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Previews: ANASTASIA at The Playhouse

Runs February 9th through 12th.

Previews: ANASTASIA at The Playhouse

Wilmington resident and theatre veteran Gerri Weagraff comes to The Playhouse as the Dowager Empress in the national tour of ANASTASIA. Six performances from February 9 - 12. Music and lyrics are by the award-winning team of Flaherty and Ahrens (RAGTIME, SUESSICAL THE MUSICAL and ONCE ON THIS ISLAND) with a book written by Broadway legend Terrance McNally.

The production is based on the 1956 movie of the same name starring Yul Brenner and Ingrid Bergman and the 1997 animated musical fantasy drama.

(There were rumors swirling following the 1918 assassination of the Romanovs that Anastasia - Anya - had survived. These proved to be patently untrue. In fact, Prince Philip, husband of Queen Elizabeth, was related to the Romanov's. His DNA matched all the unearthed bones of Nicholas and Alexandra, the 4 daughters and Alexei, heir to the 300-year dynasty. I know. I wrote a book, ALEXEI and RASPUTIN, detailing the investigation.)

However, the rumors persisted for decades and made a captivating concept for movies and a Broadway musical).

Aisle Say is forever intrigued as to how one's adventures in theatre began. Gerri's began as a 10th grader. A friend said, "Hey, let's audition for FIDDLER." The show has had an indelible influence on her career. She met her husband Paul in the show at Swarthmore Players in '86. (Paul is the recently retired long time head of the DE Division of the Arts). She played major roles in 2 FIDDLER productions at Candlelight theatre with her husband and children Jordan and Becca. The family was in The Brandywiners MUSIC MAN in 1997. And, to top it off, Gerri was in a national tour of FIDDLER in 2010.

The seed was sown in Family Weagraff. Both children went on to college in theatre arts majors. And Jordan, in fact, was the inspiration for Gerri's fascination with the Dowager Empress in ANASTASIA. Jordan's girlfriend had a role in the original 2017 Broadway production. Gerri fell in love with the character. She says, "I never thought I would ever play the part, but, hallo, here I am!"

Gerri responded to an Anastasia national tour casting call in early March 2020, and had an in-person audition in NYC just days before Covid happened. The casting company asked her to submit a callback via a taped video, after which the process ground to a halt. Would there ever be live theatre again? Then 13 months later, the audition process resumed, and she was invited to come to NYC in July 2021 for a final, in-person callback for the Dowager Empress. Two weeks later, she was offered the role of her dreams.

The plot: It is 1906, the Dowager Empress is sitting with Anya. She says she must leave St. Petersburg for Paris. The country is reeling with unrest, protests and insurrection. It is safer in Paris. She gives Anya a music box to remember her by. Then, in a magical, theatrical moment, we fast forward to 1918. The Bolsheviks invade the palace. The Dowager receives word the family has been executed. Yet, aha, there is a rumor that Anastasia has survived.

Two with nefarious intent, Dmitry and Vlad, see this as a major payday. They 'audition' for women who could play the imposter Anya. A Leningrad street sweeper is chosen.

This is a wonderful production of fantasy and dreams. The costumes are breathtaking and the music is uplifting and triumphant.

A few weeks after word got out regarding her gig, I saw Paul at a funeral. "Bro, you just retired, the kids have their own careers and Gerri goes on tour?" Quoting Alanis Morrisette, "Isn't it ironic?"

Gerri and her troupe have been on the road for over a year. Some stops are one-nighters but in the major cities; Chicago, Boston, Atlanta, there have been two week runs. The tour ends in May. Gerri has tabulated that at final curtain they will have been in 125 cities, 41 states and 3 Canadian provinces.

She ends our conversation with, "I feel so very, very blessed. Doing something I love, seeing so many cities, bringing Broadway to communities whose citizens could never venture to New York."

ANASTASIA - February 9-12 302.888.0200 800.37Grand

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From This Author - Greer Firestone

Greer Firestone has been reviewing professional theatre for 35 years. As a playwright he wrote and produced JUDY GARLAND "Wor... (read more about this author)

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