Show Reviews


Posted by | September 11, 2019 | Musicals, Show Reviews

Sydney – Tuesday 10 September, 2019. This festive season, Cirque Stratosphere – a spectacular new circus from the creators of CIRCUS 1903 (2016)and last summer’s smash-hit The Illusionists: Direct from Broadway – will transform the Sydney Opera House Concert Hall into a futuristic space-age utopia for a strictly limited season from 24-29 December 2019.

A dazzling new show, Cirque Stratosphere features gravity-defying acts on a scale never seen before at the Opera House. For six nights only, a troupe of Olympic-standard acrobats and gymnasts cast by The Works Entertainment will demonstrate that even the sky isn’t the limit.

Audiences will witness thrilling performances inside The Columbian Wheel of Death, impressive stunts on rollerskates, death-defying acrobatics on a Russian Bar – where the performer is thrown in the air by two partners holding the bar – sky-high contortions inThe Aerial Sphere, the Russian Swing to Swing and many more. These extraordinary feats effortlessly blend agility, coordination and showmanship to create an out-of-this-world spectacle.

Sydney Opera House Head of Contemporary Performance, Olivia Ansell, says: “We’re proud to take one small step for man and one giant step for circus with The Works Entertainment to create the brand new show Cirque Stratosphere. The 50thanniversary of the Moon Landing has renewed our fascination with space, and what lives beyond the earth’s atmosphere. Lift off with your family and friends in the Concert Hall this festive season. Your only mission – fun!” 

The talented duo Simon Painter and Tim Lawson, otherwise known as The Works Entertainment, are also the creative minds behind the epic  Le Grand CirqueLe NoirCirque Adrenalin and The Illusionists. Their unmissable productions have now travelled to more than 400 cities around the globe.

Simon Painter, Creative Producer, The Works Entertainment, says: We are very excited for audiences to witness this futuristic aerial spectacular in the round, as never before seen in the Concert Hall. It’s a redefinition of circus.” 

Watch the trailer for Cirque Stratosphere here


WHAT:                                                Cirque Stratosphere

WHEN:                                               24-29 December 2019                

WHERE:                                             Concert Hall, Sydney Opera House

PRICES:                                             Adults from $59, children from $39

TICKETS:                                           On sale from 9am, Monday 16 September: or 9250 7777

Caroline, Or Change Season Extended After Opening to Rave Reviews

Due to popular demand, the stunning award-winning musical Caroline, Or Change has been extended by an additional week. Featuring a spectacular cast and helmed by a stellar creative team, this Hayes Theatre Co production has captivated audiences and received rave reviews.  Directed by four time Helpmann Award winner Mitchell Butel, this uplifting and profound musical by Tony Kushner (Angels in America) and Jeanine Tesori (Fun Home, Violet) will now play at the Hayes until 28 September with tickets available at

★★★★ “It’s an extraordinary experience…thank the musical theatre gods for Elenoa Rokobaro, who plays the part with astonishing grace. She is grounded and achingly earthy. Her voice is a dream – rich and nuanced – and her performance is finely, thoughtfully built. It’s rare, heart-stopping work” – Time Out Sydney

★★★★ ” Mitchell Butel directs a thoughtful, eloquent production… Rokobaro is incredible as Caroline, giving a performance to be remembered for years to come…the musical itself is a breath of fresh air with an inventive structure that keeps you wondering what will happen next” – Limelight

★★★★ “… Caroline, or Change is as different from any musical you’ve ever seen…Rokobaro’s arching voice punches your sternum into your chest as she brings ferocious commitment to the role. Her dry-eyed pain is countered by Yeates’ Noah, who lights up the stage with almost every line. Hack, too, is superb as the stepmother– Sydney Morning Herald

Nkechi Anele… is another standout and a real find, with a powerful voice and depth of emotion. Butel… stages the drama on Simon Greer’s gorgeous split-level set, masterfully lit by a real master in Alexander Berlage. From backstage, musical director Lucy Berminghamachieves a lushness with her five-piece of cello, reeds, guitar, bass and percussion.” – Daily Review

“…the show’s highly polished look and sound proves seductive, and along with some truly outstanding performances, we are kept absolutely enthralled.” – Suzy Goes See

1963, Louisiana. The president is dead and America is on the verge of one of the greatest social movements of the 20th Century. The Gellman’s maid Caroline, a single mother of four, shares a special bond with eight-year old Noah, who is heartbroken after the death of his mother and his father’s remarriage. Sneaking down to the basement laundry to spend time with Caroline and a range of fantastical, anthropomorphic characters, Noah will find his relationship with Caroline tested by an attempt to put more money into Caroline’s pocket, devised by his stepmother, Rose.

