Summer showtime in Melbourne

MELBOURNE’S Princess Theatre has been undergoing a multimillion-dollar refurbishment to prepare for the arrival of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, which will have its Australian premiere in February.

The most eagerly anticipated show since last year’s The Book of Mormon, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child has enjoyed sell-out shows on Broadway and the West End as it takes Harry’s story forward 19 years after Harry Potter and The Deathly Hollows as Harry, now a father, sees his son Albus head off to Hogwarts bearing the burden of the family name.

Based on an original story by J K Rowling, Jack Thorne and John Tiffany, it is being staged in two parts and intended to be seen on the same day (matinee and evening) or on consecutive evenings.

International Jewish producers Sonia Friedman and Colin Callender are anticipating a long season – the theatre is booked for at least two years.

The cast for the play includes Gareth Reeves as Harry Potter, Lucy Goleby as his wife Ginny and Sean Rees-Wemyss as their son Albus.

P J Hogan has adapted the screenplay of his 1994 feel-good Australian film Muriel’s Wedding to the stage for Muriel’s Wedding The Musical, which had its world premiere in Sydney in November 2017 and opens with a new cast in Melbourne at Her Majesty’s Theatre on March 23.

Natalie Abbott stars as Muriel Heslop, a socially awkward country girl who dreams of getting married. Unfortunately, due to her oppressive politician father, Muriel has never even been on a date. After becoming friends with Rhonda (Elizabeth Esguerra) they move to the city and embark on their adventures. Directed by Simon Phillips, the musical features the ABBA hits from the film plus new numbers by award-winning Australian songwriters Kate MillerHeidke and Keir Nuttall.

The hit musical Jersey Boys, set around the rise to stardom of Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons, returns to Melbourne in a new production at the Regent Theatre in March.

Playing lead singer Valli is Bernard Angel (who played Joe Pesci in the original 2009 Australian production), Glaston Toft reprising his portrayal of musical marvel Nick Massi, Cameron MacDonald and newcomer Thomas McGuane.

Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons had a host of hits in the 1960s including Walk Like a Man, Bye Bye Baby, Sherry and Big Girls Don’t Cry.

Veteran Oscar-winning actor Ellen Burstyn makes her Australian stage debut in Moises Kaufman’s acclaimed play, 33 Variations, at the Comedy Theatre from March 7.

Burstyn, 85 – who is best known for her screen roles in The Exorcist, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Requiem for a Dream and Netflix’s House of Cards – plays Katherine Brandt, a musicologist devoted to uncovering the mystery behind Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations. Directed by Gary Abrahams, the cast includes Lisa McCune, William McInnes, Helen Morse, Francis Greenslade and Jewish pianist Andrea Katz.

After a sellout Melbourne season in March, the Wild West era musical Calamity Jane is back at the Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne until December 23 before transferring to the Comedy Theatre from January 1. Virginia Gay stars in the title role in this rollicking musical featuring timeless classics such as The Deadwood Stage, Just Blew in from the Windy City, Black Hills of Dakota and Secret Love.

Popular magic show The Illusionists returns to Melbourne with a new show, The Illusionists: Direct From Broadway, at the Regent Theatre from January 22-27 with daring stunts, magic tricks and visual effects.

The West End comedy play Peter Pan Goes Wrong offers plenty of laughs as the cast, led by stage and screen star Jay Laga’aia, battle against technical hitches, flying mishaps and cast disputes as they try to present J M Barrie’s Peter Pan at the Playhouse, Arts Centre Melbourne, from December 19.

Legends in Concert, the hit tribute show from Las Vegas, returns to the The Palms at Crown from January 10-27 as talented singers present their versions of hits performed by stars such as Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Tina Turner and Stevie Wonder.

Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is staged at Rippon Lea house and gardens in the Australian Shakespeare Company’s production from January 3-27. Artistic director Glenn Elston, best known for his outdoor productions of Shakespeare Under the Stars and The Wind in the Willows, brings Alice’s magical world to life this family production. Award-winning modern circus Circa is staging the family show Wolfgang’s Magical Musical Circus at the Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne from January 2-12.

Created by artistic director Yaron Lifschitz, it brings physical theatre, comedy, acrobatics and music to the world of classic composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in a one-hour show.