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Canadian-American director Des McAnuff’s (Jersey Boys) gave the audience a little fright before the beginning of Doctor Zhivago last Tuesday. He made a special appearance on stage welcoming everyone and mentioned that lead cast member Anthony Warlow was injured at rehearsals and his understudy had been doing a fabulous job filling in for him. The ladies held their breath in anticipation and when he finally said Warlow is back, they erupted into applause and wrinkled smiles fill the room once again.

After reminding the audience that if anyone wanted to twist open candy and lozenges wrappers, now would be a good time, he made way for the media preview of the epic musical love story.  Now, if you are unaware of the 20th century novel (1957) by Nobel Prize winner Boris Pasternak or the film that came after (1965) starring Omar Sharif (can you hear the sighs from bingo halls across the nation?), here’s the gist of it. Yuri Zhivago is a doctor slash poet going through a tough time. His life is all messed up because of the Russian Revolution followed by the Russian Civil War and he’s totally in love with Lara but is married to Tonya. The story is packed full of events, information, characters and pretty random fluke occurrences so my advice is to just sit back and allow the tidal wave music, dazzling set design and vocal prowess  of the lead performers take over.

Besides a distracting major prop piece that the performers had to keep adjusting, an uncoordinated marching scene and a fiery dialogue between Yuri and Pasha where the actors kept downing vodka without taking the cap off, Doctor Zhivago was a stunning musical/operatic production. Even if you didn’t grow up with posters of Warlow or Sharif on your wall, give Zhivago a go. You’ll be pleasantly surprised by the doctor.

Until Apr 2, Lyric Theatre, Star City, 80 Pyrmont St, Pyrmont, $39.90-130.90, 9657 9657

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