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The calendar may read 2013, but once you walk inside Broadway’s Palace Theatre expect a blast from 80 years past. The opening newsreel confirms it: It’s 1933, and the peak of The Great Depression. FDR’s in the White House; J. Edgar Hoover is heading up the FBI; the huddled masses are piling onto breadlines and the rough-and-tumble girls of the orphanage run by Miss Hannigan are trying to sleep away their “hard knock” lives...unsuccessfully.
Luckily, there’s a spitfire redhead among their ranks, assuring herself and her fellow orphans that “the sun’ll come out tomorrow.” Annie, America’s foremost orphan optimist, played by Taylor Richardson and Sadie Sink in alternating performances, is back in the spotlight—only this time, the Hannigan in charge is played by the always-fabulous Faith Prince (Guys and Dolls; The Little Mermaid).
Faith Prince and Emily Rosenfeld. Photo: Joan Marcus
(Of the two new Annies, who replaced Lilla Crawford in late July, Richardson has been with the production since the beginning, playing the role of Duffy. Sink has been a standby with the production for the roles Molly, Kate, Tessie, July and Duffy.)
Anthony Warlow. Photo: Joan Marcus
On the other end of the musical’s boss spectrum is business tycoon Oliver Warbucks (Anthony Warlow), who goes from Type-A billionaire to softhearted Daddy Warbucks at the hands of the tenacious Annie. It’s their transformative relationship that serves as the musical’s heart.
An esteemed Australian theatre and opera performer, Warlow boasts a career 35 years strong (so far!) with Down Under credits that include starring roles in Guys and Dolls, Les Misérables, and yes, Annie. In fact, Warlow was knee-deep in yet another Australian production of Annie when Broadway director James Lapine snapped him up for the New York stage. “I always dreamed of being on Broadway,” says Warlow, who admits to having grown up on a diet of American musicals.
Richardson and Sink. Photo: Jade Albert
But his first time away from his homeland led him to London. “That was in 1996, following my first commercial musical in Australia, which was Guys and Dolls,” he recalls. “I was there for six weeks and saw every play and every musical I could on the West End.”
After returning home, steady work and a growing reputation made him relatively content to stay in Australia, even as he occasionally thought about pursuing work on the West End someday. Broadway, on the other hand, seemed like the longest of long shots. “To actually jump and go directly to Broadway [with no West End buffer]—I never thought that would be the case,” he says.
Once he started working with Lapine, however, Warlow realized the Broadway production was no carbon copy of the Annie he had worked on in Australia. Indeed, he found himself facing a slew of changes and updates.
“[Playing Warbucks] does, in some regards, feel like putting on old shoes,” Warlow says. “But the shoes have been updated and refurbished to the point where even the laces have changed. James Lapine has decided to cut and paste and change things around,” he continues, adding that the edits have given him a more balanced character.
Still, diehard Annie fans won’t sense a departure from the classic musical they know and love. “No matter what has been done to this production, the essence, the core and the heart are always going to be the same.”
Having teamed up with a number of Annies throughout his career, Warlow knows what makes the strong-minded tyke and the larger-than-life power player mesh together so well, and eventually become father and daughter. In short, Warbucks sees himself in Annie and realizes that her tenacity equals his own. “In the four minutes of the song ‘NYC,’ he discovers how she’s basically working her life the way he’s worked his. And he falls in love with that.”
Warlow goes on to point out that when he did the show in Australia, “We had three casts of children… not just three Annies, but three whole sets of orphans. In this situation, we have one group of children [who are] intelligent, delightful, talented, amazing people.
“And that’s been a big eye opener for me, the amount of raw talent these kids have. It’s extraordinary,” he concludes.
Annie is playing at the Palace Theatre, 47th St. & Broadway. For tickets, call 877-250-2929 or click here.
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