For a vibrant art form, generally full of life, there are a great many ghosts to be found haunting the latest musical to open in Sydney. First and foremost there’s the shade of Lea Sonia, drag queen extraordinaire and our host for the evening, pushed under a tram by a homophobic serviceman, eight years before trams disappeared from Sydney’s streets. But then there are the generations of gay men and women who have come before us, drawn to the NSW capital and the ‘safe’ haven of Darlinghurst and Kings Cross by the promise of opportunity, permissiveness or just plain anonymity. And then there is Alex Harding’s Only Heaven Knowsitself – an Australian musical written at the height of the HIV crisis, and a would-be spirit of a bygone era, if only it didn’t seem so relevant in the light of the new alt-right intolerance.

L-R Ben Hall, Matthew Backer, Hayden Tee, Blazey Best and Tim Draxl in Only Heaven Knows © Robert Catto

Back in 1988, Harding’s decision not to write an ‘AIDS musical’ but instead to look back in anger at the previous generation of gay men...