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Interview: Madeline Raube of ANASTASIA at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa

Madeline shares some insight into the musical and her role as Countess Lily

Interview: Madeline Raube of ANASTASIA at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa
The Company of The North American Tour of ANASTASIA
- Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Broadway Across Canada's long-awaited presentation of Anastasia opens tonight in Ottawa at the National Arts Centre. Inspired by the movie of the same name, Anastasia begins in the shadows of the Russian Revolution and follows the journey of Anya, a young girl who has lost her memory, her home and her family. With the assistance of a conman and an ex-aristocrat, Anya begins a journey of self discovery and sets out to regain some of what has been lost. Madeline Raube (Countess Lily) was kind enough to have a chat with us before opening night.

How has the tour been going so far?

The tour has been really great! I have been with this tour since the beginning, and it is so wonderful to see the audiences' reactions to it. People are so excited to be in the theatre again and we can feel the extra energy that is there. We are just so happy to be here, especially in Ottawa, where it has been such a long wait. [Anastasia was originally scheduled to be in Ottawa in April, but it was postponed due to breakthrough Covid cases within the company.]

I took a peek at your resumé and something that struck me as interesting is that you have played four characters named Lily!

It's so funny that I have played so many characters named Lily! I think that now, I just need to figure out what other Lilys I can play. When I go to Starbucks or anywhere that I need to put an order in, I actually use the name Lily because it's easier for them to write, compared with Madeline!

What is your favourite role that you have played to date (it doesn't have to be a Lily!)?

Actually, it probably is one of the Lilys, so that's pretty ironic. I have been in Kiss Me Kate a few times now and I love playing Kate/Lilli because you get to sing into the juicy drama of it all. It also has some comedic bits, but she is a soprano and really gets to take the stage as a diva. It's one of those roles that is so much fun to play no matter how many times I have played it.

This particular Lily [from Anastasia] takes the cake after that because I have never played a comedic role that is this physically comedic. She also has a lot of belty, brassy, numbers and I am a trained soprano, so this has been a really fun part to dig into.

What drew you to the role of Countess Lily?

I saw the movie when I was a young girl and I fell in love with Anastasia but I also fell in love with the character of Sophie, who is the equivalent of Countess Lily in the movie. Bernadette Peters voiced the role of Sophie in the movie and Bernadette Peters is one of my idols. Because of that, I was naturally drawn to the role when they held the open auditions. I thought to myself that I had to try to audition for that role and push myself. It was really the movie and the Bernadette Peters' voice in my head saying, "try this role instead of Anastasia" and now, here I am!

How much research did you do into the history of the Romanovs and the Russian Revolution in order to prepare for the role?

As a company, we all sat down on Day One and they gave us a thick packet on the history of it all. They wanted to make sure that we understood what the historical background was all about and you will see in the production that there are explosions and the assassination of the Romanovs - it starts off pretty dark, but then it turns into this beautiful story. Some of the characters are also based on historical figures. For example, Gleb, the villain that they have created for this musical, was based on a soldier at the time the Romanov family was assassinated. Along the way, we have been able to visit certain museums that have historical artifacts relating to the time period, like dress attire of the era or Romanov Fabergé eggs, so we have been immersed in the story from the beginning.

It is interesting that even though the show starts out during such a dark moment in history, you are able to shift the mood into something lighter.

We have to start with the dark parts because we need to show what Anya and the Dowager Empress have lost. Their entire family and name were just stripped away - the Dowager Empress held so much power and then, in an instant, it was all taken away from her. But even though it starts out dark, it becomes a true story of hope later on.

What would you like the audience to know about your character?

She's the party starter! Lily doesn't appear until Act II. Up until that point, it's very serious and the story is all about Anya and the Dowager Empress and about Anya's relationships with Vlad and Dmitry, and then I come out and shake things up a bit! I get to portray what life is like now that we are living in Paris as Russians and I get to get out there and be a little ridiculous with Bryan Seastrom, who plays Vlad. There is also a romantic fling that happens there. I just want the audience to know that, if they hang on and get through Act I, they can get ready to laugh and have some fun in Act II.

What is the most challenging part of your role?

I think the most challenging part of it is the physical comedy. I have never done a role quite this demanding in that sense. For example, the whole cast is doing this ginormous number and then I go right into this duet with Bryan so there is a big part of it where I don't get a break since I am on stage the whole time. I'm using my body to tell this story of who this sassy, feisty, voluptuous woman is, so the physical comedy - while the most rewarding - is also the most challenging aspect of this role.

But what most people don't know is that I'm actually in Act I, incognito! I'm in the ensemble so I get to be in Act I as a Russian servant, as a peasant and so on and then, all of a sudden I have a huge costume wardrobe change and I become Lily. It's really fun.

Since Countess Lily is only seen in Act II, do you have your big transformation during Intermission or do you have to do one of those crazy costume changes in a flash?

I have several quick changes throughout the show but Intermission is when I get to make that change from Ensemble into Lily.

I remember seeing a video about Beetlejuice [the Musical] where they have only a couple of minutes to get Leslie Kritzer into her Miss Argentina costume, with the green makeup, the wig, costume and everything. It's quite something to watch! At least you have a reasonable amount of time to do your transformation!

It is crazy! There is a whole show going on backstage that no one ever knows about. I think our biggest one in this company is the first one, when we are all in the Romanov Palace and we have a matter of under a minute to get from crazy big costumes with long trains to the peasant scene for the "A Rumor in St. Petersburg" number. The woman who has the long train and the fifty-pound dress has to get out of that, and the crown and wig in under a minute. I wish someone could record that!

I'd love to see that! I can only imagine what it must be like.

Interview: Madeline Raube of ANASTASIA at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa
The Company of The North American Tour of ANASTASIA
- Photo by Jeremy Daniel

What is your favourite musical number of the show?

I love when Anya sings "In My Dreams" at the beginning of Act I. I think that it's a beautiful song. It's not from the movie; it gives the audience a chance to hear what Anya wants and learn what she is searching for. For me, the musical is special because it is not your typical princess story; it's about a young woman that is strong and independent and who is ready to do whatever it takes to fight for her journey. That particular song is when the audience finds out what Anya is here to do. I always get to watch it in the wings.

What would you like audiences to take away from the show?

This is a story about home, love and family. I think, especially now - and especially for the audiences that have been waiting for so long - I want them to feel like they are with us, together as a family, for one night. I would love for audiences to be able to step away from whatever may be bothering them in their real lives and to just enjoy a night of theatre. It is really a show for everyone - from young children to seniors and everyone in between. I'm so excited for everyone to be able to see the show and I just hope that everyone enjoys it.


You can see Madeline Raube as Countess Lily in Broadway Across Canada's presentation of Anastasia at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa through September 4, 2022. Click here for more information or to purchase tickets.

* Note this interview has been edited for length and conciseness.



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