The Ouachita cast of "Anastasia" ends their show with a curtain call. (photo by Sarah Dean)

“Anastasia” entertains campus with music and more

April 24, 2024

By Camryn Stroupe, Opinions Editor

This past weekend, the Ouachita theater department released the long-awaited spring musical, “Anastasia,” and it has taken the campus by storm. I personally viewed the show Friday night, and I was thoroughly impressed by the show. 

“Anastasia” is a story based on an urban myth in Soviet Russia. The story claimed that though all royals of the Romanov dynasty were killed in the Russian Revolution, the youngest daughter, Anastasia, escaped and was alive and well. Though this myth was never proven true, it inspired the production of the “Anastasia” movie and, in turn, a musical theater production. 

Noah Warford and Anslee Clay face each other during a duet in Ouachita’s production of “Anastasia.” (photo by Sarah Dean)

“Anastasia” is a thrilling tale to begin with, following the surviving Anastasia, renamed Anya, as she has suffered from amnesia. She encounters two con men, Dmitri and Vladimir “Vlad” Popov, who promise her way out of Soviet Russia if she is able to pass herself off as the lost Duchess Anastasia to the only known surviving relative of the Romanovs, Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna Romanov, Anastasia’s grandmother. 

The tale follows the trio as they risk being found out and imprisoned or killed by Soviet forces and then confronting the Dowager Empress herself. I greatly enjoyed the theatrical twist on the movie’s plot, as the theater production removed the movie’s main villain, sorcerer Rasputin, and replaced the villain with the Soviet Union as a whole, in particular with Deputy Commissioner Gleb Vaganov, who is sent to stop them but experiences internal turmoil at the task. 

The production, I believe, hit on all the right notes. It was humorous when it tried to be; it was intense when action and emotion arose, and it brought tears to the eyes in places where sadness was called for. My favorite part of the show was especially the scene where Commissioner Vaganov finds Anastasia as she has been fully realized, and she shows him the compassion of putting down his gun. This scene was beautifully portrayed by the cast with echoes of Romanov memory playing behind them. 

I loved the casting for this production. It seemed like each role was perfectly curated for the people who played them, and it was easy to forget that those on stage were not actually the characters they were portraying. 

Kenzie Tatum especially enjoyed working on the show. 

“I wouldn’t be the performer I am today without the people I get the opportunity to tell this story with,” Tatum said. “Our department has grown so much over the last year–especially under the direction of Professor John Forkner, whom we have all learned so much from and are so thankful for. I love our theater family with my whole heart, and I am so grateful for the opportunity we have to learn from and work with each other. This show has encouraged me to grow as a performer in so many ways, but the most challenging part for me was definitely the choreography. I don’t come from a very large dancing background, but this show gave me such a wonderful opportunity to improve on that skill.”

Tatum had many favorite parts of the show. “I can’t pick just one,” Tatum said. “Singing ‘Stay, I Pray You’ is a majority of the cast’s favorite part. It’s the number where a lot of Russian citizens are fleeing their homeland for France to start a new life. It’s full of wonderfully saddened emotion. Our director describes it as ‘the sound of hearts breaking,’ so it is always a very thought-provoking time for us. Another favorite part is the number ‘In a Crowd of Thousands,’ as, in my opinion, it ties so much of the story together, and Noah Warford and Annslee Clay do such a beautiful job with it. I also love all of the underscoring in this show in general. Our musicians are wonderful, and we couldn’t create the world of Anastasia without them.”

Overall, the amount of love and work put into this year’s spring musical was evident. From the turntable onstage to the intense emotion, and from the banter of the characters to the skill of the dancers, “Anastasia” was truly a delight to the senses and a true professional work. 

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