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Bran Nue Dae is returning to Melbourne for its 30th anniversary

Ben Neutze

In 1990, Jimmy Chi's musical about a runaway teenage Aboriginal boy on a wild and eye-opening road trip became a surprise hit. Bran Nue Dae premiered as part of Perth Festival – which is rather appropriate given that its central character Willie is on a road trip through Western Australia – and won a bunch of prestigious awards before touring the country for three years. It was Australia's first Aboriginal musical, long before Jess Mauboy took The Sapphires to the world.

Now it's returning for a 30th anniversary tour produced by a group of Australia's biggest opera companies (but don't worry, the rock and pop-inspired score isn't suddenly going to get an operatic bent). The new production will be directed by Andrew Ross, who was behind the original staging, with choreography by Bangarra dancer Tara Gower.

Based loosely on Chi's own life, the musical was written his band, Kuckles. And unlike a lot of the Aboriginal stories that white audiences were demanding at the time, Bran Nue Dae is bright, uplifting and very, very funny – although it still touches on political and social issues.

The musical was turned into a film in 2009 with a starry Australian cast, including Jess Mauboy, Ernie Dingo, Magda Szubanski, Dan Sultan, Deborah Mailman and Missy Higgins. No casting for this new stage version has been announced yet, but the producers are about to hold auditions around the country looking for actors and singers to play the 14 Aboriginal characters who drive the story.

Bran Nue Dae will open in Sydney in January 2020 before touring to Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane and Adelaide. You can join a waitlist to find out about tickets.

Can't wait until 2020? Check out the best musicals in Melbourne.

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