Loosely based on Kushner’s own memories of growing up in Louisiana, Caroline, or Change features a stunning score by Jeanine Tesori, combining spirituals, blues, Motown, classical, and Jewish klezmer and folk music.

In the title role of Caroline Thibodeaux, the Gellman family’s maid, is Elenoa Rokobaro. Fresh from entertaining audiences in smash hit The Book of Mormon, Elenoa returns to the Hayes Theatre Co. where she stunned audiences in Violetand Side Showand is creating similar waves in this show. In the roles of Noah’s father Stuart Gellman and new stepmother Rose Stopnick Gellman are Andrew Cutcliffe (Darlinghurst Nights, The Dismissal) and Amy Hack (American Psycho). Making the switch from radio presenting on Triple J’s Roots ‘n All to musical theatre is Nkechi Anele who plays the role of Emmie ThibodeauxCaroline’s teenage daughter. Acclaimed screen and stage actor Tony Llewellyn Jones (She Loves Me) returns to the Hayes to play Rose’s father Mr Stopnick, while Helpmann Award Winner Genevieve Lemon (Billy Elliot) plays Grandma Gellman. Playing Caroline’s friends and companions are The Voice’s Ruva Ngwenya (Beautiful: The Carole King Musical), Emily Havea (Grounded), together with Elijah Williams (The Rolling Stone) and Alexandra Fricot (Spring Awakening).

Mitchell is one of Australia’s most prolific and versatile acting and directing talents and was recently appointed Artistic Director of the State Theatre Company of South Australia. He is one of therecipients of the 2019 Artist Led Initiative, supported by Frederic Marguerre and Rodrigo Martino, which began last year with the critically-acclaimed She Loves MeJoining Butel in the creative team is musical director Lucy Bermingham (In The Heights, Violet), Yvette Lee (American Psycho), set designer Simon Greer (Violet), costume designer Melanie Liertz (Antigone) and lighting designer Alexander Berlage (American Psycho).

Tickets for CAROLINE, OR CHANGE are available now at or by calling the Hayes Theatre Co box office during business hours on (02) 8065 7337.


Venue:                  Hayes Theatre Co, 19 Greenknowe Avenue, Potts Point

Season:                 Until 28 September 2019

Times:                   Mon 6.30pm | Tues – Sat 7.30pm | Wed 1.00pm | Sat 2.00pm

Price:                     $60-$75, concessions $55-65

Bookings:    | (02) 8065 7337

Backstage News had the opportunity to invite Kirsten Marr, the stage manager at Chicago Sydney at the Capitol Theatre to our Q&A Session.

1. Your education background to do this job

I have a Bachelor of Arts in Theatre Production from the University of Ballarat. The rest of my education in the role of Stage Manager has been through the jobs I have had as ASM, Child Chaperone and Stage Manager.

2. What is the best part of being part of the Chicago Technical team 

The Chicago crew is made up of a smaller amount of people than the usual crew teams of other musicals.  I have been enjoying the team spirit of all the different departments combined.  

Another great thing about the Technical Team is it is made up of people who

are extremely skilled at their expertise and are really good people to work with.  

Kirsten Marr

3. If our readers are keen to do what you do, what would be your advice?

Communication problem solving and information are key elements to Stage Management as well as the coordination and scheduling the days in the rehearsal room and the theatre.  The calling of a show is apart of this communication and coordination of each show to assist in bringing all the technical and creative elements together in the cueing of the show. 

With Chicago, we have 17 members of the band, 23 cast members and 26 people backstage, including creative team, management and the crew.  Each department and group of people require different things and coordination from the stage management team, including scheduling information, the show calls needs and health and safety requirements.

