Alex Bourne

Alex Bourne, who will play Daddy Warbucks in the upcoming West End production of Annie, talks rehearsals, Laurence Olivier Award nominations, and shaving his head.

Alex, please can you sum up Annie in one sentence for anyone who hasn’t seen it?

Annie is a feel-good show for people of all ages – not just for kids, but for everybody. It’s got a wonderful story.

You were in the touring production of Annie last year. How are rehearsals for the West End show going in comparison?

We’ve been rehearsing for over a fortnight night now, and it’s going very well. I thought we’d come in and recreate last year’s show, but the director and choreographer have had so many fantastic ideas and the whole thing has been reimagined. It’s got an all-new cast of child actors who are all bringing lots of wonderful things to the table, which is very exciting.

Do you find it inspiring working with younger actors?

Yes, definitely, they’re all so talented. The thing about Annie is, it’s very exploratory for the child actors, and our director, Nikolai Foster, wants them all to bring their own thing to their characters. Each Annie brings her own traits, as do all the orphans. The kids do what they’re feeling, rather than what they’re just told to do.

How are you approaching the character of Daddy Warbucks compared to the UK tour?

On tour I played a very nice Daddy Warbucks, but in this production, I’m playing him slightly differently. In the opening scene in the West End show, for example, I’m very much the big bombastic business man – which is a bit different to before.

Tell me a bit more about the character.

Daddy Warbucks is the richest man in the USA at the time the show is set. He invites an orphan to stay for a few weeks, to look good. As it turns out, there’s much more to life than just money – and it’s Annie, the little ginger orphan, who makes him come to this realisation. Her optimistic outlook on life changes him.

Do you have a favourite scene in Annie?

I really like the song I Don’t Need Anything But You. It comes at that point where Daddy Warbucks can’t find Annie’s real parents so decides to adopt her. The song is such a high energy number and lots of fun to perform. It also makes the following scenes all the more upsetting when orphan manager, Miss Hannigan (played by the hilarious Miranda Hart), and her brother and his wife start scheming, to ultimately take Annie away.

It’s heart-breaking for Daddy Warbucks, going from what seems like the best day of his life to his world crashing down. But of course, it’s Annie – so it all works out in the end.

/l-r Holly Dale Spencer, Alex Bourne and Ruby Stokes - Rehearsals for the West End production of Annie

Pictured: (L-R) Holly Dale Spencer, Alex Bourne and Ruby Stokes in the rehearsals for the West End production of Annie. (Photo credit: Matt Crocker).

Daddy Warbucks in the film is extremely bald – is this something you’ve committed to for the show? 

Yes, it’s definitely happening. When I was first offered the job on the tour I was asked if I’d considered shaving my head. I discussed it with my wife, who immediately said no, but I felt like I wouldn’t be the iconic character if I didn’t do it. So I shaved my head. Annie is based originally on a cartoon strip from Chicago, and Daddy Warbucks was always bald. I’ve shaved it again for the West End show, and I don’t mind it really – I’m blessed with a full head of hair.

What initially attracted you to a career in theatre?

My mum was a very keen member of an amateur dramatics company and I got dragged along to that as a kid. I used to really enjoy drama, and I played guitar and sang in a band, and came to the realisation that perhaps this was something I could do for a living.

What shows have you been in?

My first big role was Buddy Holly in Buddy at Victoria Palace in the early 90s, and I went on to play Danny Zuko in Greece, Gaston in Disney's Beauty and the Beast, Dr. Frank 'N' Furter in the Rocky Horror Show, and Billy Flynn in Chicago. A big one for me was Kiss Me Kate, at the Old Vic which was directed by Trevor Nunn – I got a Laurence Olivier Award nomination for that, which was amazing.

Are there any shows you’d absolutely love to star in?

I would suit an old fashioned musical. I’m a baritone and nearly 50, and an older musical like Mack and Mable would be great for me. Anything with a great classic score with a great part for a low voice would be perfect.

And finally Alex, why would you persuade people to come to see Annie?

The music and the story are both brilliant, and it’s a very real truthful performance in quite an intimate auditorium. It’s not a musical comedy, which it’s been made to be before. We want the audience to feel it the way we do on stage. The music in Annie is particularly strong; the beginning, for example, opens with three massive songs. Many other shows save their big hits for last, but not with Annie – you get them straight away. 

I honestly can’t wait to bring it to London, it’s very different to other shows of Annie that have run before, like the original Broadway production. This is very much modernised and reimagined, despite the fact that it is still set in the 30s. It’s also very much for audiences today, and I’m so happy to be doing it.

Annie will begin previews at the Piccadilly Theatre in London on 23rd May. Group bookings are available through ATG Tickets.