Family weekend in Sydney: Why seeing a musical is one of the best things to do with kids

You could be forgiven for mistaking Sydney for New York or London at the moment.

Melbourne is known as Australia's arts capital, but the Emerald City is shining in the spotlight.

Perhaps it's part of the magic of Aladdin.

The Disney musical, at the Capitol Theatre, is a riot of gold and jewels, flying carpets, and – of course – a charismatic genie. United States import Michael James Scott steals the stage with his witty rendition.

Our children – who are lukewarm about most musicals – are agog. Grace's mouth forms an "o" at the spectacle of the Cave of Wonders. Then, Taj leaps to his feet for the series of standing ovations.

Gracie's face settles into a different shape during My Fair Lady at the Opera House. Classic show. Tick. Iconic venue. Tick. Julie Andrew as director. Tick. In fact, it's the 60th anniversary of the year Andrews played Eliza Doolittle in Pygmalion on Broadway.

I prepare the kids as best I can, playing the songs and explaining the plot.

But it turns out to be an unexpectedly educational experience: Six decades on, the sexism of the script is too much to stomach.

Our daughter – who's 10 going on 20 – keeps looking at me out of the corner of her eye with a sceptical expression, as if to ask "Why on earth did you take me to this?" She gasps when the misogynistic Professor Higgins calls Eliza a "squashed cabbage leaf" and sings, "Why can't a woman be more like a man".

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Ms Doolittle bravely battles the men around her – including her father, played brilliantly by Reg Livermore – but the ending is unconvincing.

Still, it's a rare opportunity to ear-bash the children about the suffragette movement in Edwardian London, explaining the aspects of women's lives that have changed since those days.

If you're bringing small children to the Opera House, have dinner prior to arriving, and carry snacks in your bag: The queues at the food outlets inside are enormous. It's also long, at three hours and 15 minutes, including interval.

Older children, and multi-generational families, would enjoy the third premiere on offer in Sin City, Dream Lover – The Bobby Darin Musical. It's suitable for ages 13 and over. (The multi-talented David Campbell is simply dreamy in the role.)

It's worth taking the family to Sydney for a weekend, for these three special events. (Sorry, Melbourne!) But get in quick: Destination NSW expects almost 30,000 overnight visitors to see Dream Lover, which only runs for 10 weeks.

I guess you could say we're fresh fans of musical theatre. For decades, I'd rather stick pins in my eyes than sit through relentlessly upbeat productions. However, as the kids get older, we have a new appreciation for the arts.

After all, who doesn't want to live in a place where everyone bursts into song and dance?

Come on, sing along: It's a Whole New World.

tracey.spicer@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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