This is the moment. Anthony Warlow is finally playing Jekyll (and Hyde).
Arguably one of Australia’s finest theatrical exports, Anthony has had a career spanning over 30 years, both in Australia and internationally. Notable credits include Archibald Craven (The Secret Garden), Charles Frohman/Captain Hook (Finding Neverland, Broadway), Don Quixote (Man of La Mancha, Washington), Tevye (Fiddler on the Roof), Daddy Warbucks (Annie, for the Australian Tour and Broadway Revival) Captain Corcoran (H.M.S. Pinafore), and, the title roles in Sweeney Todd, Dr Zhivago and The Phantom of the Opera.
Despite being strongly associated with the role, Anthony has never actually performed in Jekyll and Hyde. Having sung the dual title role on the concept recording and workshopping the show with writer Frank Wildhorn, the iconic “This Is The Moment” has become a staple in Anthony’s repertoire.
For a strictly limited run, Anthony is headlining a staged concert version of Jekyll and Hyde, alongside a star-studded cast including Jemma Rix (Wicked, Evita), Martin Crewes (Neighbours, Dr Zhivago, Dream Lover), recent breakout star Annie Aitkin (Thoroughly Modern Millie), and Broadway actor Amanda Lea LaVergne (Annie, Grease, Bring it On).
How has it been revisiting a piece that you’ve been such a big part of?
It’s been fun, actually, this period of time. Working on the score again after 25 years… I’m very aware it’s been a somewhat cursed franchise in this country, getting the show up and running. And this is party why when I was approached for this I decided this would be a ‘one off’ sort of gala night, which is what we’re doing. It’s surprisingly settled in my craw, as they say. You know, 25 years is a long time between drinks, and to come back to a role I had quite a lot to do with when we first put this together.
Can you tell me a bit about your contribution to the show and its development?
There was a recording before ours which was a highlights starring Colm Wilkinson and Linda Eder, and that was the precursor to what Frank [Wildhorn] and Leslie [Bricusse] called the “Definitive Album.” It was meant to be in the style of the Evita concept album, it was a concept, and in that guise, there were things in that that Frank thought would never be produced on stage. My association with Frank and Leslie in this was great, because they allowed me to put my signature onto a lot of stuff, change some of the musicality of the works, and that was exciting in itself. I’m a research nut. I was getting all the information from the book, to as many versions of it i could see on film. For instance, there’s a wonderful moment in the 1933 film with Fredrick March, where he looks at himself in the mirror and says “Free….” And I said to Frank we’ve got to put this in. Frank and I worked on the bridge for “This Is The Moment,” because at that point it was just three verses, it needs to go somewhere to make it music theatre, so we put the verse in and the key change to give it some gravitas. All those elements are my history of involvement.
And despite all that, you’ve never actually played the role. Why is that?
I did not intend to ever perform it, and Frank said “Why don’t you want to do my show?” I created a pretty definite blueprint and, quite frankly, knowing what it is, I don’t want to do that 8 times a week. But for what this was as a concept of a musical, I was really proud of that. It kind of put me on the global map as far as my vocals were concerned. When we did the initial recording, it was out of chronological order. The fact remained that I had never actually sung the show in one go. Having said that, I agreed to do a workshop a few years ago, sang the thing twice in one day, and the producers from Opera Australia took me to dinner and said they’d love me to do it in Australia… to which I replied “no thanks!” [chuckles] And their jaws dropped. “Why?” Well… I’d done it. I proved to myself I can do it. I don’t want to do this 8 times a week, and that’s all there is to it. So they auditioned it and Teddy Tahu Rhodes was going to play the role, with Lucy Maunder as Lisa and, of course, Jemma [Rix] was going to play Lucy. And it fell through. The joy for me is that, when I was asked to do this, I said I’d love for Jemma to play that role. I think she deserves to at least have a go at it. And she’s thrilled to be doing it. I’m thrilled that she is doing it. It’s a fabulous role for her.
Do you have a favourite song in the show?
“This Is The Moment” is the number that everyone knows, and that most people know me for. Frank said this is the number that’ll be a big hit because they’ll use it at sporting events – and they did. People know it even if they don’t realise it’s from the musical. And it’s been my signature piece alongside “Music Of The Night” [from The Phantom Of The Opera]. I also love the duet that he has with Lisa, “Take Me As I Am.” It’s just beautiful. The lyrics are perfect for the moment in the show, it sets up her strengths to deal with him, and how she allowed him to do what he wanted to do. It’s a lovely, lovely duet.
You’ve got quite a repertoire of complex and difficult characters, and Jekyll/Hyde is no exception. Why do you find yourself playing these sorts of roles?
It’s what I love. I love flawed characters because they’re interesting to play. The villain is always the best to play. Sweeney was extraordinary for me, I never thought I’d be able to do it. I’d been asked to do it a few times but the issue there is that I take time putting a role into my body, vocally and physically. So with something like Sweeney, when I was asked to do it in America, they wanted me to come in in two weeks, and I said I need months to look at this role – it’s so complex musically. I spent 5 months learning the role of Jekyll/Hyde, partly in America and partly here.
What can audiences expect from the upcoming production?
With this [Jekyll and Hyde], we are semi-staging it, in vignettes. His vision is very simple and very good. Simple rostrums and the orchestra on stage. We’re costumed to give an idea of the Victorian palette. A few pieces of furniture. Because it’s about the music, it’s about the score. We’re not doing any prosthetics or changing, it’s going to be about the personality. You can still see the person when they are affected by these kind of changes in their mentality and physicality.
Why do you think the story of Jekyll and Hyde has been so engrained in pop culture all these years?
I think it’s in all of us. There are so many themes, the duality of Jekyll/Hyde, the obsession. That’s universal. We all have tantrums, we all get angry at people, people say ‘hate’ is a very harsh word but that’s what people feel sometimes. But it’s the chemical reactions in the brain that halt us from doing anything more dramatic. Jekyll plays with the “what if” – what if that chemical reaction was subdued, anaesthetised, so that you could just do what you want to do and not suffer the consequences. He’s driven to the point of wanting to know what the effects may be, but when he goes through that, like any sort of serious drug addict, he just doesn’t know what he’s doing. You wake up in the morning and you’re in someone else’s bed. On a contemporary level you could take that analogy, look at Ted Bundy – charming as ever, an absolute juxtaposition to what he was. It’s the same thematic, psychotic killer. And we all have some of that in us, to some extent.
Concertworks presents Jekyll and Hyde – The 25th Anniversary Concert
Friday 25th and Saturday 26th October | Hamer Hall, Arts Centre Melbourne
Saturday 2nd November | Darling Harbour Theatre, ICC Sydney
For tickets and more information, please visit the Concertworks website.