Reviews/Fringe World Festival/Musical Theatre

Spud King flawed but fun

14 February 2019

Fringe World review: Aarnav Productions, Tony Galati: the Musical ⋅
De Parel Spiegeltent February 13 ⋅
Review by David Zampatti ⋅

Since the demise of the bushranger, Australians have searched for their heroes on sporting fields, in parliaments, in big business, and on stage and screen. Let’s face it, the search hasn’t turned out so well.

In desperation (or perhaps, unlike Napoleon’s English – the “nation of shopkeepers” – we’re just a nation of shoppers) we’ve looked to our retailers for inspiration, especially those who bucked bureaucracy and vested interests to succeed – and give us a good deal. Your Dick Smiths and Gerry Harveys are household names across the wide brown land. Here in WA we’ve had our share of Purchaseonalities too; Tom “the Cheap” Wardle even became Lord Mayor of Perth, John Hughes of Shepparton Road, Victoria Park, Rick Hart.

But none has quite captured the imagination like the Titan of Tubers, the Prince of Potatoes, the Bane of Bureaucrats and the Rolled-Yukon Gold, open 24/7 Spud King, Tony Galati. Son of a hardscrabble Italian migrant, wearer of ubiquitous blue singlets, muddy of boot and bushy of eyebrow, a bit hard, a bit generous, a lot stubborn, he’s the stuff around which urban myths are woven. And, it seems, musicals.

I’m sure Galati (played by Thomas Papathanassiou) has as many flaws as his discounted rejected spuds, and so does Tony Galati: the Musical, the impossible-to-get-a-ticket Spiegeltent production that’s probably been the most anticipated show this Fringe. But you know what? It’s fun, it’s not at all badly done, and, best of all, it doesn’t take itself too seriously.

I like that it can really only ever play in WA. In the rest of the world, its absolute parochialism would fall flat, so it’s really just for us. I like the tunes Caleb Garfinkle nicked straight off the rack. You’ve heard Perth (The Greatest City on Earth), Set it in Stone, Sunrise and There’s a Potato in You a thousand times (and sure, often a lot better) in everything from Annie to Zorba the Greek.

I liked that Garfinkle and writer Dan Debuf were able to make something (I forget what exactly) sort of rhyme with “John Inverarity”. I like the cast of actors, drawn largely from Perth’s improv theatre scene (impossible not to mention Sam Longley, whose Russet Burbank Jr from the Potato Marketing Board is sort of an Inspector Javert to Galati’s Jean Valjean). I like the packs of spuds waiting outside as gifts to the audience.

Best of all I liked the Perth crowd (a lot of them, I’m guessing, Spud Shed customers), that forgave the show its faults and revelled wholeheartedly in its strengths. There should be more like them.

Tony Galati: the Musical continues until February 17.

Picture top: Thomas Papathanassiou plays Spud King Tony Galati. Photo Sean Breadsell

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Author —
David Zampatti

David Zampatti has been a student politician, a band manager, the Freo Dockers’ events guy, a bar owner in California, The West Australian’s theatre critic and lots of other crazy stuff. He goes to every show he’s reviewing with the confident expectation it will be the best thing he’s ever seen.

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