The earth may not have moved under her feet, nor did the sky come tumbling down, but singer Esther Hannaford probably wished she had on more than a bathrobe when the Prime Minister popped backstage to meet her in Sydney last Saturday night. The Helpmann award winner had just stepped out of the shower following her opening-night performance as Carole King in the musical Beautiful when Malcolm Turnbull and wife Lucy ventured beyond the proscenium arch to congratulate her on a triumphant (and it was) performance. The PM is not a regular at musical theatre, so his appearance was something of a coup for producer Michael Cassel and team. It remains to be seen if Turnbull will accept his invitation to the Sydney opening of the far more irreverent The Book of Mormon in February. One thing, however, is certain: musical theatre is booming. There is now an astonishing four-year booking backlog in local theatres for mainstage musicals, and with Broadway in particular pushing out more shows than producers here can stage, the genre is going nowhere in a hurry. It’s all jazz hands on deck until further notice. Darryn King meets cabaret king Taylor Mac (pages 12-13) in San Francisco for today’s cover story. Mac’s epic A 24-Decade History of Popular Music — billed as a modern Ring cycle — will form the centrepiece of Melbourne Festival, which opens this week. It’s fair to say Mac has a far more liberal world view than Wagner did, and the inspirations for his work, as told to King, are truly revelatory. Front and centre in the inauspicious commemorations department is the fact today marks the 226th anniversary of the premiere in Vienna of Mozart’s The Magic Flute. That in itself might be completely unremarkable were it not for two happenstances. First is our chat (opposite) with 14-karat golden flute-playing luminary Emmanuel Pahud; and second that Sydney Conservatorium is next month restaging the classic Michael Gow production of Die Zauberflote, featuring the next generation of operatic talent. At $40 a ticket, it is surely worth the price of admission for anyone interested in the future of the art form.