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April 24, 2024

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Interview: Lila Coogan Talks “Anastasia”

The Broadway musical version of "Anastasia" presents a whole new story. It's coming to TPAC March 19 - 24. We caught up with the show's star for a chat.


Anastasia is a story of a young woman’s search for her identity with a lot of mystery surrounding her. Loosely based on the 1997 animated film, the stage musical of Anastasia presents a new experience within the tale that transports audiences from the twilight of the Russian Empire to the intense excitement of 1920s Paris.

With a book by Terrence McNally, and music and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, Anastasia premiered on Broadway in April 2017. The musical incorporates a few of the songs from the 1997 film along with new tunes. The story finds a ruthless Soviet officer pursuing Anya (Anastasia) in order to silence her. She enlists the help of a dashing conman and a lovable ex-aristocrat. Together, they embark on an adventure to help her find home, love and family.

Lila Coogan stars as Anya in the show's first national tour coming to TPAC's Jackson Hall March 19 -24. We caught up with her recently to chat about the show.

NP: Anastasia is about a young women searching for her identity. How do you relate to the character?

LC: "I think anyone can relate to finding where you belong in the world. For me, just figuring out who I am as a person and where I belong is a daily experience. So, that's how I relate to her journey."

Actress Lila Coogan

NP: There is a lot of mystery within the story. Why do you think it means so much to people?

LC: "I think Anastasia represented so much. She represented resurgence and resilience. This mystery of whether she could or could not have survived is such a long-lasting legend, and it's fascinating to think this young girl may have been able to escape and make a life of her own."

NP: The musical draws from the 1997 animated film along with the 1956 film starring Ingrid Bergman. Terrance McNally took composites of each and spun a new story. Comparing the stage version to the films, what's similar versus what's different?

LC: "Since the 1997 film is such a cult classic, what the audience can expect similarly are the character dynamics and the traits of each character in the movie are also in the musical. However, