Actor rises to the occasion in the national tour of 'Anastasia' at Proctors
SCHENECTADY, N.Y. — The ultimate urban legend on stage at Proctors in Schenectady. You know the story — an entire family is murdered, but one child's body is not found. One day, many years later, a young woman appears claiming to be that child, but because of amnesia she was not able to come forward to stake her claim to the family fortune. Is she? Or isn't she?
The musical "Anastasia" is telling that story at Proctors, where the Broadway hit is launching its first U.S. tour. Performances began Wednesday. The show runs through Sunday. It's the story of Princess Anastasia, who was thought to be murdered with her father, Czar Nicholas II, and the rest of her family during the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. When, years later, a young woman appears claiming to be Anastasia, she is greeted with skepticism. Her claims of amnesia are dismissed by most and she is branded a fraud. But many others think that her fragmented memories are accurate and personal enough to be true.
Stephen Brower, who plays Dmitry in the show, says the element of mystery in the production is one of the great lures of the show. His character is a charming con-man, who with Vlad, a former aristocrat, have been developing a scheme to find someone who could be accepted as the true Anastasia.
In a recent telephone interview, he defended his character, saying "We are desperate to get papers to leave Russia. Vlad and I develop this scheme and start auditioning actresses who we could train to be the Princess, so we can get the reward. When, by chance, we meet Anastasia, she is a scroungy looking, raggedy girl. She's not the princess type." But almost as if in character, he muses, "But there is something about her "
After meeting Anastasia, as Sherlock Holmes might say, "the game's afoot." Describing what happens, Brower says, "The show is an epic adventure full of romance, danger and exiting twists. It's a deep and beautiful love story filled with gorgeous music. Everything is always in doubt and in a state of change."
As for his character, Brower finds Dmitry a complicated person. "In the beginning, his motives are not always the most moral, but he has a good heart. He's a tough, street-smart guy who forged his own way as a child. He has dreams, ambitions and the drive to make them happen. Sometimes he acts like he has a big chip on his shoulder, but he's smart, loyal and a good friend."
Indeed, he says his favorite moment in the show is when Dmitry, Anastasia and Vlad perform the number "Learn to Do It." "The entire score is fantastic, and every number drives the plot," he said, "but, to me, this song defines our relationship. It is so much fun for us on stage, it's clear we like each other very much. The audience enjoys it as much as we do."
The experience of an actor enjoying the performance is dear to Brower. He graduated from Texas State University in 2015. He started in "Anastasia" on Broadway as an understudy and eventually earned the right to play Dmitry in the New York production. His work so impressed the show's creative staff they offered him the role in the first national tour.
If this immediate success isn't impressive on its own, the fact that this is Brower's third national tour should be. In each of the other two, "Pippin" and "An American in Paris," he followed the same path. He started as a member of the ensemble and an understudy and graduated to a featured role.
He credits his success to his college training. "Texas State helped me to identify myself as an artist. That means defining yourself. I am not just a person who can sing and dance," he said. Sounding more than a little like Dmitry he adds. "I learned how to set, define and achieve goals."
Asked about his major goal, he says it is "to be a working actor. Being a star would be great, but the important thing, for me, is to be able to make a living by doing something I love."
It sounds like he's already a success — onstage and off.
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