Cirque du Soleil under the Big Top, Hamilton, Brisbane. 10 January – February, 2020

Like Disney, Cirque du Soleil has developed a brand as leaders in their field of modern circus: trapeze, contortion, acrobatics and aerial feats, all surrounded by humour (often eccentric) and live music. It’s been a winning formula for forty shows since Montreal street performers Guy Laliberte and Gilles Ste-Croix created their first show in 1984.

Black Cockatoo

By Geoffrey Atherden. Ensemble Theatre, Sydney. Director: Wesley Enoch. 4 January – 8 February 2020

The setting of Geoffrey Atherden’s new play is the back room of a museum, a storage unit with many itemised boxes and a large, rolling ladder. It’s a brilliant vision for the play from Set Designer Richard Roberts, and director Wesley Enoch makes great use of the space. Enoch is also the Artistic Director of the Sydney Festival, which opened the day before, so cheers and congratulations to him. He looks pretty fit.

Wolfgang’s Magical Musical Circus

Circa, Cremorne Theatre, Queensland Performing Arts Centre (QPAC) Brisbane. 7 to 18 January, 2020

Albert Einstein once said that Mozart’s music was “so pure that it seemed to have been ever-present in the universe.” Explaining such perfection is difficult – we can only articulate that the music seems complete in its melody, clarity and balance. As if taking up this challenge, Brisbane-based and internationally renowned contemporary circus group, Circa, has produced Wolfgang’s Magical Musical Circus.

Mamma Mia!

Music & Lyrics by Benny Andersson, Bjorn Ulvaeus & Stig Anderson. Book by Catherine Johnson. Holiday Actors. Director: Angela Kenna. Vocal Director: Elana Agnew. Choreographer: Beth Loft. Musical Director: Nikki Nuske. Sets: Lyle Russell & Angela Kenna. Lighthouse Theatre, Warrnambool. January 7-11, 2020.

Another outstanding summer show from an onstage cast of almost 60 performers aged between 13 and 20.  The popularity of this 35 year old company has ensured a sold out season even before curtain up on opening night. (No mean feat selling over 3,500 tickets!)

What struck me from the outset was the precision of the 10 piece band under the skilful direction of Nikki Nuske. Each musician, including four keyboardists (this is ABBA music after all) was on the mark.’

Shrek the Musical

Based on the DreamWorks Animation Motion Picture and Book by William Steig. Book and lyrics by David Lindsay-Abaire. Music by Jeanine Tesori. John Frost and Glass Half Full Productions. Sydney Lyric – Opening Night – January 5, 2020. Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne from February 16 and Lyric Theatre, QPAC from May 9.

A wicked giggle from a young member of the audience pierced the Sydney Lyric just after Princess Fiona (Lucy Durack) had a delicious on-stage tantrum, which in turned prompted an echo of more giggles like a coo-ee in a canyon.

The young fan had obviously seen a tantrum like that before! Recognition of authentic human reactions is a key joy of live theatre, which might on face value be a challenge in a musical based on a mashup of fairy tales.

Operation Ouch! Live on Stage

Created and written by Dr Chris van Tulleken and Dr Xand van Tulleken. Directed by Peter Adams. Presented by Andrew Kay & Associates. National Tour, 3 January – 1 February, 2020

Learning about biology has never been as fun as Dr Xand and Dr Chris make it for audiences attending Operation Ouch! Live on Stage. The dynamic duo is here all the way from the UK to tour Australia, teaching enthusiastic fans of their popular TV show all about the human body. Their energetic and engaging style is packed full of the kind of gross-out humour kids just love, while also serving to teach, demystify and encourage.

The 91-Storey Treehouse: Live on Stage!

By Richard Tulloch (adapted from the book by Andy Griffiths & Terry Denton). Directed by Liesel Badorrek. Arts Centre Melbourne Playhouse. 4-19 January, 2020.

As part of the Families Summer/Autumn program Arts Centre Melbourne presents a CDP Kids Production of this delightful instalment of the Treehouse adventures. Griffiths & Denton beautifully capture the innocence and candour that childhood offers. This production provides a colourful and faithful reproduction of the adventures in the book. Those familiar with the story will immediately recognise all the favourite places and people that populate the Treehouse stories. 

She’s Layered

By Mia Romero. Red Lip Woman Productions. The Butterfly Club, Melbourne. January 3 and 4, 2020

She’s Layered is a fresh and bubbly exploration of female sexuality. Also sharp and witty, it is performed and written by Mia Romero of Red Lip Woman Productions, who has travelled all the way from San Francisco to the Butterfly Club to present her new cabaret show. 

La Bohème

By Puccini. Opera Australia. Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House. January 2 – 30, 2020.

Puccini set La Bohème in the sybaritic Latin Quarter of Paris in 1830. Opera Australia’s 2018 production on Sydney Harbour saw it set in Paris in 1968 where civil unrest plagued the city. In this production, Gale Edwards sets it in 1930s Berlin in the final decadent days of the Weimar Republic where, “free of censorship, liberalism was extensive”.

Wherever it is set, La Bohème is a classic love story where the passion of first love is darkened by jealousy, mistrust and poverty.

Billy Elliot the Musical

Music by Elton John, book and lyrics by Lee Hall. Universal Theatrical Group, Working Title Films, Greene Light Stage, Michael Coppel, Louise Withers and Linda Bewick. Festival Theatre, Adelaide. December 29, 2019 to January 26, 2020

The 10th anniversary tour of Billy Elliot the Musical is in Adelaide and what a production it is!  Just finished in Sydney, with a Melbourne season to follow, put aside some pennies to catch this show as you will not be disappointed.

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