SEARCY, Ark. — The Harding Academy Wildcat Theatre Company will present “Anastasia the Musical” streamed Saturday, Nov. 21, Thursday, Nov. 26 and Saturday, Dec. 5.
From Tony Award winners Terrence McNally, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, this dazzling show transports its audience from the twilight of the Russian Empire to the euphoria of Paris in the 1920s, as a brave young woman sets out to discover the mystery of her past. Pursued by a ruthless Soviet officer determined to silence her, Anya enlists the aid of a dashing con man and a lovable ex-aristocrat. Together, they embark on an epic adventure to help her find home, love and family.
“Anastasia, the Musical, is the kind of show that transports you to another world,” said senior Aubrey Jones, who plays Anya/Anastasia. “The lights, music and costumes make the show feel magical, as if we are in a real life fairytale. With everything the way it is right now (with the pandemic), we could all use a little magic.”
The show was cast via virtual auditions in May and the cast began both face to face and virtual rehearsals in August. Prior to auditions, junior and senior actors in the show participated in a virtual, on-camera workshop with Tectonic Theater Project in New York City that helped set the staging for Anastasia. A custom art installation called “Presence,” created by Harding Academy art teacher Maggie Lake, creates a canopy across the stage that allows the light and shadow to help set the scene. The orchestra, made up of Harding University students and accompanist Daniel Smith, will be spread throughout the house of the auditorium. Students and performers who would normally be backstage will be separated down the hall by six feet, only entering the stage for their scenes.
“The theme of home, love and family resonated with us as we selected this musical,” said director Melani Blansett. “The story itself reminds us that the people who love us are even more important when everything else in the world seems confusing and uncertain. We have dreamed of this group’s senior musical for four years. I was determined to make it happen however we needed to do it to be both enjoyable and safe. We will miss the energy of a live audience, but are thankful and grateful to be healthy and still have the opportunity to share theatre with a wider audience virtually. It gave the students a chance to look at performing in a different way, and has been a challenging and useful learning experience for everyone involved. We’ve had many artists reach out to assist with this production, all the way from California, New York and Disney World. The pandemic has brought the arts community together in wonderful ways. We are thankful they shared their time and knowledge with our students.”
Harding University students from Dr. Charles Bane’s film class and Mark Prior with HU16 volunteered to film the show for streaming, and a senior design student, Annie Wilkinson, designed and created a custom gown for Abigail Wornock who plays Tsarina Alexandra Romanov.
“Having the opportunity to perform in Anastasia meant so much to me as it gave me something to look forward to during a time when everything felt meaningless,” said J.D. Glenn, who plays Gleb. “The shut down made motivation hard to come by, but working on this show with my friends really encouraged me.”
Tickets can be purchased for $12 at showtix4u.com/event-details/. When purchasing, select the number of individuals watching like you would for a live show. For more information call 501-279-7429.