Anthony Warlow and Faith Prince were only on stage together for a moment during Annie, but they immediately knew they had a rare connection. Warlow was playing the role of Oliver “Daddy” Warbucks in the Broadway production. Prince was the third performer to play Mrs Hannigan. Their time together on stage was brief, but as Prince says, from that one little exchange has come a whole show!
The pair realised they had a special chemistry and spent considerable time chatting back stage, then had every Friday lunch together, talking about the shows they enjoyed and realising how similar they were, not only in their interests but also in their work ethic and values. Warlow says its rare to find someone in the theatre industry like this; someone you feel comfortable enough with to try out new things and take the role to a deeper level and, as he says, explore another world. Warlow describes it as a shared sensibility, being able to play around in that moment without distorting the direction for the show.
Within minutes of talking with Prince it was clear to me why she and Warlow immediately clicked. They are both highly intelligent and deeply thinking performers looking for the depth in their characters. Prince describes them as being like a brother and sister. They have a lot of fun together and can talk endlessly. In fact, Prince's husband commented, “You two are a like an ongoing act.” Prince's reply was, “Well funny you should say that!” She knew they had to do their own show together.
Prince was blown away by Warlow's performance in Annie. Apart from his “gorgeous voice” she was immediately impressed by his genius and understanding of the complexity in his character. Prince herself is more of a character actor than a leading lady. Although Warlow is best known for his leading man roles, he too is quite the character actor and every time Prince would see these character portrayals during their many long conversations, she'd tell him, “You have to put that in the show!”
Prince established herself as a Broadway star playing the role of Miss Adelaide in the 1992 Broadway revival of Guys and Dolls, for which she won both a Tony and Drama Desk Award. Other credits include Bells Are Ringing and A Catered Affair. Television credits include Spin City, Ugly Betty, Grey's Anatomy, CSI, Faith, House, Medium, Monk and Law & Order. From Broadway to television, to cabaret and symphony concerts, Prince has done them all. She enjoys the diversity and challenges each genre brings.
Warlow debuted at the age of 19 with Australia Opera in their 1981 production of A Midsummer Night's Dream. His professional musical theatre debut followed in 1985 playing Sky Masterton in Guys and Dolls at the National Theatre in London. He originated the role of Enjolras in the Australian production of Les Miserables then established himself as “Australia's first man of music theatre” in the title role in Phantom Of The Opera. He also created the role of Yurii Zhivago in the world premiere of Doctor Zhivago.
Prince's all-time favourite song to perform is If He Walked Into My Life from Mame. She loves the mother-like roles Jerry Herman writes. She explains, they're not mothers as such, but rather they're mother-like roles. Being a mother herself, Prince finds a connection in these roles. Prince has never played Mame but understands the complexity of the role. The more depth and complexity there is in a role, the more she is drawn to it, whether it's a dramatic role or a comedic one.
Warlow's favourite song to perform is Soliloquy from Carousel. It is a song Warlow has always loved, and one he recorded early in his career, but before his daughter was born. He says after the birth of Phoebe the whole sense of this song changed for him. It made the song much more grounded and more dramatic. There are certainly songs Warlow knows his audience expects to hear him perform: songs from Phantom and Jekyll (This Is The Moment,) but Warlow wants to challenge his audiences and for them to consider songs he loves from shows he has never actually performed.
Warlow regards himself as a “celebrated cover artist,” explaining the fact his roles have already been performed by someone else. His challenge is to put his own signature on these roles, without making them different. It's about giving the role a certain spiciness or stylistic change, even if that is simply vocally. Warlow feels this makes it more interesting not just for the audience but for himself. He admits that may be a little selfish but says if he's not titillated by what he's doing on stage then he may as well be doing something else. Warlow knows that doing eight shows a week is a job – and it's all he's ever done – but knows he needs to find the essence of something in each role to keep him buoyant and make the performance interesting each night.
During the return season of Phantom Of The Opera in 2007, Warlow chose not to give his audience the “pretty vocals” he had originally performed in 1990. He said audiences knew what the songs sounded like and, instead, chose to instil a different vocal quality to the character. Since that first production, much had changed in Warlow's life. He had battled cancer, become a father and dealt with the ups and downs of relationships and life in general. His portrayal of the Phantom came more from a place of truth this second time round and Warlow felt the character was more real and less of a two dimensional one.
Prince says rehearsing with Warlow has been such a delight. Similarly, Warlow describes them as an absolute joy. Even the day of back to back interviews (mine came at the end of the long day!) Warlow says was great fun together. They do however, have their differences. Warlow describes himself as being very laconic. He doesn't speak too much during rehearsals and just executes what needs to be done. Prince, on the other hand, is incredibly articulate and will dissect and rationalise exactly what she is doing. Warlow describes the rehearsal period for their upcoming concert tour as being like a masterclass with Prince as his teacher, although admits he lives by the credo of never being too old to learn.
As for performing in concert, Warlow feels it is much scarier than being a character in a musical. As he quite appropriately puts it, he is “out there without a mask.” At the same time, though, Warlow knows that when things do work, it has come from him as a person. When the comedy works it's from him, not from someone else's script and he knows that it is his own personality that is making the show buoyant. Warlow says this is both scary and challenging, but when treated with modesty and humility it can work a treat.
While Warlow is well known for his superb singing voice and his outstanding portrayal of musical theatre roles, he is probably lesser known for his incredibly clever wit and comedic talent off stage. When I asked if we will see much of this side of him on the night, Warlow quickly responds with a somewhat cheeky, “You might!”
As our interview came to a conclusion I reminded Warlow of the Melbourne launch of Annie, when he spontaneously performed Tomorrow as Yurii Zhivago. Warlow immediately broke out in something sounding incredibly like Russian to the familiar tune of Tomorrow … although he tells me it was probably more a mix of Polish and Hungarian. Yes, Warlow is indeed a very talented comedic performer.
As for the songs on the night, well I can't tell you what they will be … because I don't actually know. They are likely to include songs from My Fair Lady, Annie, Guys and Dolls, Man of La Mancha and a whole lot more – and all backed by a 30 piece orchestra. What I do know is this: Anthony Warlow and Faith Prince are both incredibly talented in their own right, but put them together and this is guaranteed to be a concert event to remember and certainly one not to be missed!
Direct From Broadway opens at the Adelaide Cabaret Festival on June 10th then tours to Perth, Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
For more details and for tickets: www.anthonywarlowlive.com