The best in Australian music, theatre and comedy will set the Riverside Theatre stage alight in January - and we've got tickets to give away!
Aussie stage entertainer Catherine Alcorn and popular personality Paul McDermott will host FNL... Alive and Unlocked as part of Sydney Festival, and they're bringing along some of the best performers the country has to offer.
Alcorn said the concept started in isolation.
"When everything went down about February or March, and when our industry was the first to shut down, I had an entire year's worth of work booked and it all went away in the space of a week," she said.
"At first I thought it was a great opportunity to kick back, have a break and chill out with my three-year-old on the lounge. That lasted about five minutes.
"So I thought about what I could do to keep people working, how we could come together to save the Sydney entertainment scene. I have a mate who has a TV studio in Paddington, so we teamed up and created a virtual venue, which launched on the 5th of June. We had five weeks of livestreamed Friday Night Live shows, which Rodger Corser and I hosted.
"There was an hour of cabaret on Saturdays, followed by an hour of live music.
"From April to July we kept upwards of 45 people across the entertainment industry working and feeling useful at a time when we were all terrified about our livelihoods."
Alcorn said they were all thrilled with the response to FNL, which was streamed all over the world. It was during the consideration of a second series that the idea morphed into a live show.
Alcorn said attendees could expect a much bigger production at Parramatta.
"You can expect a lot of the same faces, talent-wise, that were showcased earlier this year, but in bigger numbers," she said.
"We'll have a live band this one and one of the biggest changes is we now have Paul McDermott co-hosting, which is so exciting.
"There's comedy, cabaret, sketches, live music - the whole gamut of old-school variety shows. It will be a lot of chaos of the best kind.
"And it won't be the same from night to night, so audiences can come and enjoy it for a second time."
Alcorn said the production had built a great sense of camaraderie: "everyone built new relationships, we had a cross-pollination of skills with people working from film, TV, theatre, audio, cabaret, directors, stage designers - it was a multi-faceted dream and such a beautiful thing to bring together."
She said the performers and crew were taking a risk with the show and they hoped audiences would venture out to support them.
"We would really love the support," she said.
"Audiences will be brave to come back to theatre, but we're also being really brave by bringing this show to everyone after Covid as well. I believe we can deliver a wonderful production and I encourage everyone to have a good old-fashioned laugh and relax."
McDermott said he was a "good self-isolator" but even he was looking forward to getting back in front of a crowd.
The former Good News Week host, comedian and songwriter said people would love FNL.
"It's a classic variety show, so it is a cavalcade of wonder and weirdness and extraordinarily talented people," he said.
"There will be a fair whack of music, a fair dose of comedy and a fair bit of strangeness as well."
McDermott will also be debuting some songs written during isolation, which Alcorn promises are amazing and heartwarming.
He said he was honoured to be involved in the show.
"I'm very happy to be part of FNL," McDermott said.
"I saw a hell of a lot of talented people in the first incarnation and there's an incredible array of incredible skills on show, so getting them together is quite phenomenal.
"I think it's going to be a very exciting show and I'm looking forward to going out to Parramatta to entertain the people there. It's been a long time since I went to Riverside Theatre, so I'm looking forward to getting back into a room and making the whole damn thing cook.
"The feeling we'd like to leave people with is absolute elation.
"Art can communicate so much joy to people and after this extended period of darkness we hope to bring a little happiness, joy and light."
Alcorn said all the performers couldn't wait to "see a real audience in front of us". She said Riverside was a "very Covid-safe venue where people had worked tirelessly to create a great seating plan".
FNL... Alive and Unlocked is running as part of the Sydney Festival at Riverside Theatre, Parramatta, from January 5-9. It will also be livestreamed.
Other performers include Ursula Yovich, Wendy Harmer and Jean Kitson, HANS, Prinnie Stevens, Marney McQueen, Ben Mingay and Darren Percival, with even more to be announced.
More information: fnltheshow.com.
ACM has five double passes to give away to FNL... Alive and Unlocked.
For your chance to win, email firstname.lastname@example.org with the subject line FNL COMPETITION and tell us in 25 words or less why who you would love to host a variety show with and why. Entries must include your full name, address and contact number or they will not be considered.
Entries close midnight December 2. Winners will be contacted via email.