ArtsHub’s 2020 Musical Theatre Calendar

From independent productions to the touring commercial juggernauts, here are some musical dates for your diary in the months to come.
ArtsHub’s 2020 Musical Theatre Calendar Marcus Corowa as Willie and the ensemble in the Opera Conference production of Bran Nue Dae. Photo credit: Prudence Upton.
No image supplied

Richard Watts

Friday 24 January, 2020

From independent offerings to major commercial productions, here’s an overview of the professionally-staged musicals playing across Australia in 2020. Previous calendars covering the year in opera and fine music, and dance and circus, have already been published.

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JANUARY

Bran Nue Dae: Now playing in Sydney until 1 February
Jimmy Chi’s coming-of-age musical comedy Bran Nue Dae is an exuberant ride through 1960s Western Australia. The first ever Aboriginal musical celebrates family, forgiveness and reconciliation with a feel-good mash-up of rock-and-roll, gospel, country and blues music. It returns to the stage 30 years after its sparkling 1990 debut. Touring to Perth, Geelong, Melbourne, Brisbane, Canberra and Adelaide after its Sydney Festival season.

Billy Elliot The Musical: Now playing in Adelaide until 26 January
Expanding on the 2000 film with heart and flair, Billy Elliot The Musical transfers to Melbourne’s Regent Theatre from 20 February after the conclusion of its current Adelaide season.

The Book of Mormon: Now playing in Brisbane until 15 February
The satirical musical comedy from the creators of South Park. After its Brisbane season concludes, The Book of Mormon transfers to The Civic, Auckland.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: Now playing in Melbourne until 2 February
Based on the book by Roald Dahl and featuring songs from the 1971 film, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory transfers to Brisbane’s QPAC from 18 March after the conclusion of its Melbourne season. Our reviewer was a tad underwhelmed by the production, saying: ‘Some bits are half-baked while others are over-egged so the end product is lopsided – some sections delectable, others distasteful.’  

Chicago: Now playing in Melbourne until 23 February
A musical theatre institution, Chicago is a tale of fame, fortune and all that jazz created by John Kander, Fred Ebb and legendary choreographer Bob Fosse.

Come From Away: Now playing in Melbourne until 8 March
A hopeful and heart-warming story of community spirit in the face of adversity, Come From Away is ‘one of the most uplifting pieces of theatre you will ever see,’ according to our reviewer.

School of Rock: Now playing in Sydney until 1 March
The story of a failed rock star who turns his A-list students into a mind-blowing rock band when he tries to earn an extra bit of cash by posing as a supply teacher at a prestigious prep school. School of Rock is transferring to Adelaide in March followings its current Sydney season.

Shrek the Musical: Now playing in Sydney until 9 February
Based on the DreamWorks film, Shrek the Musical travels to Melbourne in February and then on to Brisbane in May. Our reviewer notes: ‘At times the production does feel a little ingratiating, as if eager to please everyone with its smorgasbord of jokes, yet it remains a genuinely funny production.’

Six the Musical: Now playing in Sydney until 5 March
‘Divorced, beheaded, died; divorced, beheaded, survived.’ Who needs a mnemonic to remember the fates of Henry VIII’s wives when you have Six, ‘a raucous version of Renaissance Girl Power’? After its Sydney Opera House season, Six transfers to Melbourne in April and Adelaide in June for the Adelaide Cabaret Festival.

The Life of Us: Sydney until 9 February
A modern-day musical that looks at how we love and what it means to be connected, The Life of Us follows a couple trying to sustain their long-distance relationship with technology.

One Eyed Man Productions' Spamalot. Photo credit: John McRae.

FEBRUARY

Spamalot: 26 February - 1 March
Opening its national tour at the Canberra Theatre Centre, One Eyed Man Productions’ national tour of Monty Python’s Spamalot then travels to HOTA (5-7 March), Riverside Parramatta (19-22 March) and The Arts House Wyong (26-28 March), concluding at Arts Centre Melbourne (29 April – 9 May).

MARCH

The Bridges of Madison County: Sydney from 6 March – 5 April
Winner of the 2014 Tony Award for Best Score and Orchestrations, The Bridges of Madison County is a sweeping romance about the roads we travel, the doors we open and the bridges we dare to cross.

APRIL

9 To 5 The Musical: Sydney from April
Based on the film of the same name, 9 To 5 The Musical tells the story of three workmates pushed to boiling point by their sexist, egotistical boss. The production transfers to Melbourne’s Her Majesty’s Theatre following its Sydney Lyric season.

Merrily We Roll Along: Sydney from 16 April - 23 May
Merrily We Roll Along is the heartbreaker of Sondheim musicals, looking at how the best of friends lose their way as they try to win at life.

MAY

Australian Musical Theatre Festival: 21-24 May
Held in Launceston, Tasmania, the Australian Musical Theatre Festival is an unparalleled opportunity for musical theatre lovers, makers and industry professionals to get together, share and celebrate the genre. This year's festival features special guest Lucy Maunder (Matilda, Beautiful: The Carole King Musical, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) and a program featuring workshops, masterclasses, a musical debate, the late-night Festival Club and more.

Dubbo Championship Wrestling: Sydney from 29 May – 27 June
A new Australian rock musical, Dubbo Championship Wrestling is written by rising stars Daniel and James Cullen and directed by Sheridan Harbridge. Developed through Hayes Creative Development.

Promotional image for the MTC's Fun Home. Image credit: Justin Ridler.

