Annie: Warlow returns and Alan Jones makes musical theatre debut

Anthony Warlow as Daddy Warbucks
On December 29 this year, the popular Broadway musical Annie will open at Sydney’s Lyric Theatre, featuring a stellar cast of Australia’s leading Musical Theatre performers.

An official announcement of the principal cast of Annie took place just minutes ago, and while some roles were known to be filled, producer John Frost managed to include some surprises.

Returning to the role of New York ‘zillionaire’ Daddy Warbucks will be one of Australia’s greatest theatrical talents, Anthony Warlow (pictured, right), fresh from closing night of Dr. Zhivago in Melbourne yesterday. During the 2000 Australian tour, Annie’s lyricist and original Broadway director Martin Charnin wrote a new song for Warlow to sing as Warbucks – ‘Why Should I Change A Thing’. This was an unprecedented honour, and so it is no wonder Warlow is returning to the role.

Show business legend Nancye Hayes (pictured below) will play the tyrannical Miss Hannigan who runs the orphanage where Annie begins her journey. This is the third Australian production of Anniethat Nancye has been involved with, having played Lily St Regis in the original 1978 production and worked as Assistant Choreographer for the second.

Joining Nancye as her scurrilous brother Rooster Hannigan is television and stage favourite Todd McKenney (The Boy From Oz, Dancing With the Stars) and Chloe Dallimore (The Producers) will feature as Rooster’s “lady friend” Lily St Regis. Australian audiences can rest assured that the number ‘Easy Street’ will be a surefire show-stopper with Hayes, McKenney and Dallimore on board.

Nancye HayesJulie Goodwin, star of West Side Story, will also take to the stage, playing Warbuck’s secretary Grace Farrell.

Finally, making his musical theatre debut in the role of of President Roosevelt (FDR) will be radio veteran Alan Jones AO, well known for his work on radio 2GB, Sydney. Jones is a graduate of Queensland and Oxford Universities, with majors in English and French Language and Literature, Politics and Education.

He has University Blues from both Queensland and Oxford in tennis and for three years, he was speech writer and senior adviser to the then Prime Minister, Right Honourable Malcolm Fraser. Having been appointed a Member of the General Division of the Order of Australia in 1988 (A.M.) and an Officer of the Order of Australia in 2005 (A.O.), Jones seems suitably qualified to be tackling a role with such stature as President Roosevelt.

Heading the creative team is Director Karen Johnson-Mortimer (currently resident director ofWicked, and resident director of Chicago). Karen played Cassie in the original Australian production of A Chorus Line and has appeared in many productions for J.C. Williamson and Sydney Theatre Company including Company, Kiss Me Kate, and No No Nanette.

Joining Johnson-Mortimer is Choreographer Kelly Akers, well known for her work on So You Think You Can Dance (2008, 2009), Guys and Dolls (2001) and Sweeney Todd (2005, 2007) for Opera Australia.

One of Australia’s most versatile Musical Directors, Peter Casey, will head the music team. Casey has been Musical Director of many major musical theatre productions, including Les Miserables, The Sound of MusicThe King and I, The Wizard of Oz, Chicago, Cabaret, Smokey Joe’s Cafe: The Songs of Leiber and Stoller, Topol’s Fiddler on the Roof, Stephen Sondheim’s Company, Monty Python’sSpamalot, the Andrew Lloyd Webber musicals Evita, Cats, Aspects of Love, Song and Dance, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Jesus Christ Superstar, and The Production Company’s productions of Sunset Boulevard, The Pajama Game, 42nd Street, Mame, Crazy For You and The King and I. He was recently Musical Director for the Asian tour of Jekyll & Hyde, and the forthcoming productions of Anything Goes and Kismet for The Production Company. (Phew! And that’s just the tip of the iceberg!)

Announcing his all-star cast, Producer John Frost said, “I’m often asked when Annie will return to the stage, and I’m thrilled that for this new production we have the A-list of Australian musical theatre talent – Anthony Warlow reprising one of his favourite roles, Nancye Hayes putting her mark on the role of the mean Miss Hannigan, and Todd McKenney, Chloe Dallimore and Julie Goodwin who are the cream of Australian talent. And I know Alan Jones will surprise everyone in his musical theatre debut. Our production team is top quality as well – director Karen Johnson-Mortimer, choreographer Kelly Akers and musical director Peter Casey. You can bet your bottom dollar Annie will be a hit again in 2012!”

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell said, “Over the coming years, Sydney will play host to a number of musicals, many of which will have their Australian and World Premiere season in Sydney and many of which will be produced by John Frost. Today we add another musical to the list, the Australian premiere season of Annie and making his musical theatre debut in the role of Franklin D Roosevelt will be Alan Jones. I’m sure his listeners will be the first in line,” Mr O’Farrell said.

In the last month Sydney has been announced as the host city for the Australian Premiere of The Addams Family and the World Premiere of Strictly Ballroom, in addition to securing the Australian Premiere of Legally Blonde, and hosting the recent highly successful first season of Doctor Zhivago.

“Today we again demonstrate Sydney’s re-emergence as the number one city for first run musicals in Australia,” said Mr O’Farrell.
Based on the popular Harold Gray comic strip “Little Orphan Annie”, the musical Annie burst into popularity in 1977 when it opened on Broadway playing 2377 performances. A winner of seven Tony Awards (including Best Musical, Best Score and Best Book), the show is set in Depression Era, New York City where conomy looked bleak, government seemed ineffective and the average citizen was desperate and frustrated. Sound familiar?

Annie first toured Australia from 1978 and returned again in 2000 (produced by John Frost) starring Anthony Warlow, Amanda Muggleton, Jane Scali, Philip Gould and Angela Kelly. For this production,

Full of toe-tapping hits such as ‘It’s the Hard Knock Life’, ‘Easy Street’, ‘You’re Never Fully Dressed Without A Smile’, ‘Maybe’ and ‘Tomorrow’. These wonderful songs have become staples of musical theatre repertoires worldwide and now, 34 years on, it remains one of the most loved and universally appealing musicals of all time.

Erin James

Erin James is's former Editor in Chief and a performer on both stage and screen. Credits include My Fair Lady, South Pacific and The King and I (Opera Australia), Love Never Dies and Cats (Really Useful Group), Blood Brothers (Enda Markey Presents), A Place To Call Home (Foxtel/Channel 7) and the feature film The Little Death (written and directed by Josh Lawson).

Erin James

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