It's a question debated over the ages. Did one of the Tsar's children — Anastasia to be exact — somehow escape the murder of her entire family in the Russian Revolution?
Anastasia the musical is based on the 1997 animated film of the same name and covers a lot of the same ground. Anya, an orphan searching for her past, bears an uncanny resemblance to the Tsar's daughter Anastasia. The national tour featuring a book by Terrence McNally, a score by Stephen Flaherty with lyrics by Lynn Ahrens is coming to Houston courtesy of Broadway at the Hobby.
Discovered by two con men ten years after the shooting deaths of her parents, sisters and brother, Anya becomes what they hope will be their vehicle to wealth if they can convince others she is the missing daughter. Their journey to do so takes them all the way to Paris, while a Soviet officer does his best to silence her claims.
No one should mistake what follows for historical accuracy, but the story is a romantic one with a strong heroine. Lila Coogan (Broadway: Jane Banks in Mary Poppins when she was just 13 years old) who plays Anya says she has always been a big fan of the movie. "She was my favorite princess. I just loved how determined and strong she was as a young woman."
But she admits, turning into a princess was tougher for her than playing the initial scenes of a poor orphan out on the street.
"I had a much easier time being a street rat than I did being a princess," she says. "I grew up with two brothers so I'm not like a prissy, princess type. it was really hard for me to figure out how to carry myself the way someone of a royal family would carry themselves. I'm really lucky I have such a supportive creative team. They taught me what to do. What was so fun about being Anya as a princess is that she does slip up and she does kind of like forget she’s supposed to be acting like Anastasia."
Of course, it isn't just Anya going through a journey to find herself. Con man Dmitry (Stephen Brower) goes through some changes himself before it is all over. "I think the story is really relatable to every single person out there. Whether you relate to Anya or not there’s other characters that are going through such strong journeys."
The costumes are stunning, Coogan says, who makes at least six costume changes during the show. "They are so beautiful far away and up close. Every element is so well thought out." And then there's the music including the standout "Journey to the Past."
Despite her early success on Broadway, Coogan says she wasn't sure she was going to go into theater after high school. Her other main interest was science. "But every time I got into a science school I thought "i Wish I got into the theater program instead.' So it was my gut telling me that theater was what I needed to be doing."
"I think this show does so well on tour because it's showing young men and women that you can take charge of your destiny and that's totally OK."
Performances are scheduled for March 5-10 at 7:30 p.m. Tuesdays through Thursdays and Sunday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday at the Hobby Center, 800 Bagby. For information, call
713-315-2525 or visit thehobbycenter.org or broadwayatthehobbycenter.com. $35-$265 plus fees.