s worth!
  • Anthony de Mare’s Liaisons Project, Hayes Theatre: Beautiful and engaging interpretations of Sondheim songs, as written my some famous contemporary piano composers.
  • You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Hayes Theatre: A fun, old-fashioned musical; some good music and quite a bit of charm from all the actors involved.
  • Singing in the Rain, Lyric Theatre: I didn’t have any particular expectations for this so was pleasantly surprised. It’s old-fashioned, of course, and reminded me of ‘An American in Paris’ with a similar sensibility (and random dance sequence in the second half). But I did think this was enjoyable and a great crowd-pleaser.
  • Kiss Me Kate, Squabbalogic’s Mystery Musical: How do you put together a musical with limited, mostly donated resources, and hardly any time for one performance only? I’m in awe of all who were involved. A very old-fashioned musical… with music and songs by Cole Porter. Fun.
  • Pink Martini, Sydney Opera House, Concert Hall. We discovered these folks at the Sydney Festival about 7 years ago. Surprised that much of the material was the same, but it was with a fabulous orchestra this time. Great musicians, joyous music, really eclectic crowd!
  • Hidden Sydney, the glittering mile: An Australian foray into immersive theatre, seedy Kings Cross in the 70s as set in a former brothel, really great. Virginia Gay’s take on a real-life character named Bea Miles was sensational. 
  • Side Show, Hayes Theatre: I really liked this. It’s got its flaws as a musical, but the cast was great, particularly the two leads who sung their hearts out. Was very glad to see this not-so-well-known musical.
  • Aladdin, Capitol Theatre: Oh Disney. This show was soooo slick and soooo entertaining. I thought it might be a bit juvenile before I went, but it’s performed so well, and with such energy, and with rather a lot of eye-candy, that it’s fun for all ages. Especially loved Aladdin, a young Australian actor’s debut on the big stage: and he was perfect for the part.
  • Untamed, Sydney Dance Company: Untamed combined a previously performed piece, Wildebeest, with a new piece by Rafael Bonachela, Anima. I thought these were incredible, even better than the last show I saw of them. I was swept away by the dance and music.
  • My Fair Lady, Sydney Opera House: This was one of the first musicals I ever saw, in a high school production, when my brother was in high school and I was still in elementary school. I think the songs and script are memorable. There are some all-time favourite songs. Still, Professor Higgins is an arse (and in this production came off as a misogynist, closet case), and I don’t see why Eliza shouldn’t have gone off with Freddy… It was a great production though: the whole cast, the costumes, the scenery…
  • Kate Ceberano and Paul Gravowsky, City Recital Hall: Warm and engaging, and such an intimate performance with just voice and piano. I thought some of the song choices were safe, but it was a beautiful evening, ‘Love Songs’, and their musical partnership is a great thing to experience.
  • Trevor Ashley’s Liza’s Back (is Broken): Hilarious and inventive and pitch perfect. And this being the week after the US elections, boy, did we need a laugh. 
  • Mack & Mabel, Hayes Theatre: Great performances and lively direction but a strange book. Mack was not so different than Henry Higgins, a bossy, unaffectionate, controlling older man, so it was very hard to see why Mabel had any affection for him, and to cheer on their relationship. Some great songs though.

Theatre & Words

  • King Lear, Sydney Theatre Company: With Geoffrey Rush as the lead, this was a pretty astonishing production. The scene with rain and wind and gold streamers was amazing; but I loved the white box of a set for the second half, like a James Turrell piece. Long and challenging, but a good show to start 2016!
  • In Between Two, Performance 4A, Carriageworks (Sydney Festival): A wonderful collaboration between Joelistics and James Mangohig that transcends the usual ‘family story’ because these guys are performers, and combined with music, it’s engaging and personal, and well… I was very impressed.
  • +51 Aviación, San Borja, Carriageworks (Sydney Festival): The references were too obscure, the text lacked poetry, and the observations about dislocation immigration (the main reason I was attracted to seeing the show) were weak. A whole hour of WTFness and realising I’m never going to get that hour of my life back. 
  • Alain de Botton, on Love, at the Opera House: Boy, is he charismatic and a good speaker. A very enjoyable hour plus.
  • Winyanboga Yurringa, Carriageworks. Six aboriginal women go camping in the bush: yarn, argue, make up. Tons of themes, perhaps too many, a beautiful set and charismatic actors.
  • Germaine Greer talks about Shakespeare the Radical: I wasn’t familiar with the territory of which she spoke – academic interpretations of Shakespeare – but I loved seeing one of the world’s great intellectuals hold forth. Great speaker and mind.
  • Festival of Dangerous Ideas: Annabel Crabb & David Marr, The Government We Deserve? A.C. Grayling, Closing the Modern Mind; Alicia Garza, Why Black Lives Matter. I need to go to this next year and more regularly. Good stuff.
  • Marat/Sade, New Theatre. A few good performers, but this is a hard text to carry off. Needed more craziness.
  • Who speaks for me? Performance 4a, Riverside Theatre, Parramatta. I found these stories of Asian immigrants to Australia, how they communicated through others or by themselves, immensely touching, particularly in an Australian political context that is anti-refugees, and the current events in the USA with racism against Asian-Americans.
  • Graphic Festival: Matt Groening and Lynda Barry; For the Love of Neil Gaiman


