Musicals, Australians, and Dreams Deferred

Members of Oh Theodora have not had the best experiences with NYC theater. OT's Lisa Dellagiarino recently made a pilgrimage to the big city to see a beloved performer in Annie, only to have her hopes dashed by the garbage machine that is the human body. She sent over a piece about this experience, to run in advance of Oh Theodora's special odds & ends show at Studio Be tonight (Friday 1/25). 

Before I started writing sketch comedy, I wrote comedic plays. I have always loved the theater. Since I am a girl, I especially love musicals, so it was inevitable that I would come to adore Anthony Warlow. You have never heard of him, but Anthony Warlow is a musical theater and opera star from Australia. He is so good at what he does that the people of Australia voted him one of their country’s 100 “Living National Treasures.”

Nicholas Cage spends several movies searching for America’s national treasure, while Australia’s national treasure can often be found doing 8 shows a week.
Nicholas Cage spends several movies searching for America’s national treasure, while Australia’s national treasure can often be found doing 8 shows a week.

Some people say that the greatest sound in the world is a baby’s laughter. Those people are morons. The greatest sound in the world is Anthony Warlow singing your name:

Behind the din of three other people, Anthony Warlow sings my name five glorious times.

Years ago, my friend Elizabeth and I dubbed any note that a singer belts out and holds forever to be a ‘Warlow Note.’ “S/He hits Warlow Notes” was just about the nicest thing you could say about a vocalist. Here's a video of a very young Anthony Warlow singing “Anthem” from “Chess.” Oh man, the Warlow Notes in this one!

In fact, the only thing not to love unconditionally about Anthony Warlow is how much time he spends in Australia. In 1992, he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. When he began working again after going into remission, he started saying no to more projects, staying in Australia, and watching his daughter grow up.

What a swell guy. What a great father. But what a travesty for 16-year-old Lisa Dellagiarino of the United States of America, who wanted so desperately to hear him sing live. I had to console myself with the vow that when I was an adult, I would make a trip to Australia.

And so life rolled on, until last November when I learned that Anthony Warlow was on my continent, finally making his Broadway debut. He was here, he was here. There was only one course of action to take: On Friday, January 18th, my old friend Elizabeth, her boyfriend, and I all converged on New York City to begin a weekend that had been sixteen years in the waiting.

That was Anthony Warlow singing a duet with himself, aka everyone’s favorite thing in the world. (From “Jekyll & Hyde”)

Saturday dawned unseasonably warm and bright, as all days when dreams come true do. How great it was to be alive and young and living in a world in which Anthony Warlow comes to New York – even though he was playing Daddy Warbucks in “Annie,” a play I had to see three times when my sister was in it and never wanted to see again. Still, I would gladly pay money to see Anthony Warlow do anything, and on Saturday, January 19th, I did.

We poured into the Palace Theater with half the children of New York City. Elizabeth and her boyfriend went to get drinks from the bar. I opened my playbill, and a slip of paper fell into my lap: “At tonight’s performance, the role of Oliver Warbucks will be played by Merwin Foard.” I panicked for a second before remembering that Anthony Warlow wasn’t OLIVER Warbucks, he was DADDY Warbucks. Maybe Oliver was his son? …But if Daddy Warbucks had a son, he wouldn’t invite an orphan over for Christmas. Oh no. Oh no. Oh no, no, no.

It couldn’t be true. My playbill was obviously left over from yesterday’s show. It was fathomable that he had been out yesterday, but I had flown from Chicago to see him today. He wasn’t out today. I checked Elizabeth’s playbill. The same slip of paper was inside. Two leftover playbills, what careless ushers! I opened her boyfriend’s. His had it, as well. The harsh reality was that Anthony Warlow was not there. We were just three adults with tickets to “Annie.” 

Hope is a strange thing. When you are a white girl from suburbia who grew up wanting for nothing save that pony you asked for every Christmas, hope takes much longer to die than it would if the world had beaten you down your whole life. Until Understudy Daddy Warbucks walked on, a small part of me still believed that Anthony Warlow would show up. When that hope was quashed, I latched onto tomorrow’s matinee: We could at least meet him at the stage door tomorrow and tell him how we had made the pilgrimage to New York for him. But when we called the theater the next day to see if he was going on, we were told that Anthony Warlow had the flu. Damn you, the flu! Damn you to hell for what you took from me!

This is what humans look like when their dreams die.

This is what humans look like when their dreams die.

So it came to pass that I spent the flight back to Chicago trying to convince myself not to be upset with the way the weekend had panned out. I got to spend almost 48 hours with one of my oldest friends, and I will see Anthony Warlow on that trip to Australia that I plan to make one day. There are plenty of tomorrows left in which our paths can cross. Still, that’s small consolation for someone who has already waited sixteen years, and who knows that tomorrow is always a day away.

The flu prevented my heart from singing this on January 19th – but I will prevail in the end. I will prevail in the end, flu.

-Lisa Dellagiarino