Kat of the Musicals

I think this was the very first interview I did with The AU Review- Steve Danielsen! A really lovely guy who played Fiyero in the second Australian tour of Wicked. Fun fact: when we chatted he was on a bit of a jog around Melbourne. Gotta keep up that endurance!

The interview was originally posted on Arts on the Au.

Wicked, the untold story of the witches of Oz, is making its eagerly awaited return to Sydney this September after delighting Melbourne audiences since the start of the year.

The AU Review chatted to Steve Danielsen about starring in his first leading role, the musical’s triumphant return to Sydney, and his thoughts about his character FIYEROOOOOOOOOOO!! *ahem* Fiyero.

You’re no stranger to the stage, but what is it like to be performing in your first leading musical role?

It’s sounds a bit cliché but it’s actually really surreal, and very humbling at the same time. In this industry you’ve got to work really hard and I did so, as hard as I possible could, and Fiyero is really one of those dream roles for any leading man. It’s just one of those things that excites me every day- I get to walk into the theatre and head in the stage door and do that eight times a week! Wicked is just such a beautiful production and we’re all very lucky to have such a beautiful well-written story to tell every night.

It’s very exciting and it’s definitely put me on top of the world at the moment!

How did you get into musical theatre?

I was always heading in the direction of film and television, mainly because I wasn’t a dancer. I trained in singing and acting, but my dancing wasn’t my strong point. After I did Xanadu the Musical I decided I really needed to focus on my dancing, so I took myself off to New York and started from scratch at the Broadway Dance Centre. I came back to Australia after seeing a whole bunch of shows and, to cut a long story short, I got into Legally Blonde 12 months after I’d auditioned. So all the hard work with my dancing had paid off and I had the musical theatre bug so badly. While I was doing Blonde I continued to do dance and vocal classes, managed to get through the Wicked auditions and here I am!

I really love musical theatre, I love being able to tell a story through songs, especially for a show that has such a beautifully written script and score. The show is still challenging and fun for me and it’s not something I get bored of at all.

How would you describe your character Fiyero? Are you anything like Fiyero?

*Laughs* Well I am a little bit of a party boy and I do like to get out and about and be social, but I feel there is a lot more to me than I think people realize as well. I am the only one in my family who is in musical theatre, but I also love the V8 Supercars, I build coffee tables, I snowboard… So in musical theatre I’m like an anomaly. I try and do a lot of other stuff that other people wouldn’t necessarily realize about me. Just like Fiyero- there are a lot of things that other people don’t know about him either, and his meeting and falling for Elphaba is definitely one of those things. There are a lot of similarities between us and I think that really helps with the storytelling.

What was it like taking over from your friend Rob Mills in the leading role?

After doing Blonde me and Mills struck up quite a good friendship and we’re quite good buddies, but I was given the opportunity to bring my own flare, my own decisions and my own acting choices to the role. It was a really good opportunity for me, and for everybody else, to get together and have a really tight-knit collaboration whilst bringing their own thing to the characters. So taking over from Rob, obviously there is the element of pressure taking over the role from anyone, but you make it your own and then it just becomes your own role in the industry. I must admit though, he did make me nervous when he came in to watch it!

What is it like acting alongside Lucy Durack (Glinda) and Jemma Rix (Elphaba) in the roles of the leading ladies, roles that they are certainly no strangers to?

I love working with those two, they’re both very different girls but they’re both so lovely and the nicest humans. Obviously I was super excited to work again with Lucy after Legally Blonde, and it was great to be able to work with her in a lead role. She is hilarious in the role of Glinda and she is constantly making both Jemma and I laugh in moments of the show. She always brings something new to the role every night and she’s just a pleasure to work with. And the same with Jemma, they’re both so lovely and giving and just very generous actors, so I’m pretty happy to be working with them both.

What do you think attracts Fiyero to Elphaba?

I think there is an initial moment when they help each other out with the little baby lion cub and there is a just a little bit of a connection there that they both really don’t realize what it is yet. But the reason I think Fiyero likes Elphaba is that he lives this really cliché lifestyle, he’s from a privileged background and he’s always had the ‘Glindas’ around him, but that’s not really who he is. He’s attracted to her because he realizes that’s who he is and that’s where Fiyero really lies in the story. Meeting her indirectly pushes him towards being attracted to her and realizing who he really is.

