There’s another side to Broadway star Anthony Warlow that few people see but swapping the stage for the kitchen isn’t likely — although a cookbook is in the pipeline
Anthony Warlow’s dinner parties are
ANTHONY Warlow’s next big career move may not be the standing ovation kind. Australia’s very own Broadway star saves some of his best performances for the kitchen, where his creativity is let off the leash, free of the restrictions that come from moulding into a character on stage.
Rest assured, he cooks with a healthy dollop of flamboyance and a side serve of entertainment, as those who’ve had the privilege of sitting around his dinner table can attest.
For musical producer John Frost, it’s a gift from the ticket-selling gods. Not only does Warlow have the talent and fame to pack out theatres, he can wow potential investors with three or more courses of culinary convincing.
That is, after all, how Doctor Zhivago made it to the stage.
“I remember another night, he cooked a meal for my partner and myself,” Frost begins. “We were all sitting in the kitchen and he was cooking this three-course meal and every now and then he’d disappear and come back in a different wig and play all these different characters. It went on for over an hour and we were just hysterical.”
It was years before the rise of reality TV and celebrity chefs and Frost, ever the businessman, suggested Warlow should have his own cooking show.
“And Anthony said, ‘OK, well let’s do it now’. So he played the stage manager, the director, the gay chef and all these different characters as if we were in a studio filming this cooking show.
“It’s a side of him that no one sees. People think of him as a serious singer, but there is a wacky, crazy side to him and if you could capture that on television he’d be a bigger star than he already is. You’d probably never hear him sing again, but he is very, very funny and a lot of people don’t see that.”
Warlow, 52, isn’t dismissing the idea of reinventing himself as a cook – he hankers to write his own cookbooks but cringes at the term “celebrity” – and admits he’d swap the stage for the kitchen quicker than you can crack an egg, if only he could afford it. One wonders, after a long and lucrative performing career, if that’s really a plausible excuse and concludes there’s plenty of song left in Warlow yet.
He is soon to join his Broadway co-star in Annie, Faith Prince, in a national concert tour that swings into the Festival Theatre for the Adelaide Cabaret Festival on Tuesday.
They’ll be performing an eclectic mix of music from Broadway hits – among them My Fair Lady, Annie, Fiddler on the Roof, Sweeney Todd, Guys and Dolls – with a 30-piece orchestra. “The challenge for me was to learn some material that I’ve never done before and a lot of it is duet based,” Warlow says.
“So we worked on this arc that is about relationships... young love, middle-aged love, marriage, divorce, how people can change... and then the second half is more about us as two individuals and then we come together again.”
Before, during and after that, Warlow will be in the closest available kitchen. Or at the market. Or buried in a cookbook.
French is his specialty and he typically makes three different versions of a dish before crafting his own recipe, which is then handwritten and stored with all the others that will likely become his first book.
The single father of one, and cancer survivor, has learned to find solace in the kitchen when the stress of life becomes overwhelming. Warlow is particularly at ease in his own kitchen in Toorak, where he serendipitously wound up buying the apartment of a former Tivoli showgirl.
He was signing the purchase papers about six years ago when the former owner’s granddaughter mentioned how thrilled her grandmother would have been to know the apartment would be “kept in a theatrical bloodline”.
“It’s more like a home than an apartment... it’s always just felt good,” he says of his surrounds. “I made sure the kitchen was not over-the-top but a good working kitchen and I find that if I’m in any form of stress I get out the risotto pan and start working.”
Warlow’s love of cooking was informed by his mother, sister and a “beautiful friend of the family, a real CWA kind of cook”.
He makes everything from scratch – “I’m not a packet food person” – and will spend hours preparing a meal just for himself. “It’s the satisfaction of doing it from scratch. I’ll go to the market and make a night of it for myself. Sometimes I’ll prep things before I go to the theatre, then I’ll come home and make it and sit quietly and eat it. That’s what I do.
“I love the alchemy of cooking, the theatre of it. It’s creating something. Someone said that the three great arts are painting, music and food. With food you’re the artists, you put the colour in it, you present it to the table and it has the ability to knock out the senses. It can look fabulous, be beautifully presented and smell great and taste good as well.”
It probably shouldn’t be surprising to learn that Warlow is such a multitalented entertainer – his stage credits make him arguably Australia’s most successful musical theatre and opera star. His most notable roles include The
Phantom of the Opera (as The Phantom), The Secret Garden (as Archibald Craven), Annie (as Daddy Warbucks, in Australia twice and on Broadway), Guys and Dolls (as Sky Masterson), My Fair Lady (as Henry Higgins), Les Misérables (as Enjolras), and
Doctor Zhivago (as Doctor Yuri Zhivago). Warlow speaks frankly and modestly about his two years on Broadway, neither talking his achievement up nor down; just discussing it as anyone would their experience of living abroad.
He was surprised and chuffed to be enthusiastically embraced by the musical community who sent him mortified apologies saying they were “appalled” and “embarrassed” that Warlow was “robbed” of a Tony Award nomination.
“They take it very seriously, but I didn’t go to New York to get a Tony. I went to do the show and have the experience.”
Warlow did get a kick out of the way Americans “celebrate everything at the drop of a hat” and says living in Times Square was both exhilarating and exhausting.
He has, naturally, quite a bit to say about his favourite restaurants, the recipes he cheekily asked chefs for, and the numerous cooking shows he watched after getting home from a performance.
“They have the Create channel and the cooking shows on that were extraordinary,” Warlow says. “I can’t stand, sorry to say, these
Master Chefs and stuff where it’s all about competition. I don’t think cooking should be competitive. I think it should be something that makes you feel good and it’s your own unique thing.
“I’m not competitive that way. Actually, I’ve never really been competitive.” Anthony Warlow and Faith Prince: Direct From Broadway, Adelaide Festival Theatre, June 10. Book at adelaidefestivalcentre.com.au
Anthony Warlow and Lucy Maunder in Doctor Zhivago, below