Broadway’s Anastasia is on a Journey to Houston’s Hobby Center

by Sarah Bradley on February 27, 2019 in Entertainment, Theatre, Houston,
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Inspired by two beloved films and the legend of the Grand Duchess Anastasia, this re-imagined tale comes to Houston’s Hobby Center March 5 – March 10.

Anastasia the musical tells the story of Anya, an orphaned Russian princess with little memory of her past, who embarks on a journey to Paris in the 1920s with hopes of finding a home, love and family.

Songs like “Journey to the Past” and “Once Upon a December” from the 1997 Fox animated film are featured in the Broadway musical, along with 26 new songs written by Tony Award-winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty.

Prior to the show’s opening, we spoke with Jason Evans, who plays Gleb, a new villain in the touring musical.

Jason Michael Evans (Gleb) in the first national touring production of Anastasia, playing Houston’s Hobby Center March 5-10. Photo Matthew Murphy

How does this Broadway musical differ from the animated movie version?

Well, it’s actually based on two films; not just the 1997 Fox animated picture but also the 1956 live-action film starring Ingrid Bergman. Our creative team has taken the best and most memorable aspects of both films and melded them into one. Along with the new songs, a brand new book was written by Terrence McNally who is, quite possibly, our greatest living American playwright. Additionally, some characters, like mine, are entirely new. Our show is the third incarnation of the fictional retelling of a Russian princess who has captivated the psyche of popular culture for over a century.

What kind of emotions are prompted with this Broadway musical?

It would be impossible for me to list all the emotions that Anastasia evokes in me every night without leaving something out. Our show reaches across the entire spectrum of human emotions nightly. There are tears from joy, tears from laughter, and tears from intensity. The show starts with a thrilling, yet artfully depicted, act of tyrannicide and flows seamlessly to a vaudevillian-like comic duet in Act 2 by our geniuses Vlad and Lilly, played by Ed Staudemeyer and Tari Kelly. This show will make you feel everything. That’s a promise.

Stephen Brower (Dmitry), Lila Coogan (Anya) and Edward Staudenmayer (Vlad) in Anastasia. Photo Matthew Murphy, taken at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

Can you tell us about your character in Anastasia?  

He’s different from a lot of the characters I play mostly because of his arc. Even when you’re playing the hero of a show, it is rare when your character begins the show in one emotional mindset and ends it somewhere entirely different. Gleb learns and contemplates and changes within the show more than any other character I’ve played. It’s quite a ride.

How is this character different from other parts you’ve played?

Gleb is entirely new to the story of Anastasia and written specifically for this show. For those of you going into your night out expecting to see the ghost of Rasputin, the villain in the animated film, I’m sorry to let you down. What Gleb brings to your prototypical villain is the ability to grow and learn. He’s a young, up and coming, Soviet officer. Driven by his sense of duty, but conflicted by his sense of compassion, perhaps even love. He feels a connection with Anya from the moment he meets her, and he spends the whole show trying to figure out how to cope with it and how to juxtapose it with his duty to his country. He’s very conflicted; I learn something new in every performance.

Joy Franz (Dowager Empress). Photo by Matthew Murphy

What’s your favorite scene and/or song in the show and why?

“In a Crowd of Thousands,” a song sung by Dmitry to Anya in Act 2 is one I always find myself watching from the wings. It’s one of the more introspective songs in the show, layered with backstory and nuance. It may not be the flashiest song in the show, but for me it is the pinnacle of writing, storytelling, and heartfelt one-on-one interaction with our two glorious leads.

Why should our Texas Lifestyle readers come and watch Anastasia?

“Anastasia” has everything. Whether it’s the breath-taking costumes, the stunning dancing, the jaw-dropping projections, or the powerhouse singing, every person I meet at the stage door has a different favorite part. If you’re 8 or 108, there is going to be a character or a moment that will tug at your heartstrings. I give you my personal guarantee of thrills, laughs and goosebumps.

Cover: Cast of the first national tour of Anastasia. Photo Matthew Murphy, taken at The Kennedy Center in Washington D.C.

Sarah Bradley lives in Houston and works as a Special Education Para-educator as well as the Assistant Director for a high school drill team. Sarah is a recent graduate of Texas State University where she earned her Bachelor of Science Degree in Mass Communication – Journalism. Though juggling a busy schedule, she loves an opportunity to continue her passion for writing.