Which is your favourite song to perform in the production?

I do love doing ‘Dancing Through Life’ because it’s such a big fun happy number, but I also think I prefer doing ‘As Long As You’re Mine’. Only because for me vocally it’s really challenging and I love the defining moment for both characters in the show. That’s probably what’s most important to me- that they’re on the run and it may be the only time they will get to express their feelings for each other before they get hunted down. So they’re at their wits end and it’s a really beautiful moment.

You recently completed the national tour for Legally Blonde, and now you’re in the middle of the Wicked tour (from New Zealand, Manila and now Australia), is it a different feeling to be part of a show on tour? 

There’s always a new kind of vibe going through a different city, but moving around is a little bit hard- it’s hard to hold relationships, it’s hard to keep in touch with family and friends. But it is what we signed up for, and you’ve just got to be prepared to go and move away your life for a while and do what you love. You just work around the lifestyle and just make sure to stay in touch with family and friends.

Internationally is a little more difficult, but once you’re in the theatre you feel at home.

What are your feelings coming to Sydney? Anything you’re particularly looking forward to, or as a Melbourne boy are you Melbourne-biased?

We’re all really looking forward to getting up to Sydney for summer, but I’m definitely going to miss Melbourne because all my family and friends are here. I am a little bit Melbourne-biased, but I’m going to be living out coastal-wise in Sydney so I can get a bit of beach time and some sun!

What is the best part of performing?

I would have to say the rush of going out on stage every night- there is no other job that you get applause and take a bow! The lifestyle that it provides me, and the happiness that it gives me to be able to go out on stage every night and tell really awesome stories. That’s probably the best part about performing- just the way it makes me feel.

Do you have any advice for young Australians hoping to pursue a career in musical theatre?

Don’t take several knock-backs as a personal thing. Continue to get the love and support from your family and friends, because without them it’s a pretty daunting industry. Also just really focus 100% on what you want. It sounds really cliché but it’s the truth- if you want it bad enough you’ll work hard and you’ll focus on the things you need to focus on. Like I needed to focus on my dancing, so I went out and spent every cent I earned because I wanted it so badly. So if you want it badly enough you just need to keep focusing on it and never give up.

Finally, how would Fiyero try and convince the AU audience to come see Wicked in Sydney?

If you grew up with the Wicked of Oz, this is the prequel about the Witches of Oz, and it is a beautiful story with beautiful lyrics. All the character journeys are just a really nice thing to watch. Apart from the story, it’s got one of the most incredible sets and some of the most well worked costumes that you’ll ever see. It’s more of an event really to come and see Wicked. It’s not just about the story, it’s about everything- it’s just a fantastic show!

We’re all looking forward to getting up to Sydney in the next two weeks, and I encourage everyone to come and check it out!

For a behind-the-scenes peek at the life of being Wicked’s Fiyero, you can follow Steve on his Twitteror Instagram

Wicked is based on the novel by Gregory Maguire, with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Winnie Holzman. It is the recipient of 90 major awards including a Grammy®, three Tony Awards® and six Helpmann Awards®, including ‘Best Musical’.

Wicked is defying gravity at Sydney’s Capitol Theatre from the 20th September. For more information and tickets please visit: http://www.wickedthemusical.com.au/

Let’s be real, sometimes you just need some Budae-jjigae. Or some “throw-in-everything-delicious” jjigae as I like to call it.


For a bit of history Budae-jjigae is also called Army Base Stew. After the Korean War food was scarce and so people merged the traditional jjigae with surplus food items from the US military bases, like spam or hot dogs.

To me it’s a real comfort dish. It’s all about adding everything you like into your traditional kimchi jjigae base. It’s basically eating pure sodium but whatever. Sodium is delicious 😉

So what do I normally add into my Budae-jjigae? I mix and match the following:

  • Kimchi jjigae base
  • Pork belly
  • Middle bacon rasher
  • Skinless frankfurt
  • Soft tofu
  • Rice cake (Tteok)
  • Corn
  • Enoki mushrooms
  • Instant ramyun

What did I say ha, sodium-jjigae 😉

I’ve gotten a bit of a style of cooking it now (which kinda involves throwing everything in the pot together shh), but originally I followed both of my favourite K-Food bloggers recipes- Korean Bapsang and Maangchi’s, so check them out!

