NEW YORK (AP) - At a restaurant one recent night, Anthony Warlow posed a rather strange question to some fans.
A couple from Atlanta who had just seen the new Broadway revival of “Annie” approached the Australian actor’s table and complimented him on his skills as Daddy Warbucks.
Warlow smiled large. “That’s great,” he told them in his naturally singsongy Aussie accent. Then he pressed for more: “I know this is a funny thing to say, but did I sound like a New Yorker?”
“Oh, my God,” said the husband, nodding to his wife. “She thought you were a native.”
It was the answer Warlow desperately wanted to hear.
“I know I can sing, I know I can act and I can kind of dance, but the one thing I’m really wanting people to believe is that I’m a New Yorker when I’m on that stage,” says the actor in his dressing room at the cavernous Palace Theatre. “I know that sounds silly to say, but it means a lot to me.”
Warlow, known Down Under as the thinking man’s musical theater guy, doesn’t leave much to chance and even less uninvestigated. And making his Broadway debut at age 50, he wants every part of it just so.
His arrival is due in part to patience and some luck _ he had been angling for a role in “Rebecca,” which later collapsed amid questions about its financial backing _ so he’s savoring this time. “I’m overly flattered by being asked to come here and I’m still kind of living the dream,” he says. “I’ve come in taking baby steps.”
Those steps include lots of thinking about accents. Warlow has decided for this more naturalistic “Annie” that Warbucks has a flat mid-Atlantic accent but falls back to his Hell’s Kitchen roots when stressed.
He’s also imagines Warbucks as a former orphan. “The name gives it away _ Oliver,” he says, smiling. That makes Warbucks bond even more with Little Orphan Annie, Warlow argues.
“I like to saturate with as much back story or history. My father used to say to me, `Knowledge is power,’” he says. “I try to live the histories of these characters. It makes it so much easier because you’re not thinking, `I’m doing this, but I don’t know why I’m doing this.’”
This isn’t the first time Warlow has tackled the baldheaded billionaire _ it’s his third. He first played him in 2000 and then again beginning in late 2011, both in Australia.
In fact, he was playing Warbucks when three-time Tony Award-winner James Lapine called late one night in Brisbane to offer him the job on Broadway. It was a unique audition since the two men had never met, although Lapine had watched a lot of YouTube videos of Warlow.
“I’d heard a lot about him over the years but I’d never seen him,” says Lapine. “The word on him was so great, I just thought I’d take a flier on him and, boy, I’m glad I did because he is remarkable.”