Lila Coogan transports us from the twilight of the Russian Empire to 1920’s Paris in her role as Anya in the touring production of Anastasia. Based on the popular films, the show is a musical adaption of the legend of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia. Coogan’s character is searching to find out who she is and who she is meant to be. The musical features a score with popular favorites from the animated version, such as “Once Upon a December” and “Journey to the Past.” Coogan gives insight to her character and life on tour.
[Academy of Music] April 9-14, 2019; kimmelcenter.org
Lila Coogan: Tour life is so exciting! Being in new cities and theaters each week is incredible. I love meeting all these new people, and getting to explore new places! It is definitely one of the most rewarding things I’ve gotten to do so far in my career!
DD: Your character, Anya, is based on a historical figure. What interesting facts did you learn about her during your research for the role?
LC: The character Anya is influenced by the Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov. It was really cool learning about the history of the family and the Russian revolution. We also explored what was documented about her personality when she was younger. Anastasia, as well as her siblings, were raised to be incredibly compassionate, which is something you definitely see play out in the show! She also had this fiery and playful side to her that I think is fun to bring to the table. What happened to her and her family is incredibly heartbreaking. She was so young and had so much life ahead of her. I think getting to play out what her life may have been like and explore who she may have been had she fully grown up is incredibly special and near and dear to my heart.
DD: How do you make her relatable to modern day audiences?
LC: I think that right now, seeing a young woman take charge of her future is so current and relevant. I love that she knows what she needs and wants and isn’t afraid to go and get it. I want every person seeing the show to leave feeling like they can do anything! I think history is always relevant and relatable and theatre is a way to access that component!
DD: Many of us are familiar with the animated version of Anastasia. In what ways does the musical differ?
LC: The movie is definitely set in a more fantastical world. What the creative team has done with the musical is taken these well-known and beloved characters from the movie, put them in a real world, with real serious problems and obstacles, and letting play out how these characters would have handled it. We don’t have a talking bat or a villain from the underworld. We have real people dealing with real problems. In a way, I think it makes our story more accessible and relatable to a broader demographic.
DD: The show features songs from the animated film, as well as, new musical numbers. What is your favorite song in the production?
LC: My favorite song to sing in the show is “In a Crowd of Thousands.” It is the duet between me and my opposite, Dmitry, played by the incredible Stephen Brower. It is such a special song because it’s not only a pivotal turning point in the show, but it’s one of the only moments we see two people completely relaxed and open with one another, and relating in a way that is deeply intimate. It is also how I met Stephen. We were introduced in call backs and asked to just jump into this number. When you see the show, you will understand how special that is. This number will always have a corner of my heart.
DD: In addition to your theatre credits, you were featured on the TV show, “What Would You Do?” What was that experience like?
LC: I loved my time with WWYD! I have filmed roughly six different scenarios, five of which have aired! I was lucky to get to work with them a lot! I have gone from asking strangers to buy me weed, to fighting with my dad over his new girlfriend, to buying fake concert tickets. It is a really interesting and fun job, and it was another opportunity to learn about people and open the door to other opinions! It was also a way to travel to new places. I got to spend a whole week filming with them in North Carolina, and I got to spend a weekend in Portland, Oregon. The whole team there is amazing!
Anastasia is playing April 9-14, 2019 at the Academy of Music in Philadelphia, and in select cities.