Over and over 100 out

With Covid still causing disruptions, I was surprised to ultimately make it along to over 100 shows again this year. Here are my highlights from the 2022 Brisbane theatre year.

1. The Normal Heart (Ad Astra)

The Queensland premiere production of Larry Kramer’s largely autobiographical “The Normal Heart” was absolutely absorbing and inspirational in its unflinching look at the horrific time in our history that was the start of the AIDS epidemic.

2. A Girls Guide to World War (Musical Theatre Australia)

Inspirational, also, was Musical Theatre Australia’s tell of the true story of some amazing women forgotten by our history. The February show, which was my favourite then for most of the year, was richly rewarding in both its entertainment and education about the courageous and compassionate real life humanitarian adventurers at the core of its story.

3. Holding Achilles (Dead Puppet Society and Legs On The Wall)

My 2022 Brisbane Festival highlight, the grand Dead Puppet Society and Legs On The Wall co-production was an exquisite world-class design-led theatre experience, as much a celebration of the craft of storytelling as a retell of one of the Western canon’s oldest narratives

4. The Sunshine Club (Queensland Theatre)

Queensland Theatre’s bright revival of Wesley Enoch and John Rodgers’ joyful musical was a historical work of a particular time, but also a story of love, hope, heartbreak and the shared humanity of these emotions, easy to watch and love.

5. 42nd Street (Queensland Conservatorium)

There was much to also love about Queensland Conservatorium’s massive musical production of “42nd Street” as its assured performances, quality orchestrations and show-stopping ensemble production numbers captured the spirit of the show’s era and also the grand musical genre.

6. Oliver! (Savoyards)

Savoyards excellent musical revival was full of highlights and everything needed to entertain its audience around the troublesome aspects of “Oliver!” to a resonance of resilience and hope.

7. The Last Five Years (La Boite Theatre Company) 

La Boite’s two-hander share (in two different directions) of the ill-fated five-year relationship of aspiring artists was certainly clever in its alternate musical narration, however, was also slick in its use of space and tight in its telling thanks to the moving performances of its charismatic performers and musical stylings of its varied, bitter-sweet score.

8. Mary Poppins (Disney and Cameron Mackintosh)

The Disney spectacle that came to life on the Lyric Theatre stage was a celebration of imagination, and, thus, an unforgettable production that could easily be seen again and again, making for a “Mary Poppins” anew for the whole modern family.

9. Seven Methods of Killing Kylie Jenner (La Boite Theatre, Darlinghurst Theatre Company and Green Door Theatre)

Just before the floods came, there was this fierce and furious coproduction, sharp in its satire of cancel culture and appropriation in a viral world, but also wickedly humorous.

10. First Casualty (Queensland Theatre)

The hard-hitting storytelling of Queensland Theatre’s landmark blockbuster season closer was elevated by an epic soundscape and dynamic lighting to take us into a world not previously seen on stage…. the last days of Australian troop involvement in Afghanistan.

And of particular note….

Best Drama – The Normal Heart (Ad Astra)

Also the most moving and thought provoking production of 2022, Ad Astra’s “The Normal Heart” allowed us to bear witness to each stage of the play’s centrepiece romance as it played out in unfiltered vulnerability, raw anger, complex beauty and undeniable love, against the backdrop of a community living in fear of AIDS.

Best Comedy – Hidden in this Picture (Villanova Players)

The one act “Hidden in this Picture” (from the pen of Emmy Award-winning playwright Aaron Sorkin), which appeared as part of Villanova Players’ intermezzo series, was full of over and over again laugh-out-loud moments emerging from the increasing hyperbole in share of what was essentially a duologue inset with simple interjections.  

Best Cabaret – Women in Voice

The 2022 outing of this Brisbane institution was the best yet in its curated program of different musical styles from its empowered female performers.

Best Dramatic Performance – Vivien Whittle – Gaslight (Growl Theatre)

Whittle was simply wonderful as the vulnerable, tormented and humiliated Bella, whether bustling about in fleeting, naive belief that all is well or blubbering in flustered confusion after being raged at by her psychologically-torturous husband Jack.

Best Comic Performance – Troy Bullock – Hidden in this Picture (Villanova Players)

Meanwhile, Bella’s gaslighting husband Troy Bullock gave the funniest performance as a first-time director Robert, intent on obtaining an Oscar-winning shot in for his movie’s final scene, until three cows make appearance along with the hundreds of extras.

