BWW Interview: It's His Petersburg Now! Catching Up with ANASTASIA's New Dmitry, Zach Adkins
The Broadway smash hit Anastasia officially opened last spring at the Broadhurst Theatre. Since then, ensemble member and Dmitry understudy Zach Adkins has been waiting to take his turn in the spotlight. Now he's getting his chance.
Starting just last week, Adkins officially assumed the role originated by Derek Klena, who just departed the company on March 25. Below, we're catching up with Anastasia's dashing new leading man as he tells us all about his Petersburg.
I know that last week was your first official week as Dmitry. What has that been like so far? How's it going?
The transition has been pretty good! Everyone at the theater is so kind and so accommodating me settling into the role full-time. And it's been really nice because, you know, I have such a great working relationship with John [Bolton] and Christy [Altomare]. We've just been finding our own show. I think that's the biggest thing... as much as I've watched Derek [Klena] and learned from Derek, we're doing our own thing now. We're out of understudyland, where you have to match a few more things, and I'm starting to spread my wings. I can be Zach's Dmitry.
That has to be so rewarding.
That's exactly the right word: rewarding.
How many times would you say you had to go on as Dmitry in the past year?
I think I've been on about twenty times.
Yeah, [Derek] had a lot of life stuff. He's such a great guy. So I've been lucky to be the first cover originally and to be the only cover for significant amount of time. Now we have like four Dmitry covers in-house! [Laughs]
Has it totally hit you that you're him for good now?
No, it has not hit me at all. It feels like a long understudy week where he's on vacation, he'll just be back. I'm in his room. It's not even my room! [Laughs] I'm like, in his dressing room that I've worked in for the last year and I'm like, "Oh, he'll be back. I'll see him tomorrow. I can't wait to tell him about what happened!"
You were our Debut of the Month last spring.
Yeah, I had a great time!
In it, you talk about how you were excited to be experiencing all these firsts. I'm sure there's been like so many other things that have happened since then. Looking back, what has this year been like for you?
This has been a big year of firsts. It's my first time doing promotional events for a show- I've gotten to go around the country to promote the tour that's about to start. Or even simple things like... I sang in a cabaret last night and I had fans coming to the cabaret from the show! That's never happened for me before. I've never had a following for myself. I've had a show following- people who love Anastasia obviously love the cast, but I've never performed on my own and had somebody say, "Hi, I'm here to see you do something different because I'm a fan of you." And that's really exciting for me.
How do you think that your interpretation of Dmitry kind of differs from Derek's?
I think it's funny because when friends come and see the show, they always describe my Dmitry as softer than Derek's. I disagree with that. I think that my Dmitry is more so built on the idea that you can con with a smile. Derek's was more intellectually driven. Instead of Dmitry being this man who's really well-thought through, mine is more like a younger boy who knows how to get his way by saying the right things in the moment. I think that's the biggest difference between the two of us.
And just size-wise, Derek's a few inches taller than me, so I'm a little lower to the ground... a little more grounded. I think Dmitry is more of a boy on a journey to find his first love and to find a way out of Russia. Whereas Derek seemed like he had just been through it for years and he was at his Wit's End with Russia. So I think our journey is just a little different in this show... but ultimately it's Anastasia's journey and she drives the show and she makes the hard decisions. That's why I love it. I love that there's a strong female character at the helm and she needs these two men, who need her as much as she needs them.
You spend most of your onstage time with John and Christy, so let's talk about them a little bit. First of all, are they both as lovely as we all think they are?
They literally are. And it's wild to find people at this level who are just so giving and so kind. You can be sweet offstage, but onstage you have to have a little give and take, and they have been so sweet to work with. If I say something different, or I wanna try something new, they're like, "Okay, yeah, let's try it!" Instead of just blowing through it and saying the lines the way they've done it for the past year, they really listen to you and they really take you in. They do the scene according to what you're doing, what you're giving them. And that makes real, true moments onstage, and that's how you know they're good people. They care about what they're doing so deeply. And I respect that because I care about what I'm doing so deeply. We all care about telling a story and changing people's minds about things. I I think that's where our relationship really finds its core- how much we just appreciate each other and trust each other onstage.