ENJOY! ^.^


Continuing with posting my Arts-watching repertoire… ^.^

This review was originally posted on Hello Asia! 

[사진자료1] 로고 포스터

Excitement builds from the very moment the orchestra starts playing the overture for the Korean production of 42nd Street. The crowd is already clapping along as the curtain rises ever so slightly from the stage to reveal countless pairs of synchronised tapping shoes. And the sound is incredible!

The opening sequence continues to be an extravaganza of tap dancing, under the pre tense of the storyline’s audition scene. The (meta) story then follows the production of the musical ‘Pretty Lady’, whose auditions we have just witnessed.

Our heart throb Jeon Jae Hong appears (in the role of Billy Lawlor) and he is certainly one handsome tap dancer! His facial expressions alone are heartstopping, with this charming smile of self-assured smugness. He really fits true to the role of Billy, and both his dancing and voice are a delight to behold. He was my favourite to watch.

Next is our leading lady Peggy Sawyer, played by Choi Woo Ri, who is both adorable and talented. She also has that same ability to project a radiant smile beyond the stage, but in her case its full of bright innocence and hope. Her energy is infectious, and reaches through the cast and into the audience.

The auditions are over, but Billy hopes to charm Peggy into a date by helping her bypass the process. Choreographer Andy Lee is having none of Billy’s nonsense. He sends a flustered Peggy off to collide straight into director Julian Marsh.

Nam Kyung Ju, in comparison to Billy and Peggy’s youth, is a very commanding Julian. He brings a very strong presence to the stage, and continues to be a force throughout the whole production. His voice easily reached to all corners of the hall- even with a brief mic malfunction!

I found my eyes being drawn to Andy Lee whenever he appeared on the stage as well, Yong Su Jo just had that kind of effect. The kind of magnetism in his dancing and strict expression that pulls you in and doesn’t let you look away.

The big wow of the production, though, is Hong Ji Min in the role of the prima donna Dorothy Brock. What an incredible voice! The strength of her ballads reaches into the audience and captures your breath. You can really feel the emotions she expresses- through the thrill of her affair, the frustration of her marriage, the mindless panic of being on the verge of losing the one you truly love, and then the final happiness of finding what was most important to you.

Naturally the story taps along through Pretty Lady’s rehearsals and the eventual casting of Peggy in the lead role. She takes a little convincing of course, but nothing a energetic “at-the-railway-station-to-stop-her-from-leaving” song and dance with the whole cast won’t fix! Julian is completely in love with her at this point, but this production doesn’t really put a lot of emphasise into this, rather focusing on the support between Dorothy and Peggy. Julian does utter the iconic line to thunderous applause from the audience though- “You’re going out there a youngster, but you’ve got to come back a star!”

The cast truly works well together throughout the whole production. In particular the chorus line, rather than being seen as merely the “support”, actually takes a more integrated role with the main cast. This forms a really crucial element for the overall presence of the stage- making the whole production feel very balanced and coordinated.

The large stage is kept almost empty for the entire production, with a limited use of staging and props. This allows the actors to dance freely across the stage and utilise the space to it’s greatest advantage. The defining element of 42nd Street is definitely it’s tap dance routines- the choreography, sound and synchronisation is absolutely incredible. Small mics attached to the tap shoes make sure to pick up each of the perfectly synchronised steps, and the sound merges seamlessly with the orchestra.

Instead of dazzling the audience with sets, 42nd Street uses its grand and ultra glitzy costumes to fill the role. Endless sequins, sparkle and glam speed across the stage, with almost as many costume changes as dance routines!

Overall 42nd Street is full of energy, talent and is just really enjoyable to watch! The tap dancing alone demonstrates a polished production with an incredibly skilled cast, and I often felt absolutely dazzled (and exhausted!) by the sheer athleticism. This is a musical for everyone- if you can, go along and be dazzled!

“Come and meet those dancing feet on the avenue I’m taking you to… 42nd Street.”

42nd Street is showing at the Seoul Arts Center, CJ Towol Theater from the 8th of July until the 31st August. The reviewer attended the performance on 16th July.



The Rabbits, written by John Marsden and illustrated by Shaun Tan, is an extraordinary piece of work. It takes important historical events and recreates its message in a haunting picture book- reaching children and adults alike. It does not shy away from what it needs to say. The adaption of this work into this opera not only seeks to extend the book’s powerful message, but it manages to create an entirely new and equally extraordinary piece of work.

