Warlow has Faith on side
Anthony Warlow. Picture: Brendon O'Hagan

On his first day on Broadway to play Daddy Warbucks in the hit musical Annie, singer Anthony Warlow decided to write a daily diary of his time in the show.

From his arrival on August 5, 2012, until the final curtain 17 months later on January 5, 2014, Warlow amassed a wealth of anecdotes about his time on Broadway, his fellow cast members, the production of Annie, and outside work he did on workshopping new musicals.

"I've already had a couple of publishers interested in my diary," he says, although he gives the impression there are no deals in the offing.

Performers' diaries always make for fascinating reading, provided they are candid enough, and an Australian on Broadway making his mark in a leading role would make a great theme for a book.

Warlow's life story in Australia and his gradual move from his opera origins to blockbuster musicals has been well documented at home, even if it's not so well known on Broadway.

The American producers of the 35th anniversary production of Annie were keen to have him as Daddy Warbucks, however, and swiftly arranged for him to move from the Australian production of the same show to New York.

"I believe it's the first time an Australian has gone into a leading role in an American production," Warlow says with just a touch of well-deserved pride.

The new Broadway production at the Palace Theatre in the heart of Times Square was directed by the renowned James Lapine, creating a version that Warlow describes as far darker than the original.

How so? It more accurately reflects the Depression-era atmosphere of New York in the 1920s, the period in which the original comic strip Little Orphan Annie was created, explains Warlow.

"There is also a design palette of darker colours, with not such a reliance on the technical sophistication of modern Broadway productions," he says.

"There was a flat, angular look to the production, with vast areas of the stage washed with light and looking like an industrial wasteland."

It was during Annie that Warlow made friends with his co-star Faith Prince, a Broadway star in her own right who was playing Miss Hannigan, the owner of the boarding house where Annie fetches up. In such long-running productions it is not uncommon for stars to move in and out of the cast, and Prince arrived in the second year, says Warlow.

"Faith re-energised the show and we really hit it off." So much so, that when Warlow returned to Australia at the end of last year and was asked by promoters to do a concert series, he immediately thought of Prince as his musical partner.

"Faith and I have been working on material from Broadway shows that we might do," says Warlow. "But we didn't want to do the usual stuff we're familiar with, but to challenge ourselves in the kind of choices we make.

"There are certainly a lot of musical styles to play with, and many of the numbers will be duets - everything from Sondheim to Fiddler on the Roof, Guys and Dolls, Man of La Mancha."

Warlow says the show will be relaxed ("We'll do some chatting") with the songs reflecting the theme of relationships at various stages. "There will be songs about young love, adult relationships, break-ups, of course, and the regret that comes

with it."

No doubt there will be plenty of anecdotes about his time on Broadway, and if inspiration on this front is drying up he will only need to turn to his diary to refresh his memory.

He has fond memories of playing in Annie in the historic Palace Theatre, where many illustrious performers have trod the boards.

"We had to get in an old elevator to reach the stage - one of those metal cages that clanked their way up. When I asked why we took an elevator instead of just walking up the stairs, I was told the elevator was put in for Sarah Bernhardt, the famous actress.

"She couldn't walk up the stairs because she had a wooden leg."

Anthony Warlow and Faith Prince: Direct from Broadway at Crown Theatre, June 14.

The West Australian

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