Anthony Warlow is one of Australia’s finest leading men of theatre and has been the inspiration for many emerging performers for several decades. However, Anthony Warlow is much more than the incredible voice audiences love. He is also a passionate actor who loves to fully analyse his character and find the depth within the role.

As part of his preparation for the his latest role as Tevye, the character made famous by the legendary Topol, in Fiddler On The Roof, Warlow read the book Tevye The Dairy Man by Sholem Aleichem. Published in 1894, the book tells the story of Jewish family man, Tevye. The musical was originally going to be titled Tevye, but a 1912 painting by French artist Marc Chagall, Le Violinist, prompted the change to the title of Fiddler On The Roof.

The 1912 painting by Marc Chagall that inspired the title of Fiddler On The Roof

The 1912 painting by Marc Chagall that inspired the title of Fiddler On The Roof

“The fiddler is really the spirit of the Jewish people and we’ve actually brought more of the fiddler into this production,” explained Warlow, who performed in the original Australian Opera production in 1984 as a “non-singing gentile”.

Playing opposite Warlow in this latest production of Fiddler On The Roof is Sigrid Thornton, as Tevye’s wife Golde. They will be joined by Mark Mitchell, Nikki Wendt and Lior.

I asked Anthony Warlow what it was like to work with such a strong cast of actors.

“Ahh – fantastic … just wonderful. The one thing that I think (director) Roger Hodgman has done is chosen the right people for these roles. I mean every character in this play,” he replied.

Warlow said a dialect coach has assisted the cast with accents, acknowledging some of the cast have a better ear for this and as a result the sounds are different. At times Hodgman has pulled back a very thick accent and encouraged some cast to give “just the flavour of it”.

“My big thing is I didn’t want it to be about the voices. I didn’t want Tevye to be about the voice. It is about the voice, because it’s the darker Eastern European sound and I’m enjoying playing with that, but it’s about the heart and what comes from that,” added Warlow.

Warlow says the performances by the cast tick all the right boxes, “Just watching people do their thing, the boxes are being ticked.”

Anthony Warlow in rehearsals Fiddler

Another feature that has impressed Anthony Warlow is the new set, which is more like the colours of the original Chagall painting: greys and blues, “The palette of the show is different.”

“It’s all about a small community. Where they live is called a Shtetl. A Shtetl is a small community and there is a sense of ‘we only have this space to live in, to deal with and exist in’. Then of course, they get pushed out. At the end of the show … when they are evicted, is more poignant,” Warlow said, commenting on the nature of the set design in the story-telling process.

“There’s a lot of heart in this production and I will say this: I am trying to find the truth in every moment of this show, because the script is so beautiful. It’s so well written. Joseph Stein has written a beautiful book. There are very few musicals where you can get a book of this quality. Man of La Mancha is another one, in its classic sense and Fiddler On the roof is another beautifully written script and you don’t play with it,” Warlow explained.

Anthony Warlow as Tevye in Fiddler

While Fiddler On The Roof is considered one of the great classic musicals, the story remains just as relevant in today’s modern world.

“In this day and age it’s very poignant – with what’s going in the world and how people move and how they hang on to their cultures. I think it is very right for today,” commented Warlow.

Warlow never thought he’d be right for the role of Tevye, but says he did his research and discovered the story is really about a father and his daughters and how people accept change. Warlow has a daughter of his own and could identify with the character of Tevye. However, he does not simply want his characterisation of Tevye to be an impersonation.

“I’m not Jewish, but I’m learning the things that are vital. The prayers that I mumble – I want them to be real prayers and all that has taken time,” said Warlow.

As Anthony Warlow brings his own signature to the role of Tevye, he acknowledges that some Australian audiences get a little confused when they don’t see him looking as the Anthony Warlow image they are familiar with and wants audiences to prepare for one thing: “Just so you know, I will have a beard and I will have long hair and I won’t look like me.”

Anthony Warlow as Tevye

Fiddler On The Roof is currently in previews ahead of the official opening night on Tuesday 5th January at the Princess Theatre in Melbourne’s East End Theatre District.

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