The musical Hamilton’s hit song declares “I am not throwin’ away my shot,” and this seems to be the maxim embraced by Sydney as well, as the city prepares to make the most of a summer after restrictions.

The insanely popular show about the US founding father is still one of the hottest tickets in town, but there are plenty of other musicals joining the chorus.

Tony Award-winning Come From Away tells the heart-warming true story of thousands of stranded plane passengers who were diverted to a tiny town in Canada during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The Wedding Singer, based on the Adam Sandler movie, opens in early January with lots of ’80s fashion. And you oughta know about Jagged Little Pill, a jukebox musical with the songs of Alanis Morissette in a performance that’s as raw as it is rousing.

For theatre of the non-singing variety, a modern take on Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar is showing at the Sydney Theatre Company, complete with Roman-emperor selfies, while there’s also a more traditional version of Arthur Miller’s Death of a Salesman. The Ensemble Theatre is getting a bit spooky with the British horror story The Woman in Black, while the New Theatre is putting on an adaptation of Alice Sebold’s bestselling book, The Lovely Bones. And for the families, there’s Grug at the Sydney Opera House, where the adorable children’s character gets up to some even more adorable antics.

Of course, the Opera House has plenty for adults, including comedian Hannah Gadsby’s new show, Body Of Work, a contemplation on life during a pandemic with (presumably) a heavy dose of laughs and tears. For five performances only, Opera Australia will take to the stage with opera’s greatest hits – perfect for audience members who like to recognise the tunes – before productions of both La Bohème and Turandot begin in January. And there’s the rollicking pop phenomenon SIX the Musical (yes, another musical in Sydney!) about the six wives of King Henry VIII.

Over at the Art Gallery of New South Wales, you can get a taste of France with the blockbuster summer exhibition “Matisse: Life & Spirit” from the Centre Pompidou in Paris. Along with one of the post-impressionist’s famous blue nudes, there are 100 works (with other colours) that tell the story of the painter’s fascinating life. For something more modern, the MCA has the exhibition “New Era” by Californian artist Doug Aitken, which embraces multimedia and ambitious artworks to create a disjointed sense of place. 

At the Australian Museum, the “2021 Australian Geographic Nature Photographer of the Year” exhibition transports us to the natural world through exquisite shots showing how to capture our animal friends in all their glory (focus on the eyes is lesson number one, if you’re curious).

Speaking of museums, they can sometimes be overlooked by visitors to Sydney, but they often host some of the city’s most interesting exhibitions. The Powerhouse Museum has a series of captivating collections on display that range from an examination of gum trees to an embrace of electric keyboards and a celebration of the microcar toy craze. In January, Sydney University’s new Chau Chak Wing Museum will explore ideas of colour, movement, and politics in its “Light & Darkness” exhibition of modern art. And the Museum of Sydney has the charming exhibition “How to Move a Zoo”, about transporting all the animals across the city to Taronga Zoo in 1916 – perfect for the whole family.

Behind the doors of Sydney’s arts and cultural institutions are windows to the world. To discover them you’ve just – as Alexander Hamilton sings – “got to be in the room where it happens”.

MatisseL Life & Spirit.

The year in culture

The Harbour City begins 2022 on a high in January with the Sydney Festival, a huge celebration of music, theatre and art. From concerts by Cat Empire and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra in Parramatta Park to a queer Shakespeare remake, Qween Lear, at the Hordern Pavilion, there are more than 130 events spread across the city.

Sydney’s reputation for world-class theatre continues, with Alfred Hitchcock’s North by Northwest reimagined as a play starring David Campbell opening in March. Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray is expected to be a huge hit at the Sydney Theatre Company from March to May. And Looking for Alibrandi makes a return to the Belvoir Street Theatre in October.

If you prefer your theatre to be sung to you, there’s good news: one of the biggest 2022 shows will be Phantom of the Opera on Sydney Harbour from March, while there’s also 9 to 5 The Musical with Casey Donovan and Marina Prior, the blockbuster Cinderella, and the delightful An American in Paris.

The Bangarra Dance Theatre begins the year with its largest ever show, Wudjang: Not The Past. Over at the Opera House, the Australian Ballet is bringing out some big guns with Anna Karenina and Romeo and Juliet. Also under the white sails, Opera Australia is staging The Marriage of Figaro, La Traviata and Madama Butterfly. But one of the biggest events will be the boisterous opera Carmen under the stars on Cockatoo Island from November.

After being cancelled for the past two years, the Vivid festival will return to light up the city from May, while the Royal Easter Show is back at Sydney Showground in April, and the Sydney Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Parade will be held at the Sydney Cricket Ground again in March.

And in the art world, we still haven’t heard what all the major 2022 exhibitions are likely to be, but the massive Sydney Modern extension to the Art Gallery of NSW is due to open towards the end of the year – so expect something special!

Word of mouth

Kip Williams Director of the Sydney Theatre Company

Where do you like to take friends visiting Sydney?

Sydney Theatre Company’s home at The Wharf, as it’s truly one of the most beautiful arts precincts in the world. It’s a 100-year-old timber shipping wharf on Sydney Harbour that was converted into a theatre in the 1980s, and earlier this year,, we reopened after extensive renovations. 

Away from STC, White Rabbit Gallery in Chippendale is definitely on the list because they put on extraordinary exhibitions. And, of course, all visitors to the city should get to Sydney Opera House to see a show. 

What do you like to do on a day off?

In my neighbourhood in Potts Point, there’s a laneway called Llankelly Place which has great restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating. Some of my favourites are Room Ten or Pina for breakfast or lunch and for dinner Dear Saint Eloise. 

I regularly walk through Royal Botanic Garden and it’s a great place to find a quiet spot to read a book. 

Which upcoming events are you particularly interested in?

We have just reopened our two theatres after five months of lockdown and have two shows running until Christmas: my production of Julius Caesar at The Wharf and our Associate Director Paige Rattray’s production of Death of a Salesman at the Roslyn Packer Theatre. In January, our first show of the year is Triple X, a semi-autobiographical trans love story by playwright and trans performer Glace Chase.We are also collaborating with Bangarra Dance Theatre for Wudjang: Not the Past which is part of Sydney Festival. Another recommendation for Sydney Festival is Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner. It’s not one of our shows but is directed by one of our resident directors, the immensely talented Shari Sebbens.

Events calendar

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