Do you have a favorite moment in the show or does that change from night to night for you?
Since I've really gotten comfortable with Dmitry, there's this great moment where he finally realizes he's in love with [Anastasia]. And it happens in the middle of a song called "Everything to Win." She had just gotten me to meet the Dowager and he hangs out with this long note. The line is: "You never know / You never know." On the middle of the note, he realizes that he's not happy and he can't figure out why. He just won the jackpot. He's about to change his life. It's this beautiful selfish acting moment for me where I can just find that. He thinks: "What do I want most of all? What if it didn't matter anymore?" And I love that moment in the show.
As like a whole, there's so many smart moments, but my favorite scene has to be the ballet.
It's just beautiful and Lyrica [Woodruff] is such a wonderful dancer. I don't get to watch it anymore! I used to have a front row seat every night, and now I'm singing, so I don't get to see it anymore. But she's really great and that song and the way the parts all fit together and old things come back from the first act and new things are being presented to the audience - it's a quintessential musical theatre.
I was so impressed when I saw this show by how much new material Lynn [Ahrens] and Stephen [Flaherty] made for this version. And Dmitry really as a character really hit the jackpot!
I had a fascinating conversation with Stephen one day and I was prodding him about "My Petersburg." I was like, "Stephen how did you write a '90s anthem in 2017?" That song kind of evolved. It used to be a song called "When She Walks In." From there it evolved into what we call "Petersburg 1.0," and now what you're seeing onstage is "Petersburg 2.0." So I was like "How did you write it?" He goes, "Well, me and Lynn sat down and we were like, okay so when the movie came out, what were we doing in our lives? What were we listening to? What were we eating? What were we talking about? And I tried to encapsulate that in 'Petersburg.' I tried to figure out who I was 19 years ago writing the movie musical." And I was like, "That is so cool! I can't believe you could do that!" I don't even know what I was doing two years ago! [Laughs] They're just brilliant people.
Let's talk for a moment about the Fanastasias. They are the real deal...
The fans and I have always had a great relationship. I think they kind of flocked to me early on because I'm very active on Twitter and social media, and so I met a lot of them. I think what's so great about theatre is you don't need to know how to do it to appreciate it, or appreciate how hard it is to pull it off. What you just need to do is connect with a person onstage for ten seconds. All you have to do is let your heart open for ten seconds and people will feel it with you. I think a lot of these young men and women... they just wanna feel like they belong in a community, and I think that we've given them a community to make friends and to enjoy each other, and so I'm really grateful when they come by.
And they make us really cool stuff all the time! They're so creative. When I was their age I was like, "Yeah! Video games!" [Laughs] They make things and they care about the show,. They made friends with each other and now they're actual friends in real life! I think that's wonderful because theatre at its core, I think, brings people together.
Yeah, that stage door is always hoppin'. I've gotta say!
It is so fun to walk out after a show and have more cheers. You know, I already took my bow but now I get a second bow. You know?
What are you most looking forward to in the rest of your run in this show?
I think I'm most excited about the unknown. When you're moving up as an understudy, it's like your dream. Your dream is to be bumped into a role... that's what you wish for and hope for. You hope for a creative team to take you seriously enough to give you a chance, and I got that.
So now the worry is: what is next? Because when you step into a lead, it's hard to go back to the ensemble, and sometimes those golden handcuffs will really get a hold on you. But instead of being worried about it, I figure I'll embrace it and not try to worry too far ahead. I'm gonna try not to worry about what's around the corner, and try to enjoy it as much as possible, because it might be my only shot.
From the Tony Award-winning creators of the Broadway classic RAGTIME, and inspired by the beloved films, Anastasia is the new Broadway musical that's "one of the most gorgeous shows in years!" (New York Observer). This dazzling show transports us 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 conman and a lovable ex-aristocrat. Together, they embark on an epic adventure to help her find home, love, and family.
ANASTASIA has played to sold out crowds on Broadway since opening in April 2017, in addition to garnering multiple Tony, Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle awards and nominations.