My theatre highlights for summer 2022/23
In my view, there is no better way to end a hot summer's day than by sitting in the air-conditioned audience of a theatre – albeit we only had a few in Melbourne this year despite the fact that hot days were few and far between this year.
At the theatre, waves of anticipation weave between the chattering friends, families, couples, and strangers. I spent more than a couple of nights there amongst the crowds myself.
Here are my highlights for theatre the summer of ‘22-23:
PHANTOM OF THE OPERA
January saw The Phantom of the Opera was the highest attended show at the Arts Centre Melbourne. I’d never seen The Phantom of the Opera live before and Andrew Lloyd Webber’s genius did not disappoint.
With Amy Manford who performed the role of young soprano Christine Daaé, and Josh Pitterman as the Phantom and Blake Bowden as Raoul, The Vicomte de Chagne, vocals were full and healthy, filling the State Theatre with ominous ballads like ‘The Music of the Night’ and ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’.
Phantom of the Opera remains a timeless musical, which has been shaped and changed by its time across the 35 years which it has been gracing theatres around the globe.
This theatrical phenomenon stops at nothing to present audiences with the glamour of both opera and musical theatre.
Maria Björnson’s costume design was exquisite, most notable were the intricate designs of Christine’s dress in ‘Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again’ and the powerful use of muted suits on the Phantom in vast contrast with his appearance during the masquerade ball as The Red Death.
Particularly unique to this Australian production is the use of designs which were “found in her archives” and are “not used in the original production”, said Cameron Macintosh.
Far be it from me not to speak on the dramatic chandelier which graced us with its looming presence above the theatre. It became the centre of some of the most memorable moments of the performance.
As the overture strikes up, the chandelier is revealed in a flash of technical magic – the dusty covers of the Chandelier are absorbed into the behemoth spectacle of intricate beading and light.
Likewise, when the Chandelier crashes above the audience, the spectacle of lighting and sound brings together a climactic end to act one.
After The Phantom of the Opera has ended its Australian season, it continued to run in the West End, UK and on Broadway.
However, in April, the curtains closed after 35 years on Broadway.
Phantom of the Opera was longest running musical in Broadway, having shown more than 10,000 performances.
HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD
Coinciding with The Phantom of the Opera’s record-breaking run, another celebration was afoot in Melbourne. Harry Potter and The Cursed Child celebrated 1000 performances in Australia on the 14th of December.
I was lucky enough to attend this momentous occasion with my brother, and we were delighted by a complimentary show program and chocolate wizarding treat. The excitement in the audience was palpable and the cast’s performance was on point as always.
The play is split into both in its original two-part form and now the reimagined version has brought to life the magic of J.K. Rowling’s much-loved tales of ‘the boy who lived’.
From the rebound on-stage-effects to Imogen Heap’s delicately crafted soundtrack, the play presents something for die-hard Harry Potter fans as well as those who may never have picked up one of Rowling’s Harry Potter novels.
I have been fortunate to see this play a number of times and what has struck me is the lack of so-called ‘bad seats’. Whilst I will keep the secrets, as has been the way with this play, neither ‘nose-bleed’ nor ‘restricted view’ seats provided any less of an incredible viewpoint for this phenomenon.
In February it was announced that after four years, Harry Potter and The Cursed Child will have its final curtain call on July 9th.
Melbourne audiences will no longer pay witness to the intricate nest which sits above the regal Princess Theatre in melbourne when they finally say goodbye to the show.
The next performance to grace the Princess Theatre’s stage will be Mamma Mia!, arriving in Melbourne in October after touring Sydney and Brisbane.
If you have not yet seen the spectacle that is Harry Potter and The Cursed Child, I would highly recommend purchasing tickets before The Princess Theatre closes its doors. Performances for the final weeks are already selling out.
Harry Potter and The Cursed Child will not be touring Australia, however it continues to be performed on Broadway and in th West End, London.
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child will be leaving Australia after its Melbourne season, Hamilton too has closed its curtains and headed over the ocean to perform in New Zealand.
Perhaps some may say seeing this musical five times is too many but what surprised me, what I was not once bored.
A new element is brought to Hamilton every night; whether it is a new combination of cast members, King George III has a new moment of slapstick for us to enjoy, or I simply notice a new piece of choreography. I am always in awe of writer, Lin Manuel Miranda’s genius.
I would particularly like to note the vocals of one of the leading ladies, Akinda Edmonds (who played Angelica Scuyler) who delivered an incredibly emotional and powerful performance in Satisfied and It’s Quiet Uptown.
Likewise, the comedy provided in particular by the various performers portraying Thomas Jefferson and King George III should be acknowledged.
Hamilton has just left Australia, so if you’re travelling across the ditch, it’s definitely worth booking tickets to catch it.
Those who are interested in the musical should also watch Leigh Sales’ interview with Lin-Manuel Miranda, In The Room: Leigh Sales with Lin-Manuel Miranda on ABC iView.
MUCH ADO ABOUT NOTHING – IN THE PARK
Every year, the Australian Shakespeare Company puts on a series of brilliant performances nestled in the natural beauty of the Royal Botanic Gardens.
This year, I saw Much Ado About Nothing – my personal favourite Shakespeare play – adapted into a musical.
Romeo and Juliet also appeared in the gardens this year, one of Shakespeare’s most prominent tragedy’s making a good pair with the hilarious rigmarole of Much Ado About Nothing.
I was unsure about a musical version of such a classic Shakespeare play, I have seen many iterations of Much Ado About Nothing and as such kept an open mind… That turned out to be a good call, this was incredible.
I was so glad to discover that my car had a CD player, because they sold them during the event with the songs performed and it’s an absolute masterpiece, taking both classic shakespearean monologues and dialogue and turning it into music.
To all Shakespeare enthusiasts, it’s worth seeing Shakespeare in The Park. The Australian Shakespeare Company never disappoints, and it’s always an exciting evening. You can take a picnic and often you’ll see the bats fly over as the sun is setting.
These were my highlights of a summer in the theatre (and the garden)!
If you’d like to hear more from me and keep up with performances I’m attending, you can find me on Twitter at @nyahbarnes_4 or Instagram @poppy_spotty93
Look out for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Tickets before it leaves Melbourne.
Hamilton tickets are on sale now for the New Zealand season.
Look out for the Australian Shakespeare Company’s performances next summer in the garden!