From the Tony Award-winning creators of “Ragtime” and inspired by a film of the same title is “Anastasia,” a Broadway musical coming to the Murat at Old National Centre, Oct. 18-23. On a North American tour, the production is presented by Broadway in Indianapolis.
Called “One of the most gorgeous shows in years” by the “New York Observer,” the musical tells the story of a young woman, a Romanoff sister, who sets out to discover the mystery of her past. Set in Russia during its waning days as an empire to the roaring 20s in Paris, Anya, the heroine of the tale, is pursued by an unscrupulous Soviet officer determined to silence her. Enlisting the aid of a conman and an ex-aristocrat, the unlikely trio embarks on an epic adventure to help her find home, love, and family.
“Anastasia” features a book by celebrated playwright, the late Terrence McNally, a new score by the Tony Award-winning creators of the Broadway classic, “Ragtime,” Stephen Flaherty (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics), and tour direction by Sarah Hartman based on original direction by Tony Award-winning director, Darko Tresnjak.
The cast includes 23-year-old Veronica Stern in the starring role as Anya. Recently, she and I communicated by email. At the time, she and the company were performing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Below is an edited transcript of our exchange.
Tell me a bit about your background?
I am an East Coast girl. I grew up in Westchester, New York.
When did you start performing?
I went to a theatre camp when I was eight years old, and I blossomed from there.
Where did you receive your formal training?
The Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music. I studied musical theatre.
How long have you been on the tour?
I started rehearsals for “Anastasia” at the beginning of August and started performing full-time on August 23 in Boston.
How many cities thus far?
We have been to about 10 cities so far!
What do you like to do in your free time during a sit down?
I love exploring the new cities, finding the best coffee in town, checking out the touristy spots.
What does it mean to you to be a person of color starring in a touring Broadway Show?
Representation is important, and it is an honor to be playing Anya. A lot of people are very excited about seeing a Black princess on stage. There has been a lot of love and excitement. To get to play a princess in general is amazing and to be the lead in a Broadway National Tour is beyond my wildest dreams
Does it carry a heavy responsibility?
It can at times, but I feel very supported by this cast and creative team as well as my family.
Who are your influences?
In theater, I look up to artists that know who they are and are steadfast in their journeys. In my life, it is my parents.
Do you identify with to your role, and do you share anything in common with Anya?
Anya is a woman searching for who she is, and I think we can all relate to that in one way or another. Her story does not have a definitive ending, and I think that is really exciting because it means she has her whole life ahead of her.
Tell me about the show’s score?
I feel so lucky to sing this score every night. Lynn Ahrens & Stephen Flaherty are one of the best duos in musical theater, and the opportunity to sing their lyrics and music every night is an honor.
How about the production itself?
“Anastasia” is a stunning show. The costumes are elaborate, the projections are magnificent, and the dancing all add to the magic.
Have you bonded with the cast?
I love this cast so much. When you are on tour, you spend a lot of time together. I am grateful that this is a group of great individuals. We are all so happy to be here, and it is fun to travel around the country and experience new things together.
So, you enjoy touring?
Touring is fun! I never imagined myself doing this, so it has been a fun time. I am from New York, so I never knew what tours were until I got to college. Sometimes when you go in with no expectations it is better in the long run
What do you hope your career will be?
I hope I have longevity and that I get to do this for a long, long time. And that I continue to love it and it remains my passion. And that I continue to get to sing, act, and move in this beautiful art form.
What is the message of the show?
I think the main message of “Anastasia” is that following your heart will always lead you in the right direction.
Why should people see it?
People should come to see “Anastasia” because it is a show that everyone young and old can related to. It is full of mystery, excitement, and romance. Plus, it is a spectacular production with beautiful music, dance, and costumes.
What is your advice to young girls of color who aspire to what you are doing?
Believe in your abilities and never let anyone tell you how you “should” be. Be who you are because there is no one else like you!
“Anastasia” will play at the Murat Theatre at Old National Centre October 18-23 for eight performances. Tickets are on sale and available now a ticketmaster.com. The performance schedule is Tuesday-Thursday evening at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday evening at 8 p.m., Saturday matinee at 2 p.m., Sunday matinee at 1 p.m. and Sunday evening at 6:30 pm.