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. The new Australian cast will be led by Marcus Corowa as Willie, with Ernie Dingo reprising his role from the movie.