  • El Anatsui, Carriageworks. “El Anatsui’s meticulously constructed assemblages examine the complex histories of post-colonial Africa and the issues of consumption, waste and the environment.” Made mainly from waste materials such as discarded bottle tops and metal newspaper printing plates, these combine contemporary political commentary with a sense of monumentality and the disjuncture of scraps made into material that looks incredibly rich. Stunning work.
  • VIVID Sydney at Taronga Zoo. Don’t do it. Too many kids, and not spectacular enough to be worth it.


  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (fiction): Review to come. Amazing, powerful book.
  • The Collected Stories of Mavis Gallant (short fiction): A really wonderful writer, and great in terms of a history of some ex-pats in Paris and France. It’s a thick volume though and I’m still not through.
  • My Body is Yours by Michael V Smith (autobiography): Michael’s a fine writer, so to focus completely on his own life is an interesting project. Some of the pieces, adapted from newspaper columns, felt a bit journalistic, and I missed the novelist’s voice, but everything together sort of built and built to a powerful and stunning finish.
  • We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler (fiction): I found this interesting and enjoyable, a great idea for a novel with lots of ideas to explore.
  • What Belongs To You by Garth Greenwell (fiction): Review up.
  • Something Will Happen, You’ll See by Christos Ikonomou (short fiction): Review up.


  • La Famille Bélier: Although the humour was broad, and the plot predictable, there was something rather charming about this sweet French film.
  • Carol: I do worry that Cate Blanchett’s recent characters seem a little similar to each other, but I thought on the whole, the film was beautifully acted and engaging.
  • Steve Jobs: Hmm, I didn’t really get this one. I guess it’s good that they didn’t simplify the character, and showed him warts and all: brilliant but flawed, but because he was portrayed as generally unlikeable, I didn’t find it as engaging as I might have, considering the star power in the acting of Fassbender and Winslet.
  • The Queen of Ireland
  • Demain: An interesting French doco on environmental and social sustainability… Apparently, a huge hit. Was well done.
  • Spotlight: on a plane and I missed the last 15 minutes…
  • Absolument Fabuleux: the French version of Absolutely Fabulous. I thought this was hilarious.
  • Bob Le Flambeur: Recommended because it was set in Montmartre, where we were living. Less entertaining than I’d hoped.
  • X-men: Apocalypse: Should have been much better than it was…
  • Suicide Squad: Not unentertaining, but the plot was so random…
  • Julieta: Was really curious about this film, Almodovar does Alice Munro. I liked it enough.
  • Dream Dangerously: A documentary about Neil Gaiman
  • Absolutely Fabulous:
  • Café Society: I was finding this latest Woody Allen film enjoyable, mostly for the usual seeing what he’s doing with interesting actors, but part of the way through I felt like I’d seen it before, and wondered if it was all a justification for Allen’s personal life… which felt both uncomfortable and kind of boring (love triangles, an older man and younger woman in a relationship that society doesn’t approve of, Jewish neuroticism).


  • Project Runway Junior. Talented kids, this is surprisingly fun to watch.
  • Broen (The Bridge), Season 3. Yahoo! I’m so glad to be watching this. Scandinavian crime thriller with the most amazing heroine.
  • House of Cards, Season 4
  • Game of Thrones, Season 6
  • The Good Wife, Season 7
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race, Season 8
  • Orphan Black, Season 4
  • Project Runway All Stars, Season 5
  • RuPaul’s Drag Race All Stars, Season 2
  • Australian Survivor, Season 1
  • Project Runway Season 15

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