ANASTASIA • An Epic Musical About Belonging and Identity Lights Up the Stage at Midland Center for the Arts June 3-5th

Posted In: Arts & Entertainment, ,   By: Robert E Martin

24th May, 2022     0

With the upcoming performances on June 3-4-5th of the expansive romantic adventure and historical epic Anastasia at the Midland Center for the Arts as part of its Broadway & Beyond series, audiences will be treated to a musical tour-de-force that transports them from the twilight of the Russian Empire to the euphoria of Paris in the 1920s in this national touring production from Tony Award-winning creators Terrence McNally and Stephen Flaherty, which is now in its second year of selling out theaters across America.

The narrative tells the true tale of a brave young woman named Anya who sets out to discover the mystery of her past as she flees her native homeland pursued by a ruthless Soviet officer determined to silence her. Enlisting the aid of a dashing conman and lovable ex-aristocrat, together they embark upon an epic adventure to help her find home, love, and family.

With its opulent setting, dazzling costumes, and a soaring score, Anastasia is based upon the 1997 animated film of the same name, along with the classic Ingrid Bergman film, which adapted the legend of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, who could have escaped the execution of her family.

Historically, Anya was the youngest daughter of Tsar Nichola II, the last sovereign of Imperial Russia, and purportedly killed by a group of Bolsheviks in July 1918. Persistent rumors of her possible escape circulated after her death, however, which were fueled by the fact that the location of her burial was unknown during the decade of Communist rule.

After completing a pre-Broadway run in Hartford, Connecticut, the show premiered on Broadway in April 2017, and has since spawned multiple productions worldwide. Director Sarah Hartmann worked with the original co-director a number of years before the show moved to Broadway, joining the Broadway production as Associate Director shortly after, and helping send out the first national tour of the production before taking over as Tour Director for this current version. She’s also worked at the Julliard School and can currently be seen on the Disney+ show Encore! 

With six songs from the movie augmented by 16 new original numbers, this musical also add characters not in the film and contrasts the zeitgeist between Russia and Paris, which was everything modern Soviet Russia was not: free, expressive, creative, and with no barriers.

When asked what she feels distinguishes this production and also inspires her as a director about Anastasia, Sarah references the excitement it elicits from the cast. “What I find most exciting about it and for the actors getting to portray Anya and the other characters is that this story is essentially about a young woman’s search for her identity. Who is she? Where does she belong? How do I belong to myself?  This play is really about a search for belonging, not only for Anya, but for the other characters involved with her as well.”

“What I think makes this production unique is that the story and music itself are really timeless,” she continues. “There are so many favorite moments that I share about this production, but one of my favorites is in act two where the music from Swan Lake is combined seamlessly with a new song sung by one of the principal characters; so for me, things like that are timeless in the sense that it mixes different genres to get everything you want out of a musical.”

Having been involve since it started its national tour, what does Sarah find to be the most challenging component involved with effectively rendering each performance of Anastasia across the stages spanning America?  “That’s a good question,” she reflects. “In terms of directing I think the things that are challenging with taking any show on the road is how every theatre is a little different, so you have to plan for different scenarios. Things like that can be challenging, but its mainly a matter of adjustment so people can be seen from all sides. But that is also part of the fun of touring.”

Sarah says this current production has been running for almost a year and they have a second year coming up, but that the cast has remained consistent. “For the first year I was working with the same company, and going into year two we’ve had some casting changeovers, because people move on to other projects; but overall this is the type of show actors like to stick with because we treat the cast like family.”

For those unfamiliar with the play or on the fence about attending, what does she feel are the type of things people will come away with after watching the splendor of this production?  “One of the things I often tell people about this show is that it’s about home, love, and family and contains themes that appeal to people from age of 7 to 90.”

“It’s really the story about our search for belonging and contains things that every audience member can connect with.”  

Performance dates for Anastasis are set for Friday, June 3rd at 7:30 PM; Saturday, June 4th at 2 PM and 7:30 PM; and Sunday, June 5th at 2:00 PM. Tickets can be obtained visiting this link.





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