Year after year the Adelaide Cabaret Festival showcases the best of the best – the crème de la crème of cabaret and musical theatre. This year the excitement and anticipation in the packed-to-the-rafters Adelaide Festival Theatre was palpable. Who wouldn’t get excited at the prospect of hearing Anthony Warlow’s impossibly brilliant voice, or Faith Prince’s comedic genius? The promise of Direct from Broadway had audiences salivating, eager to fall more in love with our musical theatre idols.
Direct from Broadway began with promise, and showed sporadic glimpses of pure brilliance, but the production never reached its full potential. The ‘mini-musical’ explored a broad narrative focus – ‘Marriage in the first degree’ – and compared life on stage with real life, punctuated by a collection of mostly obscure musical theatre numbers.
The powerhouse voice of Anthony Warlow impressed in Soliloquy, and there were teases of other familiar favourites (Music of the Night, One Moment in Time). But in a show where solo items were rare, songs like Rock-a-Bye Your Baby with a Dixie Melody in the style of a myriad of artists (Michael Crawford, James Cagney, Cary Grant, Walter Brennan, Marlon Brando, Bette Davis, and Dean Martin) definitely highlighted Warlow’s skill at mimicry and comedy, but gradually became repetitive. Lets be honest, many in the audience wanted nothing more than to hear the songs that Anthony Warlow has sung 20,000 times and more!
Faith Prince, like Warlow, also opted for less common musical options. The Boy From… was a crowd favourite and showcased her famed comedy, while her road song, Sweet Kentucky Ham, had audiences on the edge of their seat. The various duets with Anthony Warlow, including an Annie medley (with a begrudged Tomorrow), A Little Priest, and various items from Guys and Dolls were all engaging, but not breathtaking.
The linking dialogue never felt comfortable with the dual attractions onstage. Individually, however, both Warlow and Prince were stellar. Similarly, the solo items were the greatest crowd pleasers and so in hindsight perhaps the duet heavy show should be rethought. In a show with structural deficits, Direct from Broadway had the opportunity to turn its fortunes around until the last moment – but no encore was forthcoming. The audience then dissipated in a subdued state.
The Adelaide Art Orchestra was exceptional throughout the entire performance, under the expert guidance of conductor Joey Chancey. The lighting enhanced the performance, and the vocal sound quality was far superior with handheld microphones.
Anthony Warlow and Faith Prince in Direct from Broadway was not the show most had anticipated, but nevertheless, the opportunity to see either of these two ‘Broadway Royals’ is not something that should be passed up. I would have preferred Direct from Broadway – Individually.