4. How long does it take to bump in the show at the Capitol Theatre? 

The Stage Management/props bump in takes about a day and a half before the cast come into the theatre. 

On Chicago, the Stage Management team also manage the props.  We needed to set the props backstage ready for the first technical rehearsal with the cast onstage. 

Stage Management also places signage around the theatre to help people find where things are.  The dressing room doors get name cards on them and the major noticeboards are set up with any information we have for the full company about the days and week ahead. 

The warmup space for the cast – be it in a rehearsal room, on stage or in the backstage area – is set up with keyboard and amp, and equipment for stretching.   

Once the cast is in the theatre and onstage Stage Management coordinates the backstage area to make sure pathways are clear for travel and that both backstage and onstage are safe. 

This includes negotiating and problem-solving some of the backstage traffic, the calling of the show, the setting of props and also the use of the space backstage for things like wardrobe quick changes, placement of furniture. 

Stage Management also sets up the call of the show in conjunction with the creative and design team for placement of lighting cures, scenery movements, cast cues and anything else that needs to be timed during the performance. 

5. More about you and your background

I have been in Stage Management in Musical Theatre for nearly 20 years.  I have been lucky to have toured to capital cities across Australia and have toured overseas a couple of times, although I do always enjoy getting home to Melbourne. 

I also have been lucky to have been apart of some great show company’s and have worked with a lot a great people both on and off the stage.  

One of the things I enjoy about Stage Management is being apart of the show from the first day of rehearsal through to the end of the tour.  I enjoy watching and being apart of the development of the show, characters and also the development of people in their craft across all departments and roles people play in a company. 

Simon Gregory BSC – Head of Sound

Backstage News had the amazing opportunity to interview the head of sound at Chicago the Musical at the Capitol Theatre Sydney.

Your education background to do this job

My first introduction to Musical theatre was, when I completed a work experience placement at a commercial, theatre through a diploma of Music Technology at my local college in the UK.  I then went on to graduate from London Guildhall University in 1998 with a degree in Musical Instrument Technology, specializing in Electronics, Acoustics and Studio Research. Alongside the studies I worked as a swing as a radio mic tech on several west ends shows including Jesus Christ Superstar and Showboat. At the completion of my degree, I accepted a job working for Disney as a Sound engineer on the Cruise Line.  In 2001 I made the move to Australia to begin work as a freelance sound engineer predominantly working for System Sound on Musical theatre projects such as Billy Elliot the Musical, We Will Rock You international tour, Chicago 2008 Tour, King Kong The Musical and more recently Matilda the Musical and School of Rock

What is the best part of being part of the Chicago Technical team 

Simon Gregory

The best part of being In the Chicago technical team is working with an exceptional team of highly qualified and dedicated people who bring their wealth of knowledge to produce this timeless show. The Highlight for me was, of course, working with the incredibly talented Julian Spink who lead the design of this System on behalf of System Sound. 

If our readers are keen to do what you do, what would be your advice? 

Education and experience is always the key, I would encourage anyone interested In a career In musical theatre too, whilst completing studies, get work bumping in shows at your local theatres and be a sponge. Many of my colleagues over the years have imparted their valuable knowledge to me and continue to do so. Also know that every day there is something more to learn, which is very important with technology evolving as quickly as it does. I would also encourage everyone to get out there and see as many events as they can, its really important to know your industry, know what is going on within it and of course support this great art form.

Capitol Theatre Sydney – Photo Trevor White

How long does it take to bump in the show at the Capitol Theatre?  

The Chicago bump-in at the Capitol theatre began on the 12th of August and took about 3 days to complete the physical install of the Sound system, to be ready to balance the orchestra and the first cast on stage session on the 4th day. This is a very busy time installing all the Cabling, speaker elements, front of the house mixing console, Stage racks, orchestral microphones and fold-back, and a complete video and communications system to allow the running of the show. This time frame is only made possible by the 3 weeks of prep performed pre-bump-in at the System Sound factory in Melbourne, where the entire system is completely built, programmed and tested as per the sound designers specifications.

