Never having performed in New York, Anthony Warlow was amazed when a man there
stopped him on the street in January and said, "Please tell me you're Anthony
Warlow?" The man, it transpired, was a huge fan of Warlow, having heard him sing
on the cast recording of the Leslie Bricusse-Frank Wildhorn musical Jekyll and
Hyde. "When are we going to see you perform here?" the fan wanted to know.
He may not have too long to wait. Warlow was in New York to
workshop a new musical based on the story of The Little Princess, in which the
role of the little girl's father is being written especially for him. He found the
workshop a complete buzz. Each day new pages of dialogue and new songs would
arrive in the rehearsal room. "I thought, 'This is what Broadway is all
about. This is what you see in the movies,'" Warlow says in Sydney. "I
would go back to the hotel at night and pinch myself and say: 'I'm actually doing this.'"
Surprisingly, Warlow hasn't yet performed on Broadway or the West
End. But word of his extraordinary talent is spreading. When Martin Charnin,
the original lyricist and director of Annie, came to direct the recent Australian
production, he was so knocked out by Warlow's portrayal of Daddy Warbucks that he wrote
a new song especially for him. He is featured on the international cast recording
of Les Misérables and gives a monumental performance on the Jekyll and
Warlow had a huge input into the latter, the recording of which was
much like a workshop. It was Warlow, for example, who suggested that he transform
his voice as he moved between the characters of Jekyll and Hyde rather than relying on
computer manipulation. "I said to them, 'I want it in my contract that you don't
use a computer on my voice because I want it to be me doing this,'" he says.
Understandably, the producers were keen for him to star in the show
on Broadway, but he was committed to an Opera Australia production of
Patience. They would have waited for him but Warlow also had misgivings
about the structure of the musical, which gives most of the big numbers to the character
of Lucy rather than Jekyll-Hyde. However, if The Little Princess does make
it to Broadway, he would be thrilled to go with it.
The New York workshop was directed by American director Susan H.
Schulman, who first directed Warlow in the Australian production of The Secret
Garden in the 1990s and now in Man of La Mancha -- Dale (One Flew Over the
Cuckoo's Nest) Wasserman's 1965 musical based on Miguel de Cervantes' classic novel
In another double role, Warlow plays Cervantes and Don Quixote,
requiring the kind of vocal and physical transformations in which he revels. In
fact, so passionate is he about the role that he has transformed himself off-stage too,
losing a lot of weight -- the result of a non-dairy diet and umpteen trips to the
gym -- to look more like Quixote, who is described as "bony and hollow-faced with eyes
that burn with the fire of inner vision".
It has been a lifestyle change Warlow welcomes. "I feel
fantastic to the point where I'm missing going to the gym," he says. And I have
to say, touch wood, that it has built up my immune system." (Warlow battled
lymphoma in the early '90s.)
Warlow first starred in Man of La Mancha as an 18-year-old in
a semi-professional production in his home town of Wollongong, NSW, and has wanted to
revisit the musical. He feels his time has come, that he is the right age (40) and
has the right sensibilities for the character.
"I love the histronics of the role, which I loved when I was with the
Australian Opera," he says with a gleeful grin. "I probably didn't understand a lot
of the nuances of the role [at 18]. My task this time, with Susan, is to get into
his head a bit more."
Warlow considers the role to be the musical theatre equivalent of
King Lear, encompassing "everything that a sing-actor would want to do," he says.
"I've never been more excited about doing a role in my life. I
find it an incredibly moving show. And, without getting on my high horse, I believe
it's time to do a show that has a really good story line and a really good message."
Anthony Warlow and musical director Guy Noble.