MSU theater presents ‘Anastasia’

Travel to Russia to follow the story of a girl who lost her memory and has to remember who her family is. All she remembers is Paris. 

This is the plot of the musical “Anastasia,” and the MSU Theater Department is performing its rendition of the show. Its song, “Journey to the Past,” inspired the name of the 2023-2024 theater program. 

Director Matt Caron said the department had wanted to do this show for a few years but had to wait for its rights. 

“Once it became available, we snatched it up right away just because we knew we wanted to do it. When we knew it, we had the talent for it. We thought it would sell really well,” said Caron. “It’s the kind of thing that our patrons tend to really like. I had good support from the students to do it as well.”

This show includes projections on the stage’s back wall. These projections will consist of elements highlighting some of the moments in the show. Caron said the projections took a lot of work. 

“If you have scenery that’s too big or lights that are too bright, the projections get washed away. Or you have projections on scenery that you don’t want,” said Caron. “Actors can only go so far upstage. If we’re doing dances and lifts, they have to be further downstage.” 

Brooklyn Kellenberger plays Anya, the musical’s main character. This is her first show at MSU, and she said getting a major role like this for her first show is something she never thought would happen. 

“When I found out, I was screaming and crying. I was absolutely thrilled. I thought it was a dream for the whole week after I found out,” said Kellenberger. “I get put in this role as a sophomore. There are lots of thoughts in my head that I have obstacles I’ve created in my head that I’ve had to overcome.” 

This show has a student choreographer, Elizabeth Albenesius, who helped choreograph the dances throughout the show. This is her first time choreographing a show at MSU. 

“I’m so grateful that Matt has trusted me with my work. It’s really encouraging for me. This is what I want to do for my career,” said Albenesius. “So to know that I have enough talent and that my advisors and professors here trust me, it’s so encouraging to know that I could take this to the next level. It’s an honor, and I’m so grateful for it.” 

There are many dance sequences throughout this show. Albenesius said the most complex dance is also one of her favorite dances. It is a big ballet number called “Swan Lake,” which lasts around five minutes. 

“We put on a mini ballet. We have a pas de deux going on, and the swans are there, and it is so complex but beautiful to put together as a dancer,” said Albenesius. “There are so many moving pieces in that number. It’s a quartet, so there’s four people singing, and it mimics the story of ‘Swan Lake.’ So choreographing Swan Lake within a different song was complex, but pas de deux are also complicated.” 

Kellenberger said she can relate to her character in some ways. She said one of the hardest parts about getting into character was the aspects she couldn’t relate to. Anya has two sides: a feisty side and moments when she is uncertain about herself. The parts she cannot relate to are the family side; it’s more like putting herself in Anya’s shoes. 

“I can relate to The ‘I can do it on my own’ independent part of herself. She’s kind of that way in the story with Demetri, and I’m kind of that way with my boyfriend,” said Kellenberger. “She also has those hard moments with herself, such as ‘What do I do? I am missing this part of myself, and I want to figure out who I am,’ and she’ll go to far lengths to figure that out. I feel like I do that as well. I don’t want to get stuck with what’s happening right now. I want to know what the future holds. I want to just keep going and keep figuring out new things about myself.” 

Caron said he encourages students to come to see the show as it’s something they will enjoy. He said it’s an excellent way for students to see the last main stage show of the 2023-2034 season. 

“It’s great music, fun action, and an easily accessible story. You can follow it really easily. You can do your homework and watch the animated film, and then you’ll totally get everything going on, but it’s easy to understand,” said Caron. “The dance is gorgeous. And it’s kind of cool with the spectacle and the special effects. We have a lot of moving scenery and flying scenery.” 

“Anastasia” runs at 7:30 p.m. April 4-5, 11–13, and at 2 p.m. April 6–13, 14 in the Ted Paul Theatre at the Earley Center for Performing Arts. Tickets are available at mnsueventtickets.universitytickets.com or the box office from 4-6 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Write to Lauren Viska at lauren.viska@mnsu.edu

Header Photo: Minnesota State’s Theater Department is performing its rendition of the musical, “Anastasia.” The show will take place in the Ted Paul Theatre April 4-6 and 11-14. (Alexis Darkow/The Reporter)

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