Craig’s TOP Ten Shows for 2023

With the world opening up after COVID I was lucky enough to travel to the Eastern States, London and New York. I was privileged to see some of the best shows the world had on offer. And so, from a list of thirty-seven shows seen, the following is my top 10 for 2023.

WAAPA-presents-CATS-photo-by-Stephen-Heath-PhotographySpecial Mention. CATS
Geoff Gibbs Theatre – Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts: 13 September 2023
Before starting the countdown, special mention must go to WAAPA’s (Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts) production of Cats. Director Crispen Talyor’s reimagining of this production; from the eyes of the poem’s writer T.S Elliot, was something breath-taking and original. The rendition of Memory sent a shiver through my body. With some serious money behind this reimagining, it could be a hit for another 20 years. Sir Andrew if you’re reading this, you need to get in contact with Crispen. Review:

Melanie La Barrie performs at 54 BelowNumber 10. I Wish: The Roles that Could have Been
54 Below,
New York: 24 July 2023
Not a musical but a cabaret show, I wish, brings Broadway stars together and gives them the chance to sing songs from musicals they have missed out on securing roles too. Conceived and hosted by Alexandra Silber, she does a fantastic job and her final speech at the end of the show was inspiring.  She reminded the audience of the many famous stars who didn’t achieve fame until well into their lives. Examples, that no matter how old one is, you should continue to follow your dreams. The cast featured Andrew Kober, Melanie La Barrie, Jake Pedersen, John Rapson, Phil Sloves, Johanna Moise and Andrew Wutke, who grasped the chance to embody their dream roles and enable an audience to witness them living out their dreams.

Roxie Hart and the Australian Cast of Chicago photo by Jeff BusbyNumber 9. Chicago
Crown Theatre Perth: 23 November 2023
Some twenty-five years since this production débuted on Broadway, Chicago The Musical is still as relevant today as it was then. This latest incarnation of the musical puts the Chic back into Chicago. Everything about this production is slick, clean and polished. From the lighting, orchestra, set, costuming and cast. And the choreography is transcendent. Every finger, arm, leg and head movement are in unison as the chorus of dancers perform as one. It’s Fosse performed at its best by leading ladies Zoë Ventoura and Lucy Maunder and ensemble cast. Review: Touring:

The-Phantom-of-the-Opera-Masquerade-photo-by-Daniel-BoudNumber 8. The Phantom of the Opera
State Theatre – Arts Centre Melbourne: 25 January 2023
Presented by Opera Australia, The Phantom of the Opera was a lush, exuberant production with a majestic cast. I had forgotten how magical the score was.

Miss-Saigon-photo-by-Matthew-Murphy-and-Johan-PerssonNumber 7. Miss Saigon
Her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne: 18 November 2023
Miss Saigon has returned after a seventeen year hiatus from Australia. Based on the Opera Madama Butterfly the musical is set in Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It is a historical and emotional rollercoaster. And this production is complete with a set that includes a helicopter that lifts off and ascends across the stage.

The Cast of Shucked photo by Mathew Murphy and Evan ZimmermanNumber 6. Shucked
Nederlander Theatre, New York: 25 July 2023
A musical about a town that grows and shucks corn, Shucked is a production full of hilarious one liners and some belt out musical numbers.  And mixed in with all of that is a tale with a moral. With rumours it may be touring Australia soon, keep your fingers crossed.

MTC-CYRANO-photo-by-Jeff-BusbyNumber 5. Cyrano
Heath Ledger Theatre, Perth: 24 February 2023
Virginia Gay’s Cyrano was a sublime piece of theatre that daringly reimagined an old classic. It was an uplifting piece that had your heart aching for the hidden love amongst great heaves of laughter. The script itself was modern poetry as it transported an old classic, written some one hundred and fifteen years ago, into the modern era. Review:

Back-To-The-Future-MusicalNumber 4. Back to the Future
Adelphi Theatre, London: 2 July 2023
If you grew up in the eighties the movie trilogy Back to the Future was a cult classic. And this musical lives up to this cult classic status. It is a musical full of fun dance numbers and tunes, and the characters are reminiscent and true to the characters in the movies. Not even a 20 minute halt in the show due to technical difficulties, during act two, dampened my enthusiasm and enjoyment of this musical. Sitting in the second row added to the finale, which saw the DeLorean car fly through the air above the audience. Let’s hope an Australian producer has their eye on bringing this one to Australia.

Andy Karl as Phil Connors in Groundhog Day The MusicalNumber 3. Groundhog Day
Old Vic Theatre, London: 5 July 2023
A musical about a day in the life of a reporter that is lived over and over again. Are you kidding? But what Tim Minchin can do with a score is just enchanting and climatic. This is an engaging, humorous love story that tugs at the heart and has you leaving the theatre having witnessed something magical. Added to this the chance to see Andy Karl in the lead role, what are you waiting for? Book your tickets now! Currently playing in Melbourne (until 20 April):

Moulin-Rouge-The-Musical-Alinta-Chidzey-as-Satine-and-Des-Flanagan-as-Christian)-photo-by-Michelle-Grace-HunderNumber 2. Moulin Rouge! The Musical
Crown Theatre Perth: 12 March 2023
Because you can, can, can! With a new score of modern music classics, it had fans of the two thousand and one Baz Luhrmann standing on their feet screaming for more. The production was a sensory overload and had it not been a sell out I would have seen it again and again. The set alone was worth the money with giant elephants, windmills and Satine on a trapeze that descended from the heavens while singing Diamonds are Forever.

The-Australian-Company-of and-JULIET -photo-by-Daniel-BoudNumber 1.  & Juliet
Stephen Sondheim Theatre, New York: 22 July 2023
Sydney DO NOT miss this! Having seen this 3 times, once in New York and twice in Perth this year, the Australian cast is equal to, if not better than the cast in New York! Yes, Rob Mills and Casey Donovan are amazing, but the real standouts of the show are Amy Lehpamer as Ann Hathaway and Lorinda May Merrypor as Juliet. Lehpamer reminded me of Hannah Waddingham (Ted Lasso) and her rendition of That’s the Way it Is, will blow you away. I went back just to witness her sing it again. Supported by an energetic, faultless cast & Juliet will have you dancing and standing shouting for more. Currently playing in Sydney:

Images: WAAPA presents CATS – photo by Stephen Heath Photography | Melanie La Barrie performs at 54 Below | Lucy Maunder as Roxie Hart and the Australian Cast of Chicago – photo by Jeff Busby | The Phantom of the Opera (Masquerade) – photo by Daniel Boud | Miss Saigon – photo by Matthew Murphy and Johan Persson | The Cast of Shucked – photo by Mathew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman | CYRANO – photo by Jeff Busby | Back To The Future Musical (London) | Andy Karl as Phil Connors in Groundhog Day The Musical | Alinta Chidzey as Satine and Des Flanagan as Christian in Moulin Rouge! The Musical – photo by Michelle Grace Hunder | The Australian Company of & JULIET  – photo by Daniel Boud

Words: Craig Dalglish