Direct from Broadway promised an evening of tunes from one of the world’s most revered entertainment districts. Attempting to deliver on that ideal were renowned Australian performer Anthony Warlow with Faith Prince, who co-starred with him in the Broadway production of Annie.
Joining forces to sing a range of songs from many musicals such as Fiddler on the Roof, Guys and Dolls and Sweeney Todd, they set out to entertain as well as educate. Backed by a 30 piece orchestra, the show’s aims would falter in a lacklustre event.
From the start what stood out was the quality of the orchestra. With violinists on the left of the stage, the brass ensemble on the right, with piano and drums in the middle, the rich sounds were dazzling in their majesty. Effectively bringing the songs to life, the orchestra was made up of those mostly from the Adelaide Art Orchestra and did a great job.
After a brief instrumental interlude, Warlow and Prince arrived on stage and duly began their performance. Unfortunately, without any background to what song they were singing, the power of the lyrics failed to resonate. This continued for the entire production with very little said of what the song titles were, what shows they were from or why they were included. What transpired was an endless stream of anonymous tunes for those unversed in Broadway melodies. Some exposition for unaware music listeners would have worked wonders with the constant barrage of unnamed tracks generating ongoing tedium.
Another problem was the on-stage interaction. Instead of being themselves and talking to their audience naturally, they took the decision to play heightened versions of other characters, with Prince’s ‘Jewish New-York broad’ routine quickly becoming grating. Warlow wasn’t much better with a telethon-style impersonation routine after the intermission having no connection to the show’s theme.
Mean-spirited impressions of Michael Crawford as Frank Spencer, Dean Martin and Cary Grant were self-indulgent in their vaudevillian antiquity. This sketch highlighted the fact the show gradually became all about Warlow and Prince and not the songs they supposedly adored. Whilst their vocal range was indeed amazing to hear, the entire presentation ruined the required sense of emotion and atmosphere. It was less an ode to 1920s style grooves and more akin to 1970s Mike Walsh Show blue rinsed shenanigans.
Perhaps Broadway enthusiasts may have gotten more out of the show although it needed to be more assessable. Its old fashioned contrivances seemed to be appreciated by most of its spectators and there is no denying Warlow and Prince can belt out a number – however workmanlike they are rendered. Apart from that, it was poorly directed and seemingly cobbled together without any form of presentation style.
Probably the least cabaret-like show in the entire festival, Direct from Broadway revelled in its mediocrity much to the admiration of its generally undemanding audience.
Reviewed by: Patrick Moore
Venue: Festival Theatre
Season: 10 June 2014 only
Duration: 2hrs (inc. interval)
The Adelaide Cabaret Festival runs from 6 – 21 July 2014