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TONY GALATI THE MUSICAL @ Girls School gets 8/10


Tony Galati The Musical 
@ Girls School
Tuesday, February 4, 2020

8/10

Who is Tony Galati? He’s the Spud King, the father of the Spudshed empire, the little man who took on the bureaucrats… Tony Galati is the epitome of Australian heroes! Galati’s story captivated writer of his musical, Dan Debuf, and the result is a hilarious, heartwarming musical.


East Perth’s retro, repurposed Girls School was a fitting venue for this down-to-earth kind of performance. Framing the intimate stage were garden shed panels, a step ladder and festoon lights beneath the familiar Spudshed logo signage, and a catwalk jutting into the audience. The story began as performers entered from different parts of the venue, greeting the audience and each other repeatedly with “Ciao! Ciao!” and breaking into song to the nostalgic drone of the piano accordion.

The band took their place as the action continued seamlessly. From the very outset of this show, it was clear the audience was in for a convivial experience. Tony Galati (Thomas Papathanassiou) introduced himself clad in Galati’s famous navy blue sleeveless shirt, matching short shorts, and work boots then began to tell Galati’s story… Well, at least the story according to Dan Debuf.


Inspired by the tale of the humble, determined Aussie battler, Debuf (92.9’s Dan & Maz Show, Lords of Luxury) has teamed up with composer Caleb Garfinkel (The Colour Purple, Spring Awakening, The Big HOO-HAA Melbourne). Together they have created a diverse musical score to support the delightful account.

The outstanding music was provided by conductor Joshua Haynes on keys, Jasper Miller on drums, and guitarist Jack Maher, who each remain centred on the stage throughout. The gentlemen effortlessly showcased a diverse range of musical styles taking audiences on a journey with the mandolin crooning the old romance of the Italian countryside, to the modern grunt of Aussie rock.

Director Nicole Stinson and producer Sonia Arakkal created brilliantly understated mise-en-scène, consistent with the no-fuss manner of the Spudshed movement. The cast featured five performers who each portray various roles, along with basic costume adjustments, keeping this potato story simple and straight to the point. Amberly Cull plays Galati’s muse, a soprano spud who encourages him to “Look to the Potato (There’s a Potato in You)”, dressed in a terrible fabric potato-shaped form, which just worked. Galati’s fake-looking black strip eyebrows failed to withstand the heat of the stage lights on the 40-degree evening. All part of the hilarity, Papanthanassiou’s satirical brows took turns in dropping off his face to which no one seemed to bat… well… an eyebrow. The chemistry between each of the performers was fabulous; true professionals, obviously enjoying themselves as much as the audience.


The tale began in the Sicilian hometown of Francesco Galati (also played by Papanthanassiou), where the family love for homegrown produce was birthed. The family migrated to Perth in the 1960s where their small market garden business faced the corporate giant, Potato Marketing Corporation. Cast as the bully frontman, Sam Longley’s extremely tall stature was fitting for the large, dominating Russet Burbank, intent on the demise of the Galati family business. Time passes, as does dear old Francesco, leaving the potatoes to his son. Russet Burbank Jr (played again by Longley) had also taken on his father’s mantle to ensure Galati’s failure. Emma Haines played his cowering assistant belting out beautiful vocal harmonies for many of the songs. Galati’s persistence and relentless grit is rewarded as his cause receives media attention, as represented by segments with television’s Mel Haines and Koshie Pages-Oliver, and Galati rises as a nationally known ‘Perthonality.’


Being the show’s preview, unfortunately, sound issues meant many of the lyrics were lost. A lot of the humour in the script referred to Perth colloquialisms and cultural jokes which were lost on those not from Perth. It would be wonderful to explore how these puns could be translated in order to suit a broader audience. However, this didn’t impede the flow of the story.

A thoroughly enjoyable local production that left the audience craving nature’s carbs, which could be satisfied by a voucher for a free bag of spuds. Galati’s story encourages audiences to “Make a Difference” because… “There’s a Potato in Us All”.

JEMMA KUCHEL

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