Summer is here. Melbourne is open. It’s time to celebrate.
The city is filled with festivals this month, from Latin, to French, to the live acts performing alongside the Australian Open. Or perhaps you’d prefer an Elton John gig, a last-minute Hamilton experience, or a peaceful movie at the Botanic Gardens. The Age has compiled a list of the best events across the city and broader state to kick off 2023.
AO Finals Festival
Melbourne | January 27 – 29 | Tickets from $34 or $5 with AO pass
The premier sporting event on Melbourne’s summer calendar is back with a plethora of live acts, activities and food alongside the tennis. Vanessa Amorosi and Montaigne will kick off the performances the day before the grand slam finals. Kiwi pop star Benee headlines proceedings on the Saturday, while Gamilaraay singer Thelma Plum, R&B-soul outfit Winston Surfshirt and CC:DISCO! are also on hand. On the day of the men’s singles final, Australian electronic duo Flight Facilities are the top act.
Share the Spirit
Melbourne | January 26 | Free
Held on the Australia Day holiday, the Share the Spirit festival brings together First Nations music, arts, craft and culture at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. ARIA award-winner Dan Sultan leads the line-up, with more artists to be announced for the festival, which celebrates the survival of the First Australians.
Vida: Melbourne Latin Summer Festival
Melbourne | January 13 – 15 | Free
Held over three days at Kings Domain Gardens off St Kilda Road, Latin American cuisine and culture will be celebrated, in the festival’s 10th anniversary. DJs, dance classes, and drinks – including a mojito or two – will also be available alongside the sizzling street food.
Melbourne | January 21 – February 12 | Ticket costs vary
Australia’s premier LGBTQI festival features more than 200 events at 120 venues over 23 days. It all kicks off with a line-up of queer comedians, singers and drag stars at the Midsumma Extravaganza at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl, hosted by Joel Creasey. The Midsumma Carnival at Alexandra Gardens on January 22 is an even bigger affair, with three stages, two food zones and plenty of bars within the complex. A lip-sync competition is also a feature if you can hack it.
So Frenchy So Chic
Werribee | January 15 | Ticket prices vary, single adults start at $91
This day-long summer soirée in Melbourne’s west is all about French food, wine, champagne, and live music. Held on Werribee Mansion’s luscious green grounds, this relaxed festival is perfect for a picnic and a dance a bit later on.
Melbourne | January 27 – 28 | Tickets from $81.40
The American comedian is arguably the biggest international comedy act hitting Melbourne next month. Segura shot to stardom after several Netflix specials and has a loyal online following from regular appearances on the American comedic podcast circuit. Segura is performing at the Palais Theatre in St Kilda.
Anne Edmonds & Lloyd Langford: Still Together
Melbourne | January 14 | Tickets from $30
Prefer a local comedy act? Anne Edmonds and Lloyd Langford have a spot at Comedy Republic – a bar set up by fellow comedians Rhys Nicholson, Alex Dyson and Kyran Wheatley on Bourke Street – to try out some new material. The couple of Have You Been Paying Attention? fame have long been popular on the local circuit, including when they debuted their first show together at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival of 2021.
Operation Ouch! Live On Stage
Narre Warren, Melbourne, Bendigo, Geelong | January 5 – 9 | Tickets prices vary
British doctors and television presenters Xand and Chris van Tulleken are taking their humorous educational show for kids across Australia for the fourth time. Stopping over at Hamer Hall – along with three other spots across Victoria – the identical twins delve into biology in their long-running television series of the same name (minus the ‘Live On Stage’ bit). There are some gross moments on their stage show, but the pair’s live experiments are a hit with younger audiences.
Melbourne | January 29 – April 30 | Tickets from $59.90
The Disney stage show returns to Her Majesty’s Theatre after first making landfall in 2010. This time, Australia’s leading lady of musical theatre, Marina Prior, will feature in two distinctly different roles: Miss Andrew – Mr Banks’ evil former nanny who replaces Mary Poppins – and the Bird Woman.
