Pigalle and Rock Bang

David Spicer reviews Cabaret and Circus at Sydney Festival 2019


Sydney Festival

Hyde Park

Jan 8 – 27, 2019

Looking impossibly young, Marcia Hines strode out onto the cat walk, inside the beautifully lit Spiegeltent, with a gentle number to warm the crowd up.

This new show follows hot on the heels of the Disco Queen’s 70’s cabaret circus Velvet. Instead of being set in New York, this production is named after the Paris night-time Quartier Pigalle.

Alice in Wonderland

The Australian Shakespeare Company. Ripponlea House & Gardens. Ripponlea Estate, 192 Hotham St, Elsternwick VIC. 3 - 27 January 2019.

This is a very resourceful production that fully exploits the range of talents that are involved in this performance. The spectacular setting is a wonderfully enchanting environment for the creative set and costume design as well as the energetic and enthusiastic performances. Alice (Ayesha Gibson) expertly conveys the innocence and naivety of her character which contrasts well with the bizarre and eccentric characters she encounters.


By Geoff Sobelle. Sydney Festival. Roslyn Packer Theatre, Walsh Bay. Jan 9 – 18, 2019.

Home is a ’grand scale’ theatrical experience that both astonishes and amuses. Whilst it makes one think about what makes a home, it also makes one think about just what makes theatre.

Conceived by Geoff Sobelle, after discovering different layers of floor covering in the kitchen of his one hundred-year- old Philadelphian house, the production is a tribute to innovative contemporary stagecraft, meticulous choreography and timing and the creative inspiration of collaborative theatre-making.

La Passion de Simone

Music by Kaija Saariaho. Libretto by Amin Maalouf. Sydney Chamber Opera. Directed by Imara Savage Carriageworks, Sydney. January 9-11, 2019

The high-concept and difficult work La Passion de Simone has been described as at the cutting edge of the operatic form. Written by Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho as a meditation on the life of French philosopher Simone Weil, it consists of a solo singer Jane Sheldon with the backing of a 19-piece orchestra and four vocalists. It’s fitting that it’s staged at the Sydney Festival, where new ideas can be shown to limited, adventurous audiences.


By William Shakespeare. The Australian Shakespeare Company. Director: Glenn Elston. Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (Melbourne). Dec 21, 2018 – Feb 23, 2019.

The Australian Shakespeare Company production of Macbeth is well and efficiently presented within the beautiful environment of the edge of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens.  Stunning huge trees including a magnificent pine serve as an excellent backdrop.  When expertly lit they enhance the simple set - mostly comprising an offset castle structure that also serves as wings. All the action is smoothly presented on a simple open-air stage.


Jersey Boys

Music: Bob Gaudio. Lyrics: Bob Crewe. Book: Marshall Brickman & Rick Elice. Dodger Theatricals, Rodney Rigby, TEG Dainty, Joseph J. Grano, Pelican Group, Michael Watt, Tommy Mottola in association with Latitude Link and Anita Waxman. Director: Des McAnuff. Musical Director: Luke Hunter. Choreographer: Sergio Trujillio. Lyric Theatre, QPAC, Brisbane. Opening Night: 5 January 2019.

Jukebox musicals may come and go but Jersey Boys is still the gold standard. Five years after the original Australian season ended, the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons is back in Brisbane again in a new highly-polished production. With a cast of new and old faces, this doco musical with more than a touch of The Sopranos about it is still a fantastic blast of 60s doo-wop heaven.

La Bohème

Music by Giacomo Puccini. Libretto by Giuseppe Giacosa and Luigi Illica. Opera Australia. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. January 2 - March 28, 2019.

This sumptuous production, transplanted by Director Gale Edwards from Paris to the decadence of the Weimar Republic, will dazzle anyone who has not seen it before – but on opening night the performances did not generate the ‘fireworks’ that exploded over the Harbour a few days before.

North by Northwest

Adapted by Carolyn Burns. Presented by Adelaide Festival Centre. Produced by Kay + McLean Productions. Directed by Simon Phillips. December 29, 2018 to January 20, 2019

There were literally fireworks for the Adelaide opening night of North by Northwest, a play based on Hitchcock’s film. The excitement of New Year’s Eve was present in the audience of this well-travelled and well-received production. This latest incarnation for the stage is fast-paced, stylish and clever.


Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Book by Winnie Holzman. Based on the novel by Gregory Maguire. Adelaide Youth Theatre. Arts Theatre, Adelaide. 21-23 December 2018.

Wicked was first performed in San Francisco, USA, in the summer of 2003, before transferring to Broadway later that year, where it is still running. It opened in the West End of London in 2006, arriving on our shores in Melbourne in 2008. It’s an alternative telling of the backstories in the land of Oz, which first came to fame through the L Frank Baum children’s book The Wonderful Wizard of Oz in 1900, and then through the immensely popular 1939 film The Wizard of Oz.

Cairo Jim and the Tomb of Martenarten

Adapted by Emilia Stubbs Grigoriou from the book by Geoffrey McSkimming. Bookcase Productions. The Pioneer Theatre, Castle Hill. December 21 – 23, 2018

It’s always daunting to adapt a novel for young people to the stage – especially one of a series of 19 about an intrepid archaeologist-cum-poet like Cairo Jim and his companions, Doris the Macaw and Brenda the Wonder Camel. It has to capture the tenor of the prose, the imagination of the author – and his outrageous puns and poems – as well as sustaining the belief of Geoffrey McSkimming’s faithful readers.

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