The opera is created almost like a pantomime and at just over an hour long it manages to keep its accessibility to its younger audience members. The set creates striking landscapes of billowing clouds and sweeping outback, pushing onto these intimidatingly large-scale versions of Tan’s sketched machinery. The small band/orchestra is on stage throughout the production, keeping the sound loud and close. The costumes are works of art; almost surreal illustrations come to life to stroll across the stage.

The music itself is unique for an opera, blending Kate Miller-Heidke’s distinctive sound with bits and pieces of all kinds. The marsupials (performed by indigenous actors/singers Hollie Andrew, Jessica Hitchcock, Lisa Maza, Marcus Corowa and David Leha) sound of the earth, the rabbits (performed by operatic singers Kanen Breen, Nicholas Jones, Christopher Hillier, Simon Meadows and Robert Mitchell) have a little rabbity trademark noise that they weave into their voices. It’s incredibly clever, and deftly weaves together songs of light-hearted comedy and incredible heartbreak.

For this is how the book reads: an emotionally confusing state of laughing at jokes but readily feeling that undercurrent of blatant tragedy. Like the original work the opera seeks not to shy away from the importance of its message and by its concluding line you find yourself in quite the state of emotional upheaveal.

Miller-Heidke’s character Bird is particularly resonating. A creature that is able to narrate and warn of the events to come but unable to intervene, and it is her carefully sung lines that hit home.

“From this distance I don’t have to feel for you”
“Your world is not the same as mine”
“… I can’t help you. Sorry”


The Rabbits will be playing at the Roslyn Packer Theatre Walsh Bay until the 24th January. For more information visit www.opera.org.au

The reviewer attended the Opening Night performance on the 14th January.

Photo credit: © Jeff Busby

The Fantasticks has become the longest running production of any kind in the history of American theatre, no small feat, and yet I hadn’t heard of it. So noticing we were getting a production here in the wonderful Hayes Theatre I went to listen on Spotify. I wound up a good deal confused- what is going on, are they talking about fruit, who on earth is this fellow and what in bejeebus am I trying to remember in September? As it turns out The Fantasticks is the type of musical that you really need to actually see performed, for then it brings worth a whole wonderful story and, at least a little, more sense.

For the concept to begin with is slightly confusing- telling of an allegorical story, loosely based on the play The Romancers, of two neighbouring fathers secretly tricking their children into falling in love by staging a pretend feud and hiring actors to stage a mock abduction. The children uncover the deception and each take off into the world for new experiences, which turn out to be a good deal disappointing, where they eventually return to each other’s arms.

The trouble comes because there are many moments of “play within a play” and 4th wall breaking and one becomes a little bit entangled in what is meant to be real- real in the play and real in the story. But really this becomes the charm of it, and if you can manage to loose yourself in the narration and characters then the story becomes less important.

For there is some fantastic character work here, created by some truly fantastic talent. Martin Crewesis an dashing El Gallo, our narrator who seduces us with promises of what’s to come- warnings that “life never ends in the moonlit night”. The young’uns Jonathan Hickey and Bobbie-Jean Henning are wonderfully energetic, Henning’s voice particularly resonating clear and beautiful.

Yet it is really the older’uns that take the spotlight here- Garry Scale and Lawrence Coy who are nothing short of absolutely wonderfully hilarious in both their roles. They steal the crowd’s affection with their perfect chemistry, merry bickering and spirited abduction staging.

The Fantasticks is definitely a production that you need to see performed live. A wonderful creation that is all at once bright and comedic and poignantly dark. El Gallo warns us that “the play is never done till we’ve been burnt” and the twists that face these puppets and actors keep you Fantastickly enthralled to the very end.


The Fantasticks will help you try and remember at the Hayes Theatre Sydney until the 31st January. For more information visit http://www.hayestheatre.com.au/

The reviewer attended the Opening Night performance on the 13th January.

Photo credit: © Marnya Rothe

This was a rather bittersweet musical. I liked it well enough but probably wouldn’t feel a need to see it again.

Originally posted on The AU Review.

“Without love, life has no purpose”, says our naïve protagonist- a young woman by the name of Charity. She is a not-too-bright optimist, an imaginative romantic and a dancer-for-hire at a Times Square dance hall. In Sweet Charity we follow her endless search for a man who loves her, and an opportunity to get out of the dark dingy life she lives.

