The son of Sicilian migrants, Galati founded Spudshed, an independent supermarket chain based in Western Australia since 1998.
He became a household name for his protracted legal battles against the state’s Potato Marketing Corporation (PMC).
In 2015, the PMC launched legal action against Galati, alleging that he had planted more than his allocated quota of potatoes.
Banned from selling excess potatoes due to legal quotas, Galati used free potato giveaways at his Spudshed stores to protest against what he considered to be unfair and excessive control by the board.
Galati ultimately prevailed when the state government deregulated the industry with the PMC becoming defunct in December 2016.
Having become a local hero, a meme and a “Perthonality” who took on the fat cats, Galati has been immortalised with the production Tony Galati the Musical, which premiered at last year’s Fringe World Festival, selling out before it had even opened!
The heart-warming musical is set to return to this year’s festival, will 11 shows running from February 4 to 15 at Girls School in East Perth.
A tribute to the underdogs and a love letter to Western Australia’s favourite battler, the musical is the brainchild of Dan Debuf and Caleb Garfinkel.
Best known as the co-host of the Dan and Maz Show, formerly heard on hit92.9, Debuf was born and raised in Perth and fascinated by this local success story.
“The more I delved into the story of Tony and his fight for justice, the more I realised how important it is for Western Australians,” he said.
“And then once I realised we could have a singing potato, there was no way I could let this story pass me by!”
While the singing potato may not be based on true events, the musical is more or less an account of Galati’s life as the son of a migrant and a father himself.
The show opens with Tony travelling back in time to become his father, Francesco Galati.
“We start in Sicily and tell Francesco’s story of growing up in Italy and then moving to this crazy metropolis called Perth,” Debuf said.
“Then we see Tony and how he has a son of his own.
“His father has passed away and he is on the one hand trying to keep his dad’s farming dream alive, and on the other hand wanting to pass something on to his own son.”
The Galati family’s migrant story resounds with Debuf, whose maternal grandfather, Giuseppe Biasin, migrated to Australia from the Veneto region in the 1930s.
“It was interesting reading about what it was like for Tony’s dad to come over and the things that Italian immigrants faced back then,” he said.
“When I grew up, Italians were almost beloved, but early arrivals like my grandfather and Francesco were genuinely vilified.”
From the migrant story to the everyday hero and the big, bad villain, Tony Galati the Musical has all the key ingredients of a great show.
To make it even more electrifying and true to Tony’s story, Debuf researched the mogul as much as he could while Thomas Papathanassiou, who plays the lead role, followed Galati around and visited a Spudshed with him to become as immersed in his character as possible.
When Debuf’s partner Sonia Arakkal – who is also the director – registered the show with Fringe World Festival 2019, the team had no idea what to expect.
“You write something because you think it’s an important story that people will love... but you never really know,” he said.
“Then we saw the hype on social media and in the local headlines, and we realised that maybe we were onto something.”
Then the “king” himself confirmed it: the show was a hit.
Galati went to the musical’s opening night last year, sitting in the front row.
The next morning, he appeared on ABC Radio with Debuf to deliver his verdict.
“That was quite intimidating because he’d just watched me put his whole life on stage,” Debuf said.
“Then he said, in his own way, that he was completely blown away.
“That really made my day!”
Debuf was at that very opening night and each and every show to follow, standing at the back and watching the audience’s response.
“It was amazing to see people leaving the theatre with smiles on their faces and a sense of excitement,” he said.
“I want people to leave the show feeling as though they want to create something like Tony.”
There’s also an underlying message in the musical... but one which may sound slightly ridiculous out of context.
It’s embodied by the Potato, which is played by Amberley Cull.
“She’s gutsy, rugged and determined, like all good potatoes,” Debuf said.
“Everyone has that determination within them and one of the big messages of the show – without giving too much away – is that there is a ‘potato’ inside all of us.
“It will make a lot more sense when you see the musical!”
The humble potato has never seemed so intriguing...
For more information and to purchase tickets, visit the Fringe World Festival 2020’s website.