Burlington, News

A gripping tale of mystery and romance

Senior Evan Deans belts out a song during rehearsal of Anastasia on Feb. 28 (Jason Arndt/Southern Lakes Newspapers)

Burlington High School to present “Anastasia” this week

By Jason Arndt

Mystery and romance with a twist of Russian and Parisian history serve as key components of Burlington High School’s production of “Anastasia: The New Broadway Musical,” set to take the auditorium stage this week.

“Anastasia,” which premieres at 7 p.m. Thursday, runs through the weekend with scheduled productions at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, as well as a 2 p.m. matinee performance.

The cost of tickets, which are only being sold online, is $6 with all general seating.

For more information or to purchase tickets, visit sites.google.com/view/bhsmusicalspresents.

Senior cast member Evan Deans, who plays Dmitry in the double-casted production – with Julian Ivkovic presenting the character on opposite evenings – said the audience should experience a range of emotions.

“There are some sad parts, there are some slower parts and there are some upbeat parts,” Deans said. “It is definitely an emotional roller coaster.”

According to a synopsis, “Anastasia” is a captivating and enchanting musical that weaves a tale of mystery and romance, immersed in rich and historic settings of Russia and Paris.

Anastasia, commonly referred to as Anya, experiences amnesia and looks to discover her true identity, aided by two conmen – Dmitry and Vlad – as they embark on a thrilling adventure.

“This Tony Award-nominated show explores the search for belonging, the allure of the past, and the power of love and perseverance,” the synopsis reveals. “Anastasia is a spellbinding theatrical experience that will leave you captivated, reminding us that the most extraordinary journey is the one we take to find ourselves.”

Peggy Morgan Strimple, co-director with Penny Yanke, said they decided to present “Anastasia” because of its rich score, intriguing storyline and engaging choreography after witnessing the original Broadway show about six years ago.

“The cast was fantastic in it, and it was such a really gorgeous story,” Strimple said, adding she would classify it is a drama with a dash of comedy. “It is based on history, so it is definitely a drama.”

Strimple said the musical consists of a double cast to allow multiple actors to showcase their talent in front of their family, community, classmates and friends.

“They will expect to be totally drawn into the story,” Strimple said.

Finding herself
Senior Madeline Thompson, who plays Anya in the orange cast – with Lily Boyle filling the role in the black cast – has been involved in every musical production at the high school.

Last year, as part of Mamma Mia, she earned a Jerry Award for her performance as Tanya.

Thompson has played leading roles before however, she admits she has never been the key central figure in any production.

“It’s definitely a heavier show than what I am used to. I have played leads before, but I have never been the lead,” said Thompson, with an emphasis on “the.”

“It is a lot of pressure and a lot of work, but it is so much fun,” she said.
Thompson said she spent a great deal of time researching Anya as well as Russian history in preparation.

“I am a huge history buff. I love reading up on Russian history,” she said. “I got quite a few books for Christmas on it and checked out books from the library.”

Thompson said her character simply seeks love, home and family in the musical.

“She is a Russian expatriate, and she is trying to find out who she is,” Thompson explained. “She has amnesia, she has no memory of her life before the age of 17. But she knows there is someone waiting for her in Paris.”

Compelled to join
As a junior, Deans sat in the audience for the school’s production of “Mamma Mia,” which encouraged him to audition for “Anastasia.”

“They are always super fun and they get a lot of laughs,” he said. “It’s just an awesome experience here at Burlington.”

In playing Dmitry, he said he found some inspiration from Aladdin, as both carry similar traits.

“He is kind of an Aladdin character, a conman who builds himself to be in a higher class, but not really,” Deans said. “He is kind of faking it.”

Like Thompson, Deans said audience members will likely find themselves deeply immersed in the show.

“It’s a very in-depth story,” he said.

Senior Giovanni Grippe, who plays deputy commissioner Gleb Vaganov, will make his Burlington High School musical debut after spending time at First Stage in Milwaukee.

“I have done First Stage acting since I was 6, and I did that up until the pandemic. I would say I am relatively seasoned when it comes to the arts,” Grippe said. “As far as BHS goes, this is going to be my first official theater show, but I have been in Penny Yanke’s choir for four years, and it has been a blast.”

Gleb, described as an antagonist by Grippe, is a deeply conflicted person faced with a decision of either following his deep convictions or doing what is right.

While he carries stage acting experience elsewhere, Grippe said the BHS production will carry a distinct difference, mainly that he will be performing in front of many people he has known for years.

“When I was up in Milwaukee at First Stage, there were strangers coming to the show, and I had no idea who they were,” he said. “Now I get to do it in front of my classmates, my fellow ensembles, their families, and the community of Burlington.”

Grippe strongly urges members of the community to come and see “Anastasia” because of its storyline and stellar musical sets.

“It’s all over the place, emotions are flying everywhere. The music is fantastic,” Grippe said. “I would encourage you – if you haven’t heard ‘Anastasia’ music – come and check it out on any musical streaming service you have.

“Just come in with an open mind and be prepared to have some fun because it is such a great production.”

Cast list
Orange cast (Thursday, Saturday) – Anya, Madeline Thompson; Dmitry, Julian Ivkovich; Vlad, Tucker LaRose; Lily, Ava Dennert; Empress, Aubrey Dill.
Black cast (Friday, Sunday) – Anya, Lily Boyle; Dmitry, Evan Deans; Vlad, Ben Stork; Lily, Julayne Morby; Empress, Chris Cantrell.

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