We walk into the theatre and into the Fandango Ballroom. The lighting is dingy and the room smokey and the girls call to us from the stage- promising a good time and some laughs. Their rather minimal costumes give us an indication of each of their characters- from the pretty in pink to the seasoned high black boots.

The stage is a fairly small space, half of which is taken up by the on-stage band and another section by the onstage wardrobe. Oh yes, the cast change in and out of costumes right there on the stage! The cast is mostly on stage for the entire performance and they really use this small space effectively. The main props are two large mirrors that are wheeled around like blackboards. One side is reflective and the other opaquely see-through, and they are used to great effect to see actor’s faces when their backs are to us, or for us to watch the actors as they peer through the screen side.

This is a musical that allows the audience to really be animated and there is lots of raucous laughter and cheers for our sexy ladies (with a lot more respect than their characters would receive of course!). It’s a super fun show to watch with incredible amounts of energy throughout the whole performance. And the storyline is intriguing with just the right amount of unpredictability to keep you glued right to the end.

We are introduced to Miss Charity first, and oh boy does Verity Hunt-Ballard give a fantastic performance. Your heart absolutely breaks for Charity- yes she is very much the fool, and whether she learns from her mistakes is very much to be seen, but she is kind-hearted and hopeful in a dark place and you can’t help but wish more for her. Her lace dress and push-up bra are less than flattering, as is her heart tattoo on her shoulder, but her mega-watt smile is all Charity needs. On stage for almost the entire show, Verity belts out heartfelt piece after piece, and dances across stage like it’s nothing. Occasionally the power and emotion in Verity’s voice takes you by surprise, as something you wouldn’t expect from the crass Charity, but it’s wonderful.

Charity’s relationship with her fellow dancing girls is amusing and sweet, as they tease and bicker like sisters. The girls get out some hilarious lines, and it’s intriguing to watch as they offer their goods to potential buyers before returning to casually converse amongst themselves when no customer is around. The girls frankly describe their profession as “defending themselves to music”. Their early piece “Hey Big Spender” was one of my favourites, as the girls belt out and try to seduce us audience members with their voices and charms.

The standout is of course Debora Krizak, who plays the dancing girl Nickie as well as Oscar’s demanding mistress Ursula. In both roles she is utterly captivating, incredibly amusing and overwhelming talented. She is able to bring you so close to her characters, with attention to the smallest mannerisms, that they become so believable. And those legs! Whew!

Back at the Fandango the girls are leaving for the day, walking swiftly past and pulling on coats over their “uniforms”. On the street Charity by chance meets the famous film star Vittorio Vidal who is chasing after his mistress Ursula. He is pleading with her to return to the club, but when she refused, Vidal drags the willing Charity instead. The club is in sharp contrast with the Fandago, with odd black and white checkered costumes and peculiar side masks and the oddest dance moves. Charity unabashedly dances about in her own style until she faints (not having eaten since breakfast) and Vidal takes her back to his apartment.

Charity is star struck by Vidal, but Ursula soon arrives at the apartment and Charity is forced to coach Vidal to get Ursula back before hiding herself in the wardrobe. A story Charity’s friends have trouble believing the next day.

The girls begin to dream of the alternative careers they hope for, which eventually pushes Charity towards a job search agency. When she answers “no” to all the questions, the agent believes she was sent to him as a joke and is unintentionally cruel about her lack of education or skill. Beaten, she enters an elevator with an apparently nervous man. The elevator breaks down and the man, Oscar Lindquist, begins to panic as a result of his claustrophobia. Charity calms him down with her own personal motto- “I’m the Bravest Individual” and the two are eventually rescued. Oscar invites Charity to go to church with him, and she hesitatingly agrees.

Both Vidal and Oscar are played by Martin Crewes, and what a talent! The two characters could not be more different, but in both roles he is absolutely perfect. His vocal range is astounding, and his solo “Too Many Tomorrows” was my favourite piece. His singing comes through beautifully after the harsh crassness we’ve previously heard up to this point. His characters go through so many abrupt emotional transformations, and he keeps up with them perfectly. Going from playboy confidence to insecurity and unabashed terror, to harsh aggressiveness, all the while keeping the audience with him. You love him and you hate him and you can’t watch him and you can’t look away. He’s fabulous.

