The musical “Anastasia” is the story of a young woman who finds herself alone in the world, uncertain not only of her future, but also of her past.
It’s something Madeline Kendall, who will star when the touring Broadway production of “Anastasia” comes to Tulsa, understands all too well.
Kendall, born in South Korea, was adopted by a family in New Jersey when she was 7 months old.
“I’ve been extremely lucky because I have the most amazing family,” Kendall said. “But I know I could have struggled a lot with who I really am, why I was abandoned, trying to find my true self.
“So I understand how Anastasia feels, about finding her true identity,” she said. “I also love that her research ends up making her a strong, independent woman who makes the choices she makes because they’re best for her.”
People also read…
The musical “Anastasia” is adapted from the 1997 animated film of the same name, inspired by the legend that has developed around the possible fate of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, the youngest daughter of the Romanovs, the family that ruled Russia before the communist revolution.
Tsar Nicholas II and his family were finally executed in July 1918, but for years rumors swirled that somehow Anastasia not only survived, but escaped Russia.
It wasn’t long before several women claimed to be Anastasia, though none could provide solid evidence for their claims. (The case was finally closed in 2007, when DNA testing of the Romanov family corpses proved that Anastasia had been executed in 1918 along with the rest of her family.)
Musical theatre, however, is not as beholden to facts as historical records and courts. In the world of “Anastasia”, the rumor that the young Duchess escaped the executive turns out to be true, and the young girl’s grandmother, who now lives in Paris, offers a huge reward to anyone who can. reuniting her with Anastasia.
When news of the reward reaches Russia, two con men decide to find a naive girl and set her up to pose as Anastasia and claim the money. They are about to despair of finding a suitable subject when a young woman named Anya walks into their office.
Her remarkable resemblance to the missing royal and the fact that she suffers from amnesia and remembers little of her past make her the perfect candidate for their plan. However, the true pasts of Anastasia and one of the tricksters, Dmitri, will connect in ways that complicate everything.
That Kendall portrays Anya/Anastasia during the show’s Tulsa run is a bit out of the ordinary.
“Kyla Stone (who is best suited for the role) is taking a few weeks off to do another project,” Kendall said. “There are three stunt doubles for the role, so each of us will have a week to play the lead role.”
In her usual role, Kendall is a member of the show’s ensemble and performs a number of roles throughout production, ranging from playing one of Romanov’s doomed daughters to being one of the women auditioning for to be the fake Anastasia.
This won’t be the first time Kendall has starred.
“We were in Albuquerque, and I got a call around midnight saying I was going to play Anastasia the next day,” Kendall recalled. “My roommate is a swing artist, who should cover all of my roles, so we stayed up all night and went through the whole show together in our hotel room.
“It was crazy and scary to say the least,” she said with a laugh. “Fortunately, our cast and crew are amazing, and you know they’re cheering you on and making sure you have everything you need to do well on stage.”
Kendall is the first Asian American to play the role of Anastasia, just as Kyla Stone is the first African American to play the role. Kendall said this was simply a reflection of the diversity of the show’s cast, rather than some kind of statement from the creative team.
“If anything, I think it makes the show even more relatable,” Kendall said. “It shows you that anyone can go through this journey of finding their identity. I think it’s something we all do in one way or another, and it has nothing to do with race or culture.
“But still,” Kendall said, “it’s super special for me to be the first Asian to play the part. I’ve had a lot of kids contact me after a performance, to say how much it for them to play the part meant seeing “a princess who looks like me” on stage.”