A few posts ago, when I was talking about “Til I Hear You Sing” from Love Never Dies, I called Anthony Warlow “the absolute best male voice on Broadway in the past fifty years.” This is one heck of a claim, because I’m not actually an authoritative source on these things, and because there are a lot of really good male voices in musicals. (This is, as I understand it, part of the point of musicals, to put people in them who can sing super well. I lied before. I am actually an authority on this stuff.)
Anthony Warlow is not my first choice as a leading man on Broadway, which is why I think he’s potentially overlooked in this pantheon. Mandy Patinkin or Gavin Creel or Michael Cerveris bring more energy and stronger acting chops to a role than Warlow could, but none of them can touch the voice. None of the above, nor Ramin Karimloo, Tam Matu, Adam Pascal, Norm Lewis, Raul Esparza, Jeremy Jordan, Santino Fontana or (gasp!) Colm Wilkinson or even John Owen-Jones can touch that voice. It is superlative, the perfect distillation of power and precision and purity. He is the vocal equivalent of a figure skater with the lungs of a cross-country skier. He has maybe my favorite note ever.
“Confrontation” is a difficult song to sing; it requires a rapid change between the Jekyll voice and the Hyde voice, which are sung in different registers, to say nothing of acting one way or another; the most common way to perform this number is to have the actor playing Jekyll and Hyde flip back and forth between the two characters, facing one way for Jekyll and the other for Hyde. Here’s David Hasselhoff trying it:
It isn’t pretty. Musical theater is so overwrought already that the veneer on it is necessarily thin; it doesn’t take much work to look at the people in Phantom of the Opera or Les Miserables or Hamilton and respond only with incredulity. “Confrontation,” more than most musical performances, needs some sturm und drang to distract from the potentially neutering silliness of a man flipping back and forth and fight-singing with his other personality. Clearly, there are bunches of ways to make this work, or otherwise we wouldn’t have musicals anymore: helicopters landing on stage, acrobatic dance routines, the unconquerable pathos of Alice Ripley, etc. For “Confrontation,” there has to be some voice which distracts from the inherently quaint action on stage; for this, we have Anthony Warlow.