Returning into Act Two Oscar and Charity are now dating. They attend the “church” gathering and the Coney Island amusement park together. Charity is not open with Oscar about her profession however, and this soon begins to weigh down on her. Becoming increasingly frustrated Charity screams that she quits the Fandango and meets with Oscar to tell him the truth. But Oscar reveals he already knows, but he doesn’t care and wants to marry her.

This is the happiest moment of the musical, as we celebrate Charity’s finally finding her love. And that’s what you the audience begin to believe, that our protagonist is going to get her ‘Pretty Woman’ happily ever after, which makes it all the more jarring and breaking as the musical concludes suddenly on a once again alone Charity. Oscar has decided he cannot forget her past life, to which Charity desperately pleads with him that there are “certain things a person can’t change because they’re history”. She is falling apart, and Oscar is screaming and losing all of his façade of a sweet clueless man and you’re shocked and it’s over and you don’t know what to think but it’s definitely something emotional.

Our heartbroken Charity sings “no matter where I run I meet myself there” and your heart breaks right along with her. But she gets up, and her gaze is upwards out towards the audience as the stage fades out to black.

Sweet Charity is a brilliant piece of musical cabaret that director Dean Bryant has done a fabulous job with. It is all about Charity’s hopeful search for meaning in her dingy life, a meaning she believes will come through the “affections” of the men she continues to meet. She is optimistic, despite being constantly abandoned, and never gives up on finding that love. For without love, life has no purpose.

When a story is told and retold and adapted in so many different ways you know there’s something special about it. This is of course the case with Puccini’s La Bohème, which has been adapted into popular modern musical RENT and used as inspiration for Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge just to name a few. In these instances there is something particularly special about finally being able to see the original work in its truest form.

For La Bohème is truly a beautiful story, full of what could be constant despair and yet it manages to weave threads of hopeful positivity. Its characters are almost destitute and yet they sing and dance, aware of their situation and yet determined to be merry in one another’s company just the same. The reveal in the art they create and value its beauty.

As artists do tend to do, they love passionately and celebrate boisterously. But they are all relatable ordinary humans, and you can easily find yourself empathetic with their situations. Even when you wish to be frustrated with a character’s actions their motives are soon revealed to be more genuine. It’s refreshing and beautiful, and as an opera it’s a lot more “calm” than usual.

The glorious set interchanges between the Bohemians large rundown studio and the lively Café Momus, where the friends all gather together. It is these friends, these characters that truly make the opera. The brotherly affection between Rodolfo (Yosep Kang) and Marcello (Andrew Jones) is perfectly reflected in their wonderful exchanges, their voices soaring and perfectly complimenting each other.

The standout performance is definitely Lorina Gore as Musetta though, who steals the stage in that stunning dress, that fabulous attitude and that striking voice which fills the room with her famous waltz.

The story of La Bohème and its focus on transparently real relationships and friendships, with a lack of any need for overdramatizing or fierce conflicts, is what makes this opera truly unique. It’s an opera for settling comfortably into your chair and enjoying as the performance unfolds before you. Beautiful, emotional, and real.


La Bohème will be playing at the Sydney Opera House until the 23rd March. For more information visithttp://www.opera.org.au/

The reviewer attended the 7:30pm performance on the 6th January.

Photo credit: © Branco Gaica

I have wanted to see Mozart’s The Magic Flute for so long. The “happy” opera, full of playfulness, colour and magic, a welcome change from my more recent (brilliant) but tragic La Bohemes and Don Carlos’. And boy was everyone correct! The Magic Flute is absolutely the happy opera.

The first thing I noticed about Opera Australia’s latest production is that it is of course in English, at first it’s quite jarring but you eventually settle into the feeling and it is rather nice not to have to dart quickly between reading the surtitles and watching what is actually going on (although I did still find myself reading them, a creature of habit).

The second thing I noticed was how interactive the characters are with the crowd, not in the direct sense, but in a most awareness sense. I think this helps to make the opera accessible, as the characters are often looking directly out into the audience and when they performing it is to us, rather than the usual more distant opera performance. Their expressions are also helped along by the bright character makeup, which also makes it easier to understand the characters feelings.

