MAE­STRO CHEF

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

The Advertiser - SA Weekend - - UP FRONT - words sally ben­nett pho­tog­ra­phy ni­cole cleary

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

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