Full Length


There was a time when the Tivoli Circuit reigned supreme. This was the home of variety theatre – where dancers, acrobats, comedians and ventriloquists trod the boards and where unclad beauties stood immobile. From the 1890s until the last show in 1966, Tivoli theatres around Australia vibrated with theatrical magic.

In commemoration of Australia’s Centenary of Federation in 2001, The Australian Ballet and Sydney Dance Company joined forces for the first time to present an unforgettable celebration of the Tivoli Circuit. Tivoli is Graeme Murphy’s homage to this extraordinary period of variety theatre. Featuring 35 dancers from two of Australia’s most celebrated companies, guest artists and singers and a 10-piece band, Tivoli is a large-scale production which toured nationally in 2001. Due to an overwhelming audience response, Sydney Dance Company presented a return season in 2003 at the Capitol Theatre in Sydney.

Interweaving backstage scenes with onstage acts, Graeme Murphy’s Tivoli succeeds in capturing the essence of ‘a night at the Tiv’ whilst also telling the story of the era. The story opens in 1906, when the main character, a starry-eyed Jack, lands a job as a stagehand. This marks the beginning of a life-long love affair with the theatre, and we watch as he works his way to the top in the midst of great change – two World Wars, the roaring 20s and the depression years, the topless follies of the 50s and finally the disastrous advent of television. Drawing upon authentic music and authentic acts from Tivoli productions, Tivoli captures the humour, glamour and magic of the era; and also features original songs written by Max Lambert and Linda Nagle, and an evocative orchestral score commissioned from Graeme Koehne. Set design is by Brian Thomson, costume design by Kristian Fredrikson and lighting design by Damien Cooper.

Tivoli received four Australian Dance Awards in 2002, for outstanding achievement in choreography – won by Greame Murphy, outstanding performance by a company, outstanding performance by an individual – won by guest artist Harry Haythorne, and outstanding performance in a stage musical – won by Tracey Carrodus.


  • 10 out of 10. Graeme Murphy has done for Tivoli what Baz Luhrmann did for Moulin Rouge, but with more time to savour the wit, dance, humour, variety, text, music, sets, costumes and beauty.