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Q&A/The Fringe Sessions/Musical Theatre

Playing the prince of potatoes

29 January 2020

Packed with Perth memes, Tony Galati the Musical tells the tale of WA’s own spud king.

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Seesaw caught up with Thomas Papathanassiou, who plays the lead role of Tony Galati, ahead of the show’s 2020 return to Fringe World.

Seesaw: Can you talk us through your career path to date, Thomas?
Thomas Papathanassiou:
I’m a freelance theatre-maker, actor, director, writer and educator, having trained extensively in all areas of the performing arts at Curtin University (Theatre Arts), the Western Australian Academy of Performing Arts (Musical Theatre) and the Victorian College of the Arts (Animateuring/Performance Creation).

Packed full of Perth memes, <i>Tony Galati the Musical</i> celebrates WA's own spud king.
Thomas Papathanassiou

I’ve been fortunate enough to travel extensively and have had a very diverse career. Career highlights include touring my award-winning solo show Looming the Memory nationally and internationally, performing in the Australasian tour of Chicago – The Musical, in Irene – The Musical with the late Hollywood legend Debbie Reynolds, and as a Lilliputian with The Giants for the 2015 Perth International Arts Festival.

As an educator, I’ve worked for numerous high schools, universities and drama schools, including designing the Bachelor of Performing Arts (Performance Making) course at WAAPA and spending time in Los Angeles working on a theatre-based trauma therapy programme for at-risk teenagers. Currently I’m a high school drama teacher and will appear in season two of The Heights on ABC.

S: Describe your artistic practice…
TP:
I really enjoy working in an ensemble and theatre that involves a strong physical base, but I also enjoy variety and have been fortunate to have dabbled performing and creating in many different performance styles over my career.

S: Tell us about your 2020 Fringe World show, Tony Galati the Musical
TP:
Tony Galati the Musical was a surprise hit of 2019 Fringe World. The response was amazing with the show selling out before we opened. It was so wonderful to see the support of such an iconic WA person. Tony’s story is very much one that echoes David and Goliath’s and everyone loves an underdog that wins. We share Tony’s story – his family, his struggles with the Potato Marketing Board and meet a surprising hero!

S: Tell us about the creative/rehearsal process for the show…
TP:
I’m so lucky to be a part of a really wonderful creative team who are courageous and hysterical. Rehearsals are always fun, especially when new ideas get thrown around.

Part of my own process included spending some time with Tony Galati himself. I remember when I first met him, it was a bit daunting. He must have thought it so weird to be followed around by someone who was going to play him on stage. I would head down to his warehouse or the markets really early and watch him work and interact with his staff before visiting many Spudshed stores. It gave me the opportunity to not only study his gestures and mannerisms, but also learn about his life. He was very humble and honest, which helped me understand how to create his character. You can imagine how nervous I was when he appeared with his whole family at the show! It was a bit surreal to be playing a character who was actually in the audience!

S: What differentiates Tony Galati the Musical from the 700 or so other Fringe World shows on offer?
TP:
It’s a toe-tapping, funny, heart-warming, home-grown story celebrating a Perthonality! You may even walk away with a new mantra…

S: Who will Tony Galati the Musical appeal to?
TP:
This show is perfect for everyone – whether it be the whole family, a group of friends, those who love Perth, those who enjoy musicals and those who like shopping at Spudshed.

S: Aside from your show, what are you looking forward to seeing/doing at Fringe World 2020?
TP:
I still have yet to have a proper look at the programme. I do love taking a gamble on a show though. That’s the beauty of Fringe World – you can discover some surprise gems!

S: What is your favourite part of the playground?
TP:
It’s gotta be the monkey bars! You don’t see them in playgrounds anymore. I miss them! We used to time each other to see who could go from one side to the other the fastest, followed by monkey bar battles where you would meet your opponent in the middle and try and knock them off. Those were the days!

Tony Galati the Musical plays Main Hall at Girls School, February 4-15 as part of Fringe World Festival 2020.

Read David Zampatti’s 2019 review of the show here.

“The Fringe Sessions” is an annual series of Q&A interviews with artists who will be appearing at Fringe World. Stay tuned for more!

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Author —
Nina Levy

Nina Levy has worked for over a decade as an arts writer and critic. She co-founded Seesaw and has been co-editing the platform since it went live in August 2017. Nina was co-editor of Dance Australia magazine from 2016 to 2019. Nina loves the swings because they take her closer to the sky.

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