Thirdly I noticed how rapidly everything kept moving on, very unusual for an opera, who is usually quite comfortable in staying in the one set singing about opening a door for an entire act. Not here! New songs are starting, sets are changing, puppets are appearing- everything moves along to the same fast paced tune of the opera itself.

Combined of course, all three things serve the great purpose of this particular opera- accessibility. In particular to it’s younger audience members, for there were several children in the audience and their attention was rapt in the constant goings-on on the stage. This is the perfect introduction of that younger demographic to the fine art, for it also manages to sacrifices none of splendor and glorious singing that we love and its story contains several valuable morals.

The cast is simply superb but the real standouts are Tamino (John Longmuir) and Papageno (Samuel Dundas), the heroes on the journey of our story. They were absolutely incredible, each comfortably interchanging from spoken word to soaring song and playing happily across the stage. This opera gives the performers a little more freedom to act their character, with more of a balance of spoken word and aria than normal. Both had such spectacular emotion in both their voice and their face- truly a delight to watch.

The set though! WOW! This glorious magic box spins and changes and moves and transforms and lights up and there’s stairs here and ladders there and just wow. Combine this with the beautiful giant puppets and you really have an abstract, colourful world of wonder.

Papageno! Papageno! The Magic Flute will be playing at the Sydney Opera House until the 16th January. For more information visit www.opera.org.au

The reviewer attended the 7:30pm performance on the 7th January.

Photo credit: © Branco Gaica

On the 13th February at Sydney’s Theatre Royal, Leigh Sales will sit down with the one and only acclaimed composer and lyricist Stephen Schwartz! There is no doubt that you would have heard some of Schwartz’s work, whether it be his Broadway hits including Godspell, Pippin and Wicked or his work on Disney movies such as Pocahontas, The Hunchback of Notre Dame or Enchanted.

At this exclusive event Sales and Schwartz will discuss his work and career live on stage. In between the interview popular Australian musical theatre actor Stephen Mahy will be singing some of Schwartz’s most famous pieces. We chatted to Mahy ahead of the event to find out some of his favourite Schwartz songs and whether having the same name gives them an automatic bond.

What are you most looking forward to in being a part of Stephen Schwartz In Conversation?

Being in the same room as him to be honest. Listening to him play the piano.

You have the same name. Do you think it’s a sign?

It’s with a PH and everything, do I need to say anymore?

How would you describe Stephen Schwartz to those who may not know him?

I think it’s best to come a see him for yourself, no better way than to hear it from the horses mouth.

Do you have a personal favourite Schwartz to sing?

Hearing the witches all over the world sing WICKED is pretty amazing.

You’ve been in a number of musicals over the past couple of years, including Jersey Boys, Grease and most recently The Rocky Horror Show. What’s the best part about being a musical actor?

The audience gets me through every time. That instant gratification you can’t beat. Also being able to hold an audience with song and fell them come along for the ride with you.

You’re also the Owner/Editor of Access All Areas Australia! How did that start and what are your future plans for the magazine?

I was in NYC and was reading “Backstage” magazine. It’s a positive forum for our industry and I realised there’s nothing like that here. As industry we are always under the spotlight and being reviewed or analysed by each other or people around us. Even through auditioning we are under pressure to perform and be judged. I wanted AAA to be a tool to help industry people and our audience to understand the positive effect we all have.

What’s coming up next for you? Will we see you in another musical soon?

The next thing I have booked is “Crossroads” an Australian musical written by Anthony Costanza and Peter Fitzpatrick. Directed by Tyran Parke, you will see some great actors at the chapel off chapel In March/April 2016.

And finally, if you could perform any Schwartz character (musical or film) who would it be?

Maybe he could write me into a new show when he gets here? But seriously I think Godspell is amazing and would be great to sing.

Stephen will be performing at this special live event Stephen Schwartz in conversation with Leigh Salesat Sydney’s Theatre Royal on Saturday 13th February at midday. To book visitwww.ticketmaster.com.au/Stephen-Schwartz-in-conversation-with-Leigh-tick…

It’s been an incredible year for the Sydney arts scene. I managed to get to well over fifty productions this year, ranging from musicals to operas to theatre to experimental interactive experiences. It seems like each year there are more and more wonderful things to see!

With so many fabulous productions it was tough to choose my top picks for the year, so THANK YOU TO THE ENTIRE SYDNEY ARTS SCENE for being incredible this year and giving us such quality productions.

