Presented by Critical Stages Touring

Libretto: Hilary Bell
Music: Greta Gertler Gold
Director: Liesel Badorrek
Production Designer: Isla Shaw
Lighting Designer: Benjamin Brockman
Design & Creative Play: Antonia Pesenti
Puppetry Designer: Alice Osborne
Puppetry/Musician: Salina Myat
Musician/Musical Director: Zara Stanton

The hit children's book comes to life

Inspired by the best-selling picture book Alphabetical Sydney, this exciting new stage production for children combines music, puppetry, theatre and creative play, taking audiences of all ages on an adventure around the world’s most famous harbour city.

Our tour guides – the chaotic Ibis and tough but tender-hearted Nanna – take us on a trip to discover Sydney in all its diversity. Alphabetical Sydney: All Aboard! is a celebration of the ocean baths, noisy streets, and magical corners that make this city unique.

Available to Tour



Theatre for Young People, Music, Comedy




1 hour, no interval

Venue Format

Theatre, Civic/Cultural Centre, Black Box, Town Hall

Audience Notes

Alphabetical Sydney has an established fan base which will be eager to see their beloved book come to life on stage. Like the book, All Aboard! will appeal to all ages ranging from pre-school to adult.

There will be the opportunity to connect with local library networks, bookstores, reading and play
groups, theatre and writers’ festivals, kids’ podcasts and radio. The book’s popularity with teachers (part of the Premier’s Reading Challenge) provides the potential for school performances or excursions.

And as co-producers /copyright holders, there’s another creative opportunity in developing original
merchandise, as well as having signed books available for sale in the foyer.

Look and Feel

Alternating between dialogue and songs, audience participation, creative play and making, the performance will mix projections with low-tech stage design, handmade props, and puppets. Performers will lead the journey and experience, with live music and song.

Creative play is an integral part of this unique theatrical experience. Kids work with the actors to grow the park together, drawing trees and flowers which are mixed with projections to create a magical, wild landscape. Later, simple shadow puppets created pre-show in the foyer are mixed with more elaborate large-scale puppet creatures, projections and soundscapes to conjure up a dreamlike version of Taronga Zoo at night.

Nine original songs have been written by Hilary Bell and composer/musical director Greta Gertler Gold. These songs explore different aspects and moods of the city. For example: FEED ME, introducing Ibis, is a wild grunge-metal rant delighting in all that’s disgusting and disordered. This contrasts with THE MAGIC HOUR, a tranquil, almost melancholy paean to the transient moment between dusk and dark, evoking warm sandstone, the sparkle of the harbour, the smell of jasmine, the lonely hoot of a mopoke.

The Book

Since its publication, the picture-book Alphabetical Sydney by Antonia Pesenti and Hilary Bell has become an instant classic, having sold over 34,000 copies to date. It has inspired Instagram scavenger hunts, literacy units in classrooms, Book Week costumes and has twice been a prime minister’s ‘holiday reading pick’. It also was the subject of an exhibition – Alphabetical Sydney: Creative Lab, a collaborative project with the Museum of Sydney.

Encouraged by this response, and recognising the need it fulfils for quality local literature/art, we were keen to further explore its potential. Hilary is a playwright with a career spanning 30+ years, so it is a natural step to re-conceive the book in theatrical terms.

Antonia’s background in architecture and illustration will allow Alphabetical Sydney’s distinctive collaged illustrations to be re-imagined in the form of projections, stage design and puppetry.

‘This instant classic should be on the bookshelf of every Sydney child.’ – Delia Falconer, SMH

Original development supported by Create NSW, the City of Sydney and Riverside Theatres Parramatta.