Best Musical Performance – Priyah Shah – Oliver! (Savoyards)

Shah’s show of strength but also vulnerability ensured that her Nancy was not just a kindly, but a complex character and her strong vocals left the “Oliver!” audience equally impressed in rollicking tavern sing-a-long and torch song numbers alike.

Best duo – Marcus Corowa and Irena Lysiuk – The Sunshine Club (Queensland Theatre)

The chemistry between Corowa and Lysiuk was not only evident in their protagonists’ duets, but warmed the audience into investment into the blossom of their childhood friendship in to more after his post-WW2 return to Brisbane.  

Honourable mention to Christopher Morphett-Wheatley and Darcy Rhodes – Into The Woods (Beenleigh Theatre Group)

Morphett-Wheatley and Rhodes were audience favourites as they dynamically pranced about in pantomime-esque play off each other’s bravado energy as two-dimensional princes attempting to one-up each other in argument.

Best EnsembleHeathers: The Musical (Millennial Productions) 

Millennial Productions’ debut musical was a highly professional independent production, in part due to its strong performances, with nobody holding back even in edgier scenes. There were no vocal weak links as each performer was given an opportunity to shine and there was a clear level of focus in all performances, resulting in no missed beats within the show’s tight rhythm. 

Best Independent Production – Boy, Lost (Belloo Creative)

The years-in-the-making tell of the true story of one family’s loss and redemption was also an ensemble production with its actors playing multiple characters (including themselves at moments), jumping in and out of different roles with simple prop or costume enhancements, yet, as an audience, we always knew what was happening as we moved through its tightly-woven emotional journey.

Most fun – All Fired Up (Box Jelly Theatre Company)

The show so nice, I ended up seeing it twice to contemplate if a trip to the ‘80’s and a chat with your 15-year-old self really can solve a mid-life crisis? With a live band perfectly capturing the nostalgic energy of the era it was all incredibly feel good, fun and funny.

Best Staging – Holding Achilles (Dead Puppet Society and Legs On The Wall) 

The mythical magic of “Holding Achilles” may have been multi-layered, but this was built upon a performance space reminiscent of classical Greek amphitheatres with staging exposed to the audience, in contrast to the modern technology used to sometimes literally soar the story along with aerial artistry.

Best Sound and Lighting Design – First Casualty (Queensland Theatre)

The sound and lighting design elements of “First Casualty” were likely worth the price of admission alone. Paul Jackson’s lighting design transformed the space and its surfaces to tell the show’s many multifaceted narratives, while sound design by Brady Watkins and THE SWEATS added to the onstage action, whether dynamic or subtle in tone.

Best Choreography – Mary Poppins (Disney and Cameron Mackintosh)

Matthew Bourne’s and Stephen Mear’s “Mary Poppins” choreography (recreated for the Australian production by Richard Jones) filled the Lyric Theatre stage with a burst of moving bodies, brooms and brushes in spectacular, precise, fast-paced numbers like ‘Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious’ and ‘Step in Time’.

Seasonal circusing

Jingle (JACs Entertainment)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

December 15 – 23

“Jingle” is described as an all ages magic, cirque, singing, dance and comedy Christmas show spectacular for anyone from 1 – 100 to enjoy, and it is not long into its 70-minute show time that it becomes evident that this is indeed true.

Things start strongly with a dynamic soundscape pumping out commanding compositions of this-time-of-year classics as we are taken into the amazing edge-of-your-seat feats of acrobatics with a new take on the Christmas story of “The Nutcracker” courtesy of an expressive contortionist and hand-balancing routine from Soliana. The Powerhouse Theatre offers a perfect platform to showcase all range of circus acts, with its raked seating allowing even those towards the back of the stalls, an impressive view of the scale of their heights, the beauty of their choreography and uniqueness of their execution. And the aerial acts are even more striking because of this, especially when we see an performer not only showcases climb and wrap tricks but roll up, rather than just the usual free-fall dropping down, their silks.