JULY

Head Over Heels: Sydney from 3 July - 2 August
A jukebox musical built around the songs of 1980’s band The Go-Go’s, Head Over Heels is a story of usurped kingship, unlikely lovers and gender-fluid disguises that preaches unconditional love regardless of gender or sexual identity,

Frozen the Musical: Sydney from 7 July
Based on the world-conquering Disney animation, Frozen the Musical is playing the Capitol Theatre from July.

Fun Home: Melbourne from 15 July – 15 August
Based on Alison Bechdel’s landmark graphic novel, Fun Home is a wholly original musical about seeing your parents through grown-up eyes. The winner of five Tony Awards, this MTC/STC co-production transfers to Sydney’s Roslyn Packer Theatre from 29 August after its premiere Melbourne season.

AUGUST

Come From Away: Sydney from 1 August
Following a successful Melbourne season, where it earned the title of most successful musical ever staged in the Comedy Theatre’s 91-year history, Come From Away transfers to Sydney's State Theatre from 1 August, with opening night scheduled for Saturday 8 August. Exploring the power of hope and community in the face of adversity, Come From Away tells the true story of the 7,000 passengers grounded after US airspace was closed after 9/11, and the small Newfoundland town whose residents welcomed them with open arms.

The Secret Garden: Sydney from 2 August
Based on the novel by Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden returns to Australia for the first time in 25 years. After its season at the Sydney Lyric Theatre, the production transfers to her Majesty’s Theatre, Melbourne from November.

The Sovereign Wife: Sydney from 7 August – 5 September
Based on the satirical 2013 play from Sisters Grimm ('a three hour extravaganza which deconstructs every historical, racist, sexist, hetero-normative, homophobic, cultural cliché about Australia ever depicted on screen or stage,' according to our reviewer) The Sovereign Wife is a new Australian musical featuring music and lyrics by Casey Bennetto (Keating!) and book by Sisters Grimm (Declan Greene and Ash Flanders). Expect all the subtlety of Baz Luhrmann’s Australia smashed together with the soaring beauty of Gina Rhinehart’s poetry.

The Who's Tommy: Melbourne from 14-21 August
The iconic 1969 rock opera album Tommy returns to the stage in a new production from Victorian Opera.

The Light in the Piazza: Sydney from 14-22 August
A semi-staged production of the Broadway musical by Adam Guettel (music & lyrics) and Craig Lucas (book). The Light in the Piazza is a story about mothers and daughters, fathers and sons, and the deeply intertwined emotions of love and loss.

Publicity image for Victorian Opera's Margaret Fulton: The Musical. Image supplied.

SEPTEMBER

Fiddler on the Roof: Sydney from 3 September – 31 October
Performed in Yiddish with English subtitles, this new Australian production of Fiddler on the Roof transfers to Melbourne’s Comedy Theatre from 15 November – 20 December. 

Margaret Fulton: The Musical: 15-19 September
A joyous musical about Australia’s culinary queen featuring book and lyrics by Doug MacLeod and music by Yuri Worontschak, this Victorian Opera production of Margaret Fulton: The Musical (originally subtitled Queen of the Dessert) is not to be missed.

Into The Woods: Melbourne from 16-26 September
Melbourne’s Sondheim repertory company, Watch This, are staging Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine's most famous and frequently revived work, Into the Woods at the Meat Market in September.

Bonnie & Clyde: Sydney from 18 September – 18 October
The Tony-nominated Bonnie & Clyde tells the story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who went from small-town nobodies to American folk heroes during the Great Depression.

The Rocky Horror Show: 30 September – 24 October
For the first time in Tasmania in nearly 40 years, let's do the Time Warp again! A professional cast performs Richard O'Brien's cult classic The Rocky Horror Show at Hobart's Theatre Royal, directed by Ingrid Ganley.

OCTOBER

Sweeney Todd: Adelaide from 3-10 October
A bloody tale of revenge and pies, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street is one of Stephen Sondheim’s best known works. A new production from State Opera South Australia.

NOVEMBER

Young Frankenstein: 6 November – 5 December
Hayes Theatre Co presents the Australian premiere of the musical comedy Young Frankenstein, adapted by Mel Brooks (The Producers) from his own film.

Preludes: 13 Nov - 5 Dec
A musical fantasia set in the mind of Russian composer Sergei Rachmaninoff,Preludes is a head-tripping journey into an artist’s psyche.

Oklahoma! 28 November – 20 December
Directed by Richard Carroll (Calamity Jane, Once), this fresh take on the classic musical Oklahoma! will be staged in the round on the stage of the Heath Ledger Theatre at the State Theatre Centre WA.

What did we miss? Email editor@artshub.com.au with updates.

About the author

Richard Watts is ArtsHub's National Performing Arts Editor; he also presents the weekly program SmartArts on community radio station Three Triple R FM, a program he has hosted since 2004.

Richard currently serves as the Chair of La Mama Theatre's volunteer Committee of Management, and is also a former Chair of Melbourne Fringe. The founder of the Emerging Writers' Festival, he has also served as President of the Green Room Awards Association and as a member of the Green Room's Independent Theatre panel. 

Richard is a life member of the Melbourne Queer Film Festival, and was awarded the status of Melbourne Fringe Festival Living Legend in 2017. Most recently he was awarded the Sidney Myer Performing Arts Awards' Facilitator's Prize for 2019.

Twitter: @richardthewatts