Madagascar the Musical
Melbourne | January 4 – 8, 10 – 15 | Tickets from $69
The Hollywood animated hit for all ages has been translated into a stage show for Melbourne’s summer at the Comedy Theatre. Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe, Gloria the hippo and the gang of penguins are all a part of the kid-friendly sing-along.
How I See It: Blak Art and Film
Melbourne | Until February 19 | Free
This ACMI exhibition brings together eight First Nations creatives to display a range of works in the heart of Melbourne’s CBD at Federation Square. From video games to films, this exhibition also has artist talk events if you pick the right time to go.
Collection+ Judith Alexandrovics / Julian Opie
Mornington | Until February 19 | Free
The Mornington Peninsula Regional Gallery’s third iteration of a Collection+ exhibition combines internationally renowned contemporary London artist Julian Opie with late Melbourne artist Judith Alexandrovics. The pairing of two distinct artists highlights their common threads in depicting ordinary folk in urban surrounds.
Melbourne | January 13 – 14 | Tickets from $199
Rocket Man is back in Melbourne to perform more shows for his never-ending farewell tour at AAMI Park. The British star’s return to Australian shores was made possible because the pandemic cancelled two planned New Zealand shows in 2020, so he is now making the trip across the ditch to play the rescheduled concerts with a couple of stops here beforehand. Elton’s last performance specifically for Melburnians was a pre-recorded musical tribute at Shane Warne’s memorial service in March 2022.
Melbourne | January 4 – 5 | Only available through resale
The UK rock band has already sold out its Melbourne shows, but see if you can snag a ticket from a friend to watch the Alex Turner-led rockers at the Sidney Myer Music Bowl. The Sheffield sensations behind hits such as Do I Wanna Know? and 505 may well be worth it, even if fans have been polarised over their more recent work.
Red Hot Summer Tour
Mornington | January 14 – 15 | Tickets $139.90
A classic Australian summer event, who can go past Paul Kelly, Bernard Fanning and Missy Higgins on a warm day near the coast? The first show at the Mornington Racecourse on Saturday 14 sold out, but at the start of January, some tickets were available for the Sunday gig. Former Hunters and Collectors frontman Mark Seymour, Vika & Linda, and Ian Moss & Troy Cassar-Daley will also perform.
Ty Segall and Freedom Band
Anglesea, Melbourne | January 20 – 21 | Anglesea sold out, Melbourne tickets $71.20
Multi-instrumentalist Ty Segall is a product of California’s psych-influenced garage rock scene and is returning to Australia after last touring eight years ago. A keen surfer, Segall seems likely to enjoy an already sold-out stop on the Great Ocean Road at Anglesea before heading to The Forum on Flinders Street a day later. Be ready for some diverse sounds, alongside the rock ‘n’ roll pedigree the Freedom Band brings.
The Fabulous Caprettos
Melbourne | January 20 | Tickets from $80.55
The name doesn’t scream Australian music royalty, but the band members certainly do. ARIA award-winners Daryl Braithwaite and Russell Morris joined with Thirsty Merc’s Rai Thistlethwayte and Southern Sons’ Jack Jones to form this Australian rocker collective in 2020. Expect Thistlethwayte’s iconic anthem In the Summertime to get a good run if it’s a warm night.
Melbourne | January 13 | Tickets from $71.30
The Japanese-British singer-songwriter who produced the vocals behind Charli XCX’s anthemic 2022 hit Beg for You is touring Australia and New Zealand for her new Hold the Girl album. Sawayama’s partly experimental pop approach will likely make for an easy-listening party at 170 Russell.
Melbourne | January 8, 10 | Tickets $89.90
American rapper and Brooklyn native Joey Bada$$ last toured in 2018, but is now returning following the release of his 2000 album – the sequel to his critically acclaimed debut mixtape 1999. Bada$$’s Forum show is already sold out, but there are still some spots for fans to catch his hits TEMPTATION and Love is Only a Feeling at Northcote Theatre.
Melbourne | January 15 | Tickets from $101.35
English reggae and pop band UB40 are likely one of the safest picks in world music for a guaranteed good show. Red, Red Wine has aged well almost 40 years since it was released. The group had been scheduled to perform at the Forum in October, but their appearance was delayed until this year.