But now, without further ado… My personal favourite picks from this year!

Theatre Production: Orlando – Sydney Theatre Company

I loved everything about Orlando, from its wonderfully whimsical style to its witty humour to its fabulous cast to its gorgeous costumes. Loved every second of it.

Shakespeare: The Tempest – Bell Shakespeare

This production sealed The Tempest as my favourite Shakespeare. The staging was simply beautiful, truly the “stuff as dreams are made on”.

Opera: Turandot – Opera Australia

I finally understood the Opera infatuation thanks to Turandot, with its magnificent colour, soaring notes, breathtaking sets and Yonghoon Lee. It made me fall Calaf-style in love with opera.

Ballet: The Dream – The Australian Ballet

Seeing any ballet live is an enchanting experience, but The Dream went above and beyond to create such a magical experience. A beautiful dewy forest stage, soft costumes, dazzling ballet, Mendelssohn’s score, a playful story, ethereal dancers… Perfection.

Symphony: Video Games Live

Video games + Symphony orchestra = win! I’ve always loved the scores that accompany our favourite console games, and hearing these masterpieces live with a full symphonic orchestra really pulls you right back into the memories. My favourite? Kingdom Hearts “Hikari” of course!

Musical: Triassic Parq – Squabbalogic

This was a tough one! We had some truly fantastic musicals this year, including the big guys Les Miserables and Matilda, and the slightly littler guys RENT and Man of La Mancha, but it was Squabbalogic’s Triassic Parq that won my heart. And not just because dinosaurs. It was just so fabulously funny, I couldn’t stop laughing the whole way through, and the music was so equally fabulous sung by a seriously stunning cast. Huge smile on my face the whole time! But also-dinosaurs.

Black Sheep Production: Roald Dahl’s The Witches – Monkey Baa

Ok, I’ll admit it I was NOT expecting to be as blown away by this production as I was. I thought it would be a bit of fun yes, but wow! It was a perfect representation of the classic novel that held the entire audience (from the very young to the older generations) completely and utterly captivated the whole time. Very much to do with Guy Edmonds spectacular performance in this one-man-show. I left feeling like I just wanted to go straight back in and watch it all again.

Song: Without You – Loren Hunter, RENT – Hayes Theatre

I know “song” is a weird way to credit this one, but I really wanted to give due to Loren Hunter’s simply breathtaking “Without You” from Hayes Theatre’s RENT. I have searched and searched and I cannot find a single version that comes close to the amount of pure emotion she managed to pour into the song with her husky voice.

Musical Actor: Hayden Tee – Les Miserables

Hayden Tee is the exact Javert I want from my favorite character- with that ruthlessly determined personality shining through with Tee’s powerful baritone. I heard him sing Stars four maybe five times? It wasn’t near enough times. Congratulations on being Broadway’s new Javert as well Hayden, we all know you’re perfect and now everyone else can know too!

Theatre Actor: Matthew Backer – The Tempest/Orlando

From the moment Matt flitted on stage as the magical Ariel in The Tempest I was under his spell. He has such a fabulous way with expressions and speech and his movements on stage are utterly captivating. I had the opportunity to chat to him twice this year, a lovely guy whose journalism degree shines through with fascinating answers. I’ve added him to my “must see any productions with them in it” list.

Musical Actress: Amy Lehpamer – The Sound of Music

A fairly new one for me but Amy brought such a wonderful new life to our favorite governess, balancing a mix of sweet and cheeky with such a soaring voice! I loved her entire performance, especially “I Have Confidence” (my favourite song of the musical).

Theatre Actress: Jacqueline McKenzie – The Present/Orlando

In a role that required such flexibility, for Orlando is both male and female and alive through several centuries’ worth of time jumping, Jacqueline managed to nail it perfectly. Keeping the character exactly where he/she is at any given time and keeping true to the passionate, witty and frank-speaking boy/woman. Through her you are definitely able to understand the other characters’ infatuation with Orlando.

Interview: Josh Groban

And finally. I got to interview some truly incredible people this year, but it was also the year that I got to interview my number one- my most favourite music artist through all of the fourteen years since his debut and onwards into the future. Mr Josh Groban. We talked his Stages tour, Australia, musical theatre, potential rap albums, dream collaborations, video games and wrote the beginnings of a brand new musical. It was a dream come true.