THE LEADING MEN: Aussie Anthony Warlow Keeps It Real as Annie's Daddy Warbucks

By Kenneth Jones
07 Nov 2012

Warlow in the Sydney revival of Annie earlier this year.
Photo by Jeff Busby

Warbucks' surname has always interested me.
AW: Yeah, he made his money in the war.

He's an "industrialist" in the show, but possibly a munitions manufacturer, no? He made his fortune making bombs and tanks in the Great War. Was that in the comic strip?
AW: Yes. That's his life. He started off as a telegraph boy and worked for a scrap iron merchant, took over the business, and then when World War I happened, he got lucky and sold the scrap metal to be melted down and made into planes, trains and automobiles, for the war. That's where the name "Warbucks" comes from.

Is this all in Gray's comic strip?
AW: This is partly in his comic strip. It's partly in the other books that I've found and read, which have been written, and after conversations with the creative team. I found that very interesting. He hated Roosevelt — loathed Roosevelt.

Gray or Warbucks?
AW: Gray and Warbucks. And there's a moment where Gray kills [Warbucks] off [in the comic strip], I think in '44. Gray thought that the political time saw that capitalism was not acceptable to be talked about. So he killed him off. But then he comes back at some point. He's reincarnated. When Roosevelt died, there is a comic — one of the strips — where Warbucks is seen dancing on [Roosevelt's] grave.

In the comic strips, Warbucks used to go off onto these mysterious missions and things, and Annie would be left to fend for herself, and then he'd just appear six months later. He'd be off doing stuff with Stalin and goodness knows what, so there's quite a dark side of him.

Lyricist and original Broadway director Martin Charnin directed you in Annie in Australia in 2000. Was he your advocate for getting the Broadway production?
AW: He was. He really was. I think it's hard for anyone to give up a child like this, but I think he's been very gracious with it and allowed James to do his version of it. I know that there have been notes going back and forth from all sections of the team, and James has, in part, said, "I agree with this. That's fine. I'm putting my foot down here because it's not my vision." And, they said, "Okay, well if that's the case, then we'll rewrite this little bit here." And, it's been a compromise, but I think a happy one.

Have musical theatre and opera always been part of your world?
AW: Yeah, they have. I started off classically. I started off being trained as a boy soprano and then singing classically — and wanted to be that histrionic baritone on the operatic stage. Got to do it! I've never really heard my voice as being beautiful. I've heard it as a good tool to be able to omit emotions and to tell the story, and that's how I work. My icons — my idols — were people like Tito Gobbi, who had a big sound, but wasn't afraid to gravel it up or scream a note to create an effect. That's the way I work. I studied lieder. I've studied, which is why I have a good breath capacity. What I don't want, and I've tried not to do, is to make it look difficult. I want my music and my singing to be so easy that people think, "Oh, I can do that," and when they try, they can't. I love modern art, and I collect antiques and modern art, and there's that tension in using different colors. And, that's kind of what I am — a vocal colorist.