From a story shrouded in mystery comes a musical swirling through history.
Was Anastasia, daughter of Czar Nicholas II, murdered with her Imperial Russian family, or did she escape? It’s a question that has sparked rumors throughout the 20th century, and is the basis for the 2017 Tony-nominated Broadway production.
Now on tour, “Anastasia” is coming to the Des Moines Civic Center from Tuesday (2/25) to March 1, with a former Cedar Rapids resident in the cast.
Daniel Miller, who moved from Cedar Rapids to Houston when he was 10, is on the road as a member of the ensemble and the understudy for the lead male role of Dmitry. He’s traveling with his wife, Allie Hagerman Miller, who works for the show’s merchandise company, which typically sets up in theater lobbies.
“She’s front of house, while I’m back of house,” Miller said by phone from a recent tour stop in Cleveland. “It’s great to have the same hours in both of our jobs and get to see the country together.”
A Marion native, Allie Miller played the Narrator in “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat” at Theatre Cedar Rapids in 2018. That show closed May 27, 2018, and the couple married the following month. They’ve known each other all their lives, and moved to New York City to pursue careers in musical theater.
Before they could nail down an apartment, Miller got the call to join the “Anastasia” tour. He came onboard Oct. 14 and will be with the show through the end of the run Aug. 2 in Atlanta. After that, he plans to “take a nap” and head back to New York to find his next theatrical opportunity.
For now, he’s enjoying the ride.
Audiences will see him onstage “anytime there’s a crowd,” he said. “The ensemble is very, very versatile. We’re changing clothes a lot.” He and another understudy stepped into the lead role in Toronto this winter when the actor playing Dmitry was off for a few days.
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“That was just a blast,” Miller said. “It was crazy, it was thrilling. I don’t really remember doing the first show at all, because there was so much adrenaline, but it was great. It was a lot of fun.”
For those unfamiliar with the storyline, based on the 1997 animated film of the same name, Miller said the show’s basic tenets are “home, love, family.”
“(It’s) about a young woman named Anya who is suffering from amnesia, and she’s really basically trying to find her place in the world — where she fits — and she’s doing that by trying to find her family,” he said.
The action begins in St. Petersburg, Russia, and covers events spanning two decades early in the 20th century. It includes the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917, shortly after which Anastasia’s once-ruling Romanov family was executed.
The story then jumps a decade when the young adult Anya is duped by Dmitry and Vlad, two young men hoping to scam the elderly Dowager Empress out of her money by convincing her that Anya is her granddaughter, Anastasia.
“You’ve got this political drama going on through the lens of this young woman trying to discover who she is,” Miller said.
The music varies with the settings, from dark, heavy Russian themes to lighter sounds when the action moves to Paris. The dance reflects all that as well, Miller noted, including some Roaring ’20s moves and a condensed version of the “Swan Lake” ballet in the second act.
“I really think there’s something there for everyone,” he said, “because it’s a story about a family and it’s a story about finding where you belong.
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“It’s a story about discovering those things, and I think everybody’s had a moment where you start to really discover and really have a sense of who you are and who the people around you are, and what family means to you.”
Despite the dark overtones, he described it as “a very optimistic show, a very feel-good show.”
“You leave humming the songs and you leave with a lot of hope,” he said. “It has so many comedic elements and the music is wonderful. It’s definitely a family-friendly show. It’s a very optimistic, uplifting evening.”
• What: “Anastasia”
• Where: Des Moines Civic Center, 221 Walnut St., Des Moines
• When: Tuesday (2/25) to March 1; 7:30 p.m. Tuesday (2/25) to Friday (2/28), 2 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday (2/29), 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday (3/1); ASL interpreted show 1 p.m. Sunday (3/1)
• Run time: 2.5 hours; with 15-minute intermission
• Tickets: $40 to $164, $26 student rush day of performance; venue box office, (515) 246-2300 or Desmoinesperformingarts.org
• Show’s website: Anastasiathemusical.com/tour/
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