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Interview: ANASTASIA's Willem Butler Talks Life After BroadwayWorld's NEXT ON STAGE & Making His Touring Debut

Interview: ANASTASIA's Willem Butler Talks Life After BroadwayWorld's NEXT ON STAGE & Making His Touring Debut

Butler spoke with BroadwayWorld about his favorite song and moment in the show, where he's most looking forward to performing, and more! 

Willem Butler, winner of BroadwayWorld's first ever season of Next on Stage, is currently shining bright on stages across the country as Dmitry in the National Tour of Anastasia. A recent graduate from Elon University, Anastasia is Butler's touring debut!

He stars alongside Veronica Stern as Anya, Ben Edquist as Gleb, Gerri Weagraff as Dowager Empress, Bryan Seastrom as Vlad, Madeline Raube as Countess Lily and Leela Chopra and Alexandrya Salazar as Little Anastasia.

ANASTASIA is traveling to over 50 cities this season including Chicago, Indianapolis, Birmingham, Atlanta and Cincinnati with additional cities to be announced. Butler spoke with BroadwayWorld about his favorite song and moment in the show, where he's most looking forward to performing, and more!


You won the first season of BroadwayWorld's Next on Stage! Can you tell me about the trajectory of your winning the competition to landing the role of Dmitry in Anastasia?

Yeah! Well, I won it early on during quarantine, and since then it's kind of just been a whirlwind of different things that have happened. When I got my agent at the end of Senior year, I remember a few of the agents that were a part of HCKR being like, "I remember seeing you on BroadwayWorld!"

And so, I think that it's helped me in a lot of ways that I don't even know. Some I do, some people have reached out, either Broadway actors or agents and tried to either hire me, or have seen me in different things, which has been amazing. But I think, even in a lot of ways that I haven't seen firsthand, so many people saw Next on Stage and got a taste of me before I got out into the real world. I'm glad that I did that. And it's been just a blessing since then.

This is your touring debut. Can you tell me what the experience has been like so far?

It's been crazy. The touring experience has been a little bit different than anything I've experienced before. I was really excited to do it, because up until now, I haven't really done a long run of just one show. I did a lot of Summer Stock professional theater where we would do three months of different shows, but this is the first time that it's been every single night we're doing the same show for 10 months. And so, learning how to take care of my voice, take care of my body, traveling at the same time, getting to explore different locations, has been such a learning curve. And especially learning the show as quickly as we did.

I remember I got there on the first day, and right after the first rehearsal I got Covid and had to quarantine for five days, and then I had to mask for five days, and so I had to learn the entire show pretty much in four days, and then rehearse it as much as possible before I opened. So, it's really been a learning curve of a different experience than I've had before. But I love it, I love every second of it. I've talked to a bunch of people in the cast about it, and we would do another tour again in a heartbeat. So far! We're only a month in, but so far, we would absolutely do another one!

Anastasia (Non-Equity)

How is it starring opposite Veronica Stern as Anya?

Oh, she's great! She's incredibly talented! She's wonderful to work with. She has an amazing grasp of the character, and the emotions behind it. I remember when [Director] Darko [Tresnjak] came and worked with her and I, he was just gushing over how solid her Anya is, and how much she really went into depth with the character and character work. She's been wonderful, she's awesome.

Do you have a favorite song and or/moment in the show?

Yeah! Well, I'm a little biased, but my favorite song is definitely 'My Petersburg'. I remember when I saw it on Broadway with Derek [Klena] I just fell in love with the song, as I'm sure every music theatre tenor did. And I remember playing it over, and over, and over again on the train ride home. So, that's my favorite song.

And I think my favorite moment, which they switched a little bit for the tour, to make it more noticeable, is at one point during 'Learn to Do It', Dmitry gets hit by a chalkboard. And in the Broadway production, he does it behind the chalkboard, and I remember seeing it and thinking, "I think that's hilarious," but they moved it in front for the tour so people could really see it and get that moment. And it may not get a laugh every time, but I think it's one of my favorite moments, he randomly gets hit with a chalkboard, for what reason! It's definitely my favorite part of the show.

That's a fun answer! Is there one place that you're most looking forward to getting to perform? Are we hitting your hometown?

Yeah! I'm actually in Huntsville [Alabama] right now because we're on our vacation, but I'm most excited to come here. This is where everyone who I've grown up with, who supported me, who voted for me on Next on Stage, they all live here in Huntsville. And so, when they found out I was coming with Anastasia, they immediately tried to go out and buy their tickets. There's a whole group that's coming. I'm very close with the touring company that brings shows to Huntsville, and I know a lot of people in it just from growing up in Huntsville, and they've deemed it the Willem Butler Fan Club Section, which I think is hilarious. But I'm very excited to see everyone, I'm very excited for everyone to see the show. I really like the show a lot, and I think it's a show that Huntsville specifically is going to love.



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The Non-Equity North American tour of ANASTASIA is currently making its way across the country! Veronica Stern, one of BroadwayWorld's 'People to Watch in 2022,' leads the cast as Anya. The cast also includes Willem Butler as Dmitry, Ben Edquist as Gleb, and more. Get a first look at the new members of the cast here!

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