Australian WWII musical hasn’t lost its shine

Australian WWII musical hasn’t lost its shine
Image: THE SUNSHINE CLUB. Photo by Brett Boardman


Award winning musical, The Sunshine Club is set to return to the Sydney stage, still as fresh and relevant as it was when it was written more than 20 years ago.

The story is set in Brisbane post World War II, where Aboriginal, Frank Doyle returns from service. Despite fighting for his country, Doyle is still treated with the same racism he experienced before leaving.

Doyle is frustrated with the community’s attitude towards him, especially after discovering that the rest of the world doesn’t treat him the same. He decides to open The Sunshine Club, a ballroom designed so that members of all races can come dance and mingle.

THE SUNSHINE CLUB. Photo by Brett Boardman

Doyle also tries to pursue a relationship with Rose, a local white Australian girl. Interracial relationships were very much frowned upon at the time.

The book is by acclaimed arts identity and Minjerribah Man, Wesley Enoch. John Rodgers is the composer, and put together 28 songs for the show. This production will feature a live five piece band and a cast with 11 indigenous performers, including Darumbal man, Garret Lyon as Doyle.

“These dance clubs were for people who needed a place to go and be human in a world that was treating them as if they weren’t,” said Enoch in an interview with Off The Leash. 

THE SUNSHINE CLUB. Photo by Brett Boardman

“It’s based on a real place called the Boathouse in Brisbane that a lot of my Elders went to. They’d tell stories of the dances they’d go to, how they’d have to sneak in and sneak back out again,” 

Enoch, who also wrote The Sapphires and Black Medea, wants his work to explore feelings of diversity, exclusion and prejudice, experiences that are prevalent in the Indigenous and LGBTQ+ communities.

The Sunshine Club has won a number of awards including 1999 Brisbane Matilda Award for book, lyrics and direction; and the 2000 Deadly Award for Excellence in Film or Theatrical Score.

April 11 – 20

Sydney Coliseum Theatre – West HQ, 33 Railway Street, Rooty Hill

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