Melbourne | Until January 15 | Tickets from $70
Yes, we know it has been around for a while, but January is the last chance for Melburnians to catch the iconic stage show before it departs Her Majesty’s Theatre. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s historical hip-hop musical creation remains the city’s best live theatre experience almost 10 months since it arrived.
Melbourne | January 16 – February 18 | Tickets from $40
The Melbourne Theatre Company production starring Nikki Shiels, of Girls & Boys and Picture of Dorian Gray, is a fantasy tale inspired by stories about Heide Museum of Modern Art founder Sunday Reed. The leading art collector was a mentor to Sidney Nolan and others – helping redefine Australian art.
Melbourne | January 26 – February 19 | Tickets $28
A blue asbestos mine caused an idyllic community to spring up in the Western Australia’s remote Pilbara midway through the 20th century. It also caused the country’s worst industrial disaster, which became the subject of Midnight Oil hit Blue Sky Mine. Playwright Mary Anne Butler’s production at St Kilda’s Red Stitch Theatre follows the stories of two women in the town – and the cancerous marks it left on them.
seven methods of killing kylie jenner
Melbourne | January 15 – 29 | Tickets $65, concessions $50
Coming out of London, this modern play opens the Malthouse Theatre’s 2023 program after it was delayed arriving in Melbourne. British playwright Jasmine Lee-Jones’ creation centres on two young black women who create a social media storm. More acts for the Malthouse Theatre’s now-permanent summer stage will begin to arrive in February.
Alice in Wonderland
Melbourne | January 5 – 8 | Tickets from $49.90
If some family-friendly theatre is what you’re after, Alice in Wonderland at the Athenaeum Theatre on Collins Street is a good option. The theatre will host just 10 shows of Lewis Carroll’s timeless classic before it departs.
The Wind in the Willows
Melbourne | Until January 29 | Tickets from $25
Taking place in the Royal Botanic Gardens Melbourne, the Australian Shakespeare Company’s production of Kenneth Grahame’s beloved story The Wind in the Willows is a school holiday tradition that is designed to entertain adults and children alike – and can be enjoyed with a picnic.
Much Ado About Nothing
Melbourne | Until February 4 | Tickets from $25
Shakespeare’s wickedly comical Much Ado About Nothing is given a modern spin in this outdoor version packed with pop music from the ’90s. Kicking off around the time the sun goes down, it’s the perfect show for a warm summer night.
Dr Norman Swan live in conversation with Jacinta Parsons
Queenscliff | January 12 | Tickets $25, concession $18
The main writers festivals are a while away, but bookworms might be interested in a trip down the Bellarine Peninsula to see ABC presenter and author Dr Norman Swan. Swan will discuss his book So You Want To Live Younger Longer? with ABC radio host Jacinta Parsons, but tickets are already gone, so you may have to get in touch with a local to snag one.
Yotam Ottolenghi: Flavour of Life – Live on Stage
Melbourne | January 29 | Tickets from $90.75
Chef, restaurateur and acclaimed food author Yotam Ottolenghi is coming to Hamer Hall. Israeli-born and UK-based, Ottolenghi is best known for his colourful, Middle Eastern-inspired cookbooks. Along with an on-stage conversation with award-winning author Alice Zaslavsky and a Q&A, some in the audience will also get the chance to co-create signature Ottolenghi dishes alongside Yotam and Alice.
Moonlight Cinema Melbourne
Melbourne | Until March 26 | Tickets starting from $25
You can’t go wrong watching a film outdoors on a warm summer night at Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens. There’s a different film on every night, with highlights including Top Gun: Maverick on January 8 and James Cameron’s new visual masterpiece Avatar: The Way of the Water on the 20th and 27th.
Chinese Lunar New Year
Various locations | January 22 | Free
The Year of the Rabbit begins midway through January and Melbourne’s Chinese community will be celebrating across the city. Chinatown on Little Bourke Street will be a hive of activity, while the Chinese Australian community in Box Hill put on a good show, with plenty of food, drink and the occasional lion dance.
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