There is no real theme to the show, apart from entertainment. The over a dozen incredibly-talented performers all have impressive, unique skillsets which combine in a potpourri of entertainment, with internationally acclaimed juggler Cody Harrington standing out as a clear crowd favourite as his incredible tricks build upon each other in their brilliance. Clearly, this new Christmas show really is one for all ages with guide, internationally acclaimed comedy host Magician Dom Chambers, engaging with children and adults alike, particularly with his card tricks and sleigh-of-hand magic. There is also some fun audience participation from both children and adults.

Music numbers are appropriately themed and delivered with style by powerhouse vocalist Ellen Reed. Her ‘You’re a Mean One Mr. Grinch’ is a teasing testament to her talent, and her late-show ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’ is heart-warming, but still melancholic.  Familiar in sound, but still very much its own, it is a glorious light-and-shade version that scales to great vocal heights yet also allows for some sit in the essentially quite sad holiday staple.

While, ‘Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let It Snow!’ does not feature in her set list, before things end, it does joyously filter down upon us as the perfect punctuation point on a richly aesthetic experience. Lighting lushes over each number to give it a distinctive feel and costumes contribute much to the often impressive visuals, such as when aerialist Katrina Lilwall, ascends to high above the stage, suspended in the air by her hair as she swings about and performers acrobatic poses, while winged in angel attire. It is a stunning, standout moment that encapsulates the sumptuousness of the combined artistry of the show.  

Bigger and better than its Brisbane Festival “Cirque O L I O” work, “Jingle” is like a mini Cirque du Soleil show for the whole family. Like a chocolate box of only the best assortments, it gives us an array of Australian-based circus, song and dance (from impressive tap to ballet numbers and even twin dancing reindeers) in a magical festive holiday treat. And its diverse, creative entertainment will surely stimulate the senses and entertain the passions of audiences of all sorts during its extended holiday run.

Fem-led fierceness

In Your Dreams (Polytoxic)

Brisbane Powerhouse

November 23 – 25

Polytoxic is an Australian collective known for creating hyper-visual, pop-inspired performance work built upon the foundations of diversity, collaboration and intersectionality, and their new cabaret work, debuting at Brisbane Powerhouse’s Melt festival celebration of queer art, artists and ideas, is very much in keeping with this mantra. Though scaled down from 2021’s “Demolition”, “In Your Dreams” still explores some very big and important ideas. Forget Aria, Oscar and Matilda… this is an awards ceremony for the future, with all the glamour, drama and entertainment you could want. It’s a utopic vision where everyone is recognised, presented as a femme led future. We appreciate this from the moment its troop of performers takes to the stage’s red carpet to take out their anger upon the statutes that line its runway.

From there, we are welcomed to the FOMOEOS awards (you will have to go to find out what this acronym stands for) by Polytoxic leaders Lisa Fa’alafi and Leah Shelton. There is a bit of a film theme running through its early numbers, which include musical nods to “Rocky” and “Grease” (with an unusual in-time audience clap along) as bros BIG M.I.C (Busty Beatz) and Young Harrison (Hope Haami) attempt a misogynistic reclaim.  

The work features a line-up of glass-ceiling smashing, system dismantling, genderqueer, fiercely intersectional artists including Alinta Mcgrady, Kim ‘Busty Beatz’ Bowers, Lilikoi Kaos, Mayu Muto, Matehaere Hope Haami Aka Hope One, Gogo Bumhole, Richie Lestrange and Rhythmology. The ensuing range of acts includes the usual mix of disciplines, only perhaps with more provocation than the company’s previous works, meaning that this is not a show for the easily offended (who may have to check their privilege), in terms of both its language and conceivably confrontational subject matter to some.

Numbers include impressive aerials, big vocals, beatboxing, hoops, street dance, lip-sync, drag and performance art and there are many highlights from within them. Fearsome warier Mayu Muto takes advantage of the lofty Powerhouse Theatre space to impress with some gravity-defying aerial rope work, while ripping apart anyone who gets in her way. In another of its circus-themed acts  Fa’alafi twirls fire sticks sans fire in a frenzy that creates an amazing visual spectacle. And Shelton shows strength and skill in a memorable sex-doll pole routine.

Nothing is off limits in this loud and proud mother of all #hellyeah take downs, which has been created and written by Fa’alafi and Shelton in collaboration with the cast. Kayne BIG M.I.C returns to the Polytoxic stage, uninvited and unannounced to steal the limelight and take home all the awards, and the ensuing 90s r-and-b boy band ‘Hot Brown Homies’ parody is absolutely hilarious in its exaggerated r-rated reminders of the genre’s dance moves and archetypes.

