New Aussie musical brings powerful message to the stage

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Though truly Australian musicals like ‘Muriel’s Wedding’, ‘Priscilla’ and ‘The Sapphires’ are few and far between, a new production is about to be added to the list, and it’s heading to Sydney Coliseum.

Claire Warrilow grew up singing and dancing, training at the Victorian College of the Arts before transitioning away from theatre to do voiceover work and audio books, among other things.

But, when she heard about ‘The Sunshine Club’, Warrilow said she immediately felt drawn back, inspired to tell a story of overcoming adversity.

“I think as a young person, we see a lot of the change come through Australian society; rapid changes for the better in terms of how we treat our First Nations people, and inclusion and things like that,” she said.

“To be taken to a time not so long ago, the late 1940s, and to learn about that recent history and the returning soldiers, how differently the white soldiers coming back from the war were treated compared to the black soldiers.”

Set in 1946, ‘The Sunshine Club’ tells the story of Frank Doyle, an Aboriginal serviceman who comes home from World War II and starts The Sunshine Club in hopes of creating a place where people can dance together – and where he can sweep Warrilow’s character Rose off her feet.

‘The Sunshine Club’ is written and directed by proud Quandamooka man Wesley Enoch, and features 28 songs composed by the esteemed John Rodgers, all to be sung in an Australian accent – a fun point of difference for Warrilow in returning to the field.

“Most musicals are American or British, and you’re always auditioning in American accents or working on your British accents, so this is just so fun, to sing in our own accents!” she said.

Warrilow added that working on the show has been a learning curve in many other ways, being one of only a few white members of the cast.

“I feel really privileged to have been welcomed into my cast of First Nations actors who are so experienced, and have really diverse backgrounds themselves,” she said.

“To be brought into that and to learn parts of language and inside jokes or parts of history and community that I’m not normally privy to living in urban Melbourne, and to be really welcomed in has certainly been my experience, and absolutely our audiences feel that as well.”

However, she said she’s proud to be able to tell such an important and seldom known story.

“I know about this country, I know the way we communicate, the way we sing, so all of that is very familiar, but really the specificity of this story about these first mixed-race dance clubs was just a part of our culture that I really didn’t know, and it’s a really lovely part of our culture,” Warrilow said.

Having toured the show across the country for the past year, Warrilow said that reception couldn’t have been better, with audiences expressing their love for the warm experience of seeing ‘The Sunshine Club’.

In one of their biggest runs of the tour, ‘The Sunshine Club’ will be hitting the stage at West HQ’s Sydney Coliseum for eight shows next month.

“We’re looking forward to really settling in, getting to know the neighbourhood, having lots of audiences in at that theatre,” she said.

“I know everyone says this, but you really will laugh and cry. It’s one of those shows that will have you chuckling along, grooving along with the music, and then really get those emotions going as well.”

‘The Sunshine Club’ will be on at Sydney Coliseum from Thursday, April 11 to Saturday, April 20. For more information or to book, visit

Cassidy Pearce

Cassidy Pearce is a news and entertainment journalist with The Western Weekender. A graduate of the University of Technology Sydney, she has previously worked with Good Morning Macarthur and joined the Weekender in 2022.

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