More about you and your background

Outside of my professional career, I enjoy spending my time designing and constructing electronic devices and tools to aid in my work, and writing software and firmware for the same. I have quite a large experience in C and a few other programming languages which also aids in the Programming of shows as it gives a different view on how to achieve the results required by the design.

Backstage gives it 4 stars

By Trevor White. “John Forst has brought back the classic feel of Chicago” A must see for all Sydney Chicago Fans.
Photo By Trevor White 2019

The multi-award winning, record breaking musical CHICAGO razzle dazzles in Australia this year. Produced in Australia by John Frost and Suzanne Jones, this Australian production has opened at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre and will continue onto QPAC’s Lyric Theatre from November 2 and the State Theatre, Arts Centre Melbourne from December 14. The sassy musical stars some of Australia’s most talented performers. Starring as the irreverent and determined Roxie Hart, is one of our most versatile entertainers, Natalie Bassingthwaighte and joining her as the empowered and glamorous Velma Kelly is musical theatre star Alinta Chidzey. Much adored Casey Donovan plays the tough and sassy prison warden Matron ‘Mama’ Morton. Playing the role of the cunning and charismatic lawyer Billy Flynn, in Sydney and Brisbane is iconic Australian actor and entertainer Tom Burlinson and in Melbourne, will be Australian superstar Jason Donovan

Photo By Trevor White 2019

“We are so thrilled to have this incredible Australian cast join us in bringing this New York institution back to Australia. CHICAGO has everything that people love about Broadway, a story of fame, fortune and all that jazz, one show-stopping number after another and the most amazing dancing you’ve ever seen as well as the most sizzling score” said producer John Frost.

Photo By Trevor White 2019

Producer Suzanne Jones added, “We cannot wait to see this cast make these iconic roles their own whilst supported by a slick ensemble cast. We are so privileged to have the most exceptional performers joining us on this production who are sure to bring the razzle dazzle!”

The Kander & Ebb musical has been seen by over 31 million people worldwide in 36 countries and is the winner of six Tony Awards, two Olivier Awards and a Grammy Award. CHICAGO continues to play on Broadway and around the world in multiple languages and is the longest running American musical in Broadway and West End history.

Natalie Bassingthwaighte joins the cast as Roxie Hart having developed a rich career as an actor, musician and TV presenter. The multiple Logie Award nominee has vast acting credits in film and on television including her successful run on Neighbours as Izzy Hoyland. Natalie was the host of So You Think You Can Dance and a judge on The X Factor in both Australia and New Zealand. As the front woman for Australian pop dance group The Rogue Traders she went on to dominate the pop music charts before she also released her solo album which debuted at Number 1 on the ARIA charts. She turns full circle returning to the stage after commencing her career in musical theatre productions such as Rent, Grease and Footloose.

Photo by Trevor White 2019

Joining Natalie as Broadway’s most infamous femme fatales is Alinta Chidzey in the role of Velma Kelly. Alinta has forged a most successful career in entertainment from her acting credits in Wentworth, Neighbours and Winners and Losers to her album releases as a Jazz vocalist and songwriter. She has most notably earned her position as one of Australia’s true leading ladies of the musical theatre stage having performed as Anita in West Side Story, Mary Magdalene in Jesus Christ Superstar, Kathy Selden in Singin’ In the Rain, Magnolia in Show Boat and joined Hugh Jackman on stage in his Broadway to Oz tour.

Playing Matron ‘Mama’ Morton is powerhouse vocalist Casey Donovan. She is best known to Australian audiences after winning Australian Idol as a 16 year old in 2004. Since then Casey has flourished into one of the country’s most in demand performers. She continues to release music after her ARIA Number 1 debut album and tours extensively playing live around Australia. She won the title on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here in 2017 whilst also nurturing a blossoming stage career which has seen her cast in musical theatre productions including The Flower Children, The Sapphires, Rent and We Will Rock You.