One of the features of a Polytoxic show is a dynamic soundscape and, in this regard, “In Your Dreams” does not disappoint. With music direction by Fa’alafi and Shelton in collaboration with Kim ‘Busty Beatz’ Bowers, the soundscape is as big as it gets and adds much to the amplified aesthetic. And when Badass Mutha Alinta Mcgrady takes gold with a late-show ‘Winner Takes It All’, her passionate delivery not only emphasises her vocal talent, but focus us on the show’s articulated spotlights on notions of body sovereignty and similar.

Unforgiving and unapologetic activism is what this company is all about and “In Your Dreams” is a fierce, in-your-face reminder of this in its essential, explosive celebration of glass-ceiling smashing and colonial hetro-normative patriarchal system dismantling. This is a fantastical VIP-style party where the queers, outcasts and political activists are celebrated and win the awards they deserve. Indeed, “In Your Dreams” is a theatrical feminist feast of disruption that (literally) rips to shreds antiquated notions of girls on film and alike. Its inclusive celebration of resilience and freedom never wanes in energy, including in its sensational slip and slide curtain call.

Photos c/o – Jade Ellis Photography

Combined craft connection

Heartland

Brisbane Powerhouse, Underground Theatre

September 23

Brisbane Festival’s “Heartland” sold out well ahead of its performance. Given the stature of its headliner, composer, producer, multi-instrumentalist and vocalist William Barton, this is of little surprise. Barton is widely recognised as one of Australia’s leading didgeridoo players and composers. (The morning after the performance he is jumping on a plane for Melbourne to appear as part of the AFL grand final’s half-time entertainment.) It is not just Barton performing, but also powerhouse versatile violinist Véronique Serret. Together they combine crafts to share connected stories as traditional songlines and modern storytelling blend in a distinctive evocation of our uniquely Australian landscape.

Brisbane Powerhouse’s intimate Underground Theatre is the perfect location for the expansive but also at-once personal meditation that “Heartland” represents, with moments of poetry written by Barton’s mother Aunty Delmae Barton interspersed throughout the hour-long collaboration. At times, the recitations are almost like slam poetry thanks to Serret’s punchy, powerful delivery, which adds to their soaring emotion. Numbers are fluidly anthologised together and, as with songs of worship, there is not opportunity of need for punctuating applause. Rather the captivated audience is held silent in attention of the stillness of the show’s moments, which are enhanced by lighting normally only seen in the Powerhouse Theatre, which lushes us from the earthy tones of dusk’s glory to fresher emerald greens, for example.

The journey through Dreamtime stories and spirits of the ancient land of their mother country (their heart land) is not just a message of peace, but a showcase of talent. Barton’s virtuosic didgeridoo playing showcases his agility as its drone-ing sounds are interjected with percussive tapping. And when a late show number about the passing of cultures from generation to generation sees the addition of guitar and Barton’s traditional vocals, the unique melding of western music with the ancient sounds of the land uplifts the show’s ending.

Throughout the performance, numbers make use of an expansive sound pallet to vividly elevate their evocation of the resulting unique, meditative world, inspired by the Australian landscape and the power of connection to place. Barton’s didgeridoo mimicry vocalisation is evocative of animal sounds, while the sweet strains of Serret’s upper violin registers layer the musical stories to share a range of sounds and pure emotions. Indeed, there are a number of beautiful moments where earthy didgeridoo sounds are canopied by the sometimes soft touch of the more ethereal violin, along with Serrett’s gentle feathery vocals which rise away to sweet whispering lingers.

Serrett is a dexterous instrumentalist. The concertmaster of the Darwin Symphony Orchestra is far from traditional in her playing, using all parts of the instrument. Short and separated staccato sounds add a dryness to the aesthetic, while playing the back of the violin creates vibrations that resonate in the air.

As audience members, we might not always know the specifics of the story being told, but were certainly recognise the sentiment that comes from the heart and soul at the core of this genre-defying share of connection to county. While the voice of the didgeridoo is a core part of storytelling and teaching, the violin is often said to be the instrument closest to the human voice, so it makes sense that they would pair so well together. United, they serve to elevate the sounds of the language of cultural identity, ensuring that it remains a legacy for generations to come

Slow Boat to history

Slow Boat (Playlab Theatre)

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

September 1- 10

As its title alludes, “Slow Boat” is an epic journey of a show. It is also an important one given its reveal of a little known chapter of Brisbane’s history. (The world premiere, occurring as part of the Brisbane Festival was inspired by the unexpected arrival of playwright Anna Yen’s father, along with 580 other Chinese men during World War Two.)

The war has been over for a month, we are told as the play within a play establishes its context, and welcomes its audience as distinguished guests. The Chinese workers are staging a theatre show at Brisbane’s Bulimba Dockyards to celebrate victory and their being alive, by luck of the draw (#literally), even though their future as wartime refugees in Australia is uncertain.

The multi-genre show follows the journey of six hardworking fictitious characters (based on inspiration and research into real stories), narrator of sorts, the ‘artisan’ Gong Saang (Julian Wong), natural leader ‘Big Brother’, Luhng Goh (Silvan Rus), ‘Humpty Dumpty’ Lign Giht (Jonathan Chan), family-oriented ‘Strong Man’ Waih Jai (Ming Yang Lim) and ‘Chef’ Ah Faat (Egan Sun-Bin). Their combined ensuing band if brothers journey takes us from poverty and war in rural China, through hard work mining phosphate on Nauru island, and a hasty evacuation to Australia to escape the Japanese, illustrating all of the challenges they overcome on the way.

As they did in history, during their scarce time off, the men hold concerts for each other, signposting the importance of cultural and theatre to their survival so far away from the families for whom they are working hard. And so, the play within a play opens dramatically with an improvised Cantonese opera (appropriately backdropped with painted scenery from artist Echo Wu), to explain the civil war and Japanese invasion of China that started them on their journey.

Multi genres add interest to the story’s retelling and also aid characterisation. Rus takes the lead in the melodramatic mix of mime and clowning that outlines how the six men came to meet on the docks of Hong Kong to sign up for the journey to work on a tiny island in the middle of the Pacific. It’s an effective and engaging early scene that illustrates the depths of talent amongst the cast with Chan also establishing himself as a comic favourite in his initial reluctance to sell himself ‘like a little pig’. Later, too, in the opening of Act Two, we see the versatility of the performers also when they jump into role as CWA type ladies (broad Aussie accents and all) meeting trains of hungry workers at each woop woop stop with cuppas and sangas hospitality.

It’s not all song and dance and comedy, however. Politics are peppered throughout with the idea of assimilation and the White Australia Policy’s dictation test running as an undercurrent threat to potential continued life in Australia. While differing perspectives of critical events in their story threaten to tear them apart, however, the revelation of this conflict comes a little late for audience investment in it.

“Slow Boat” is a long work at 2hrs 20mins including interval, and it sometimes feels like it could be edited a little more judiciously. But it is a beautiful work of beautiful art forms. Under Nicholas Ng’s musical direction, his traditional compositions are seamlessly integrated throughout, coming courtesy of instruments such as a Chinese plucked zither. (Musicians Yuren (Cara) Chen, Anna Kho and Zi Wei Wang). Indeed, it plays an integral role to much of the action, with Neridah Waters’ choreography of its conflicts, for example, opening in wonderful sync with the percussion in particular.  

It may be a blend of vaudeville, musical theatre, circus, Cantonese opera and martial arts, but, at its core, “Slow Boat” is all about story and its story is an inspirational one of triumph against the reality of our history. It’s also an interesting one, not just in relation to the Japanese occupation of Nauru, but of our own unfamiliar history, and the inclusion of authentic Cinesound footage from the era (with added voiceover by Bryan Probets), only serves to emphasise this. While it is about a specific time and place, it also has much to say from a bigger picture perspective, about humanity and how we treat each other. There is certainly a resonance to its resilient ‘band of brothers’ messaging, but at its heart is contemplation of how moments can change the course of lives.  

