Come From Away – the feelgood 9/11 musical
Until 15 January at Theatre Royal
The 9/11-inspired yet upbeat Come From Away was one of the hits of the pandemic period and it endured more than its fair share of sudden lockdowns and Covid-19 outbreaks among the cast. It also struck a chord among audiences starved of a sense of community. Reviewing it in Melbourne, Alison Croggon wrote: “Come From Away reminds us of a truth that is easily forgotten and too often suppressed: that human beings are most often instinctively kind to those in trouble.” It’s hard to think of a musical that deserves a victory lap more than this one.
RBG: Of Many, One – a play about the US law hero
Until 17 December at Sydney Theatre Company, Walsh Bay
Written by Australian lawyer and playwright Suzie Miller (whose one-woman play Prima Facie wowed London’s West End in the wake of its Australian premiere), RGB brings Sydney Theatre Company favourite Heather Mitchell to the stage as Ruth Bader Ginsburg, the pioneering lawyer, jurist and feminist who died in 2020 after a stellar half-century career spent fighting with and for the US legal system. There are no guarantees in showbiz, but Mitchell, an actor who radiates poise and smarts in equal measure, strikes as the perfect fit.
Amadeus – Michael Sheen stars in modern classic
27 December-21 January at the Sydney Opera House
The Old Fitzroy Hotel-based theatre-makers Red Line Productions make a play for the major leagues with this Sydney Opera House-partnered staging of Peter Shaffer’s Tony and Oscar-winning drama. Not only that, they’ve secured the services of the Welsh stage and screen star Michael Sheen (The Queen, Good Omens) to play the dastardly court composer Salieri (opposite Rahel Romahn’s randy Mozart). Directed by Craig Ilott (American Idiot) and with a cast (that includes Belinda Giblin, Toby Schmitz, Blazey Best and Joseph Althouse) dressed by fashion house Romance Was Born and designer Anna Cordingley, this is an undertaking as ambitious as the characters it depicts.
Kendrick Lamar – why not sold out?
8-9 December at Qudos Bank Arena
Certainly no introduction is needed here. The 14-time Grammy-winning artist – who also has a Pulitzer under his belt for his album Damn – is on a world tour for his latest release, Mr Morale & the Big Steppers. And if this publication’s dispatch from Amsterdam is anything to go by, it’ll be theatrical, melodramatic and camp, with at least one ventriloquist doll. Yes the tickets are steep – but these Sydney dates are still not sold out.
Courtney Barnett & friends – Milk! Records 10th Anniversary
16 December at Oxford Art Factory
Courtney Barnett started Milk! Records in 2012 to release her debut EP. A decade on, her star has grown to stratospheric levels, accruing hordes of fans around the world who scream her wry, sardonic, often crushing lyrics in faux-ocker accents. In that time, Milk has also released more than 60 local records, and some of Barnett’s labelmates and guests – including Hachiku, Jess Ribeiro and Kee’ahn – join her in this showcase.
Darren Hanlon – in an old church
17 December at St Stephen’s Church, Newtown
Gympie’s finest pop songwriter, Darren Hanlon has made an annual tradition out of his year-end lap of the country’s town halls, front bars and old churches. As his 2022 single Lapsed Catholic might suggest, Hanlon’s Christmas shows tend to be heavy on nondenominational merriment and light on the mangers, heavenly hosts and frankincense. So if you’re looking for an evening of family friendly singalongs but draw a line at Carols by Candlelight, this might be just the ticket.
Paul Kelly – hosts a Christmas gig
19 December at the Bob Hawke Beer & Leisure Centre, Marrickville
It could be the most exclusive Christmas party in Sydney – but it sounds so good that we had to write it up. No 1 Xmas fan Paul Kelly is throwing a one-off party at Marrickville’s Bob Hawke brewery, which will be MC’d by the Betoota Advocate and feature live tunes by the man himself, as well as a panel on the climate crisis and a succulent Chinese meal. You can only get tickets by entering a ballot – which you can only enter by buying merch. But options currently include a tea towel with his gravy recipe, a tomato sauce ornament and a gravy boat. So: worth it?
Ellie Goulding – headlines Sydney Modern party
10 December at The Domain
Art For All is a freebie concert in the Domain celebrating the opening of the Art Gallery of NSW’s new extension, and headlined by one of Britain’s biggest pop stars, Ellie Goulding, with support from stellar local talent Meg Mac and Electric Fields. Other free events running across nine days of opening celebrations include talks, tours, workshops and a nightly drone show – but this is the big one.
Parties and festivals
Normfest – day party for the sober-curious
10 December at the Great Club, Marrickville
Korean Australian rap group 1300 are headlining this Marrickville day party, organised by zero-alcohol beer company Heaps Normal. 1300 are now (in)famous for the raucous pits at their live shows, so bring your best lung capacity – then catch your breath with Sydney singer-songwriter Annie Hamilton and Indigenous torchbearer Ziggy Ramo in his first live performance in yonks. It’ll all be accompanied by a healthy serving of pizza and drinks (including, yes, those with alcohol) curated by professional wine people P&V.
House of Mince – Sydney’s best partiers
26 December at the Abercrombie, Chippendale
Over the past decade House of Mince has built a reputation for throwing some of Sydney’s best and most debaucherous parties, where all the depraved ravers of the city congregate in heaving throngs to sweatily shake it all out on the dancefloor. They’re giving away precious little for what they have in store this Boxing Day, though it’s going to have to be big: it takes place during the first week of the relaunched Abercrombie, which has been transformed into a 24-hour venue.
Ticket price: Free
Lost Paradise – NYE with Lil Nas X
28 December-1 January at Glenworth Valley
If you don’t think about it too hard, John Milton is basically the original viral rapper, which makes Lil Nas X the perfect choice to headline this New Year’s festival, located an hour’s drive north of Sydney and set over five days. If one of the world’s biggest pop stars isn’t your jam, you can also soundtrack your farewell to 2022 with Genesis Owusu’s behemoth of a live show or Arctic Monkeys in lounge lizard cosplay – or any other act from a lineup that includes Jamie xx, TikTok star PinkPantheress and Korean Australian rap group 1300.
Visual arts & family-friendly
Sydney Modern project – it’s here!
North building, Art Gallery of NSW
The Art Gallery of NSW’s major new expansion is the most exciting – and significant – moment in Sydney’s arts history since the Opera House opened. And after an eight-year, $344m development, it’s finally here and free to the public. The five exhibitions are jaw-dropping too – we recommend the playful, colourful Dreamhome; First Nations gallery Yiribana; and Adrián Villar Rojas’ site-specific takeover of the Tank: enormous, creepy, parasitic sculptures that loom in the dark of a subterranean second world war oil tank.
Entry is free, but you have to register
Wildlife Photographer of the Year – stunning pics of nature
Until 5 March, Australian National Maritime Museum
Launched in 1965 in Animals Magazine (which later became BBC Wildlife), the Wildlife Photographer of the Year is now one of the biggest photographic competitions in the world. This year’s exhibition of 100 images has been distilled from more than 50,000 entries by professional and amateur photographers and it comes to Sydney directly from its premiere showing in London’s Natural History Museum. For a sample of just a few of the stunning and often revelatory images on offer, check out the Guardian’s gallery feature. If Ndakasi’s passing doesn’t get you, nothing can.