Photo by Trevor White 2019

The smooth talking Billy Flynn will be played by Tom Burlinson in Sydney and Brisbane. Tom’s incredible performing career has spanned over 40 years. Since his breakthrough role in the iconic The Man from Snowy River Tom has been a fixture on Australian stages, films and television. The NIDA graduate has appeared in many musicals in Australia including The Producers, Miracle City and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and was a judge on Australia Got Talent alongside Dannii Minogue and Red Symons for 3 seasons. Tom’s film career has seen him appear in many Australian and international films including Phar Lap, Flesh & Blood, Windrider and Piece of Cake. Most recently the stage is where Tom spends most of his time having created and toured with many music shows including Frank – A Life in Song, Now we’re Swingin!, Young at Heart with Melinda Schneider, Swing That Music with Emma Pask, Ed Wilson and The Sydney All Star Big Band and Great American Songbook.

Photo By Trevor White 2019

The smooth talking Billy Flynn will be played by Tom Burlinson in Sydney and Brisbane. Tom’s incredible performing career has spanned over 40 years. Since his breakthrough role in the iconic The Man from Snowy River Tom has been a fixture on Australian stages, films and television. The NIDA graduate has appeared in many musicals in Australia including The Producers, Miracle City and How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying and was a judge on Australia Got Talent alongside Dannii Minogue and Red Symons for 3 seasons. Tom’s film career has seen him appear in many Australian and international films including Phar Lap, Flesh & Blood, Windrider and Piece of Cake. Most recently the stage is where Tom spends most of his time having created and toured with many music shows including Frank – A Life in Song, Now we’re Swingin!, Young at Heart with Melinda Schneider, Swing That Music with Emma Pask, Ed Wilson and The Sydney All Star Big Band and Great American Songbook.


Venue: Capitol Theatre Season: From 20 August 2019

Performance Times: Midweek Matinees, Weekend matinees and Tuesday – Sunday Evenings Price: From $59.90*


* An additional transaction fee may apply

Lighting Designer Sean Clarke Sound Designer David Grigg

ABBA fever has infected Parramatta as Mamma Mia! The Musical takes over the Riversisde Theatre with catchy tunes and moments of heartfelt joy, writes Trevor White

Sunday Matinee 4th Aug 2019 3:00 pm Show. Seat Row F

Packemin Productions, the team behind the hit productions of Jesus Christ Superstar, Shrek, Wicked, Legally Blonde and The Phantom Of The Opera, will transport you to a Greek island paradise at Riverside Theatres, bursting onto the stage with a brand new production of one of the world’s favourite feel-good musicals… MAMMA MIA!

Starring Scott Irwin (Beauty and the Beast, West Side Story) as SamDebora Krizak(Sweet Charity, Anything Goes) as Tanya, Courtney Bell (Madiba The Musical) as SophieBlake Erickson (Madiba The Musical, Les Miserables) as HarryMark Simpson(Hairspray, Kinky Boots) as BillLouise Symes as DonnaChris White (Hi-5) as Sky, along with a large cast of upbeat, energetic musical theatre performers, Mamma Mia! promises to be an entertaining night out at the theatre.

Featuring hit after hit from the incredible songs of ABBA including Dancing Queen, Voulez Vous, S.O.S, Take a Chance On Me and The Winner Takes It All, MAMMA MIA! tells the hilarious and heart-warming story of a young woman’s search for her birth father. On the eve of her wedding, a daughter’s quest to discover the identity of her father brings three men from her mother’s past back to the island they last visited 20 years ago.

Let’s start with the production team:

Production Team

DirectorJessica Fallico & Jordan Vassallo
ChoreographerSally Hare
Musical DirectorPeter Hayward
Set DesignerJosh Mcintosh
Lighting DesignerSean Clarke
Costume DesignerAudrey Currie
Make-up Co-ordinatorKaren Lamont-Barnett
Assistant DirectorCourtney Cassar
Assistant Musical DirectorRachel Kelly

Technical Review

The stage set was a wash of white which allowed the many LED moving heads to change the mood of the set.

The backdrop was a sky blue which also transformed to the night mode with the LED Stardrop Curtin and a glowing moon.

The Riverside Theatre Lighting rig was packed with Moving heads and LED Intelligent lights.

The stage throughout the 2-hour show was hazed to the max to ensure the lighting was visible which unfortunately made its way into the audience which from my seat 4 rows from the front was a little cloudy.

We reached out to Packemin for comment no reply.

Overall the show was energic, colourful and vibrant, and would recommend it to anyone.

Book now at Riverside Theatre