Photos c/o – Stephen Henry

Cabaret stylings and then some

Women in Voice

Brisbane Powerhouse, Powerhouse Theatre

August 26 – 28

“Women in Voice” (WiV) has been a Brisbane institution since 1993. Surprisingly though, there are still some first timer audience members at the shows. With its diverse range of quality performers, the 2022 outing is sure to convert these to annual attendees. With Master of Ceremonies Sophie Banister as support and guide in journey through the varied sets, it soon become apparent that this year’s “Women in Voice” may well be the best one yet.

Banister is given her own musical moments, comically linked together by the theme of her thwarted quest to become a Brisbane 2032 Olympics opening ceremony performer in order to have her own Nikki Webster ‘Under Southern Skies’ moment. Metaphorically flying, however are the evening’s incredible performers, starting with Naomi Andrew, whose contemplative set highlights her soulful vocals, especially in impassioned share of Rose Royce’s ‘Love Don’t Live Here Anymore’. Not only this, but the heartbreaking song also allows for first standout of the live band’s accompaniment, with Dr Bob Bass (bass guitar and double bass), Meg Burstow (piano), Musical Director Jamie Clark (guitar) and Paul Hudson (drums) swirling their sounds around the song’s hopeless sentiments.

The second, double-bill, segment sees regular performer Leah Cottrell, joining with Menaka Thomas in her “Women in Voice” debut, to showcase the intersection of traditional and contemporary music, drawing upon Thomas’ classical Southern Indian Carnatic musical origins. After whisking our troubles away with a sweet lullaby in her mother tongue, things become infectiously joyous with the audience clapping along to a fusion number featuring join-in from Cotterell in emphasis of the cross-cultural shared language of music at the centre of the show’s celebration. And when Thomas sings of Indian goddess Vata it is with a mixture of precision and emotion that elevates this year’s WiV to being amongst the franchise’s best, especially as it then transitions into a thumping, tempoed Cotterell-led ‘Rolling in the Deep’, complete with Vata rap and Indian dance off. It’s all very clever and lots of fun.

Not only do Cotterell and Thomas share the stage, but the featured songstresses often serve as support for each other, with assistance also from Mel Lathouras and Olivia Weeks, blending their voices together to create a harmonious bed upon which other performances can shine. Musical highlights aside, the show is also very funny. Banister’s musical recount of explanation of Brisbane to New Yorkers in terms of the most significant of films to ever be shot here, in so animated in its delivery and has such a catchy hook line, that it is difficult not to toe tap along with an accompanying smile. And her re-representation of Maria Von Trapp’s third youngest adoptive daughter Brigitta gives us an angstsy ten-year-old’s reimagining of the musical theatre classic “The Sound of Music” through the lens of unresolved middle child issues.

“Women in Voice” is about empowering women to share their voices. Accordingly, the program is curated so as to present a variety of experience levels and musical styles. Act Two features another WiV debutant, Irena Lysiuk giving a stunning operatic Italian-merging-into English version of ‘To The Moon and Back’. With trademark lush Powerhouse Theatre lighting and acoustics, it’s a commanding few moments as her flawless vocals introduce us to her proud Logan girl love of pop duo Savage Garden. In fact, the 1990s group’s popular songs make up her entire set list, albeit in reimagined forms, as she considers them through the perspective of a range of musical genres to take us through opera and a stripped back ‘Truly, Madly, Deeply’ to a musical theatre themed ‘Shake Me Break Me’ (with Clark punctuating things along in add to its dynamism) and a country styled ‘Affirmation’ complete with twang and a great hat. (#whatcantshedo?) And her between-song banter and share of her journey to becoming a singer (inset with Savage Garden trivia) is incredibly funny in its easy nuance, making her set another of the show’s high points.

Responsibility for rounding things out goes to larger-than-life fabulous cabaret diva Dame Farrar (Carita Farrer Spencer), who stumbles onto stage direct from her bedroom in Melbourne to give us a smashing ‘Knockin’ on Heaven’s Door’. Her voice is powerful, she sure can hold a note and her commitment to the little jokes that contribute to the elaborate tapestry of her over-the-top, insult-laden characterisation throughout her set is commendable, resulting in circulating tears of laughter from the thoroughly entertained audience members.

With tight direction, cohesive tie together of ideas and finely tuned performances, the 2 hours + (including interval) duration of 2022’s “Women in Voice” has all the ingredients for a wonderful night out… extraordinarily talented performers, authentic stories, humour and songs we thought we knew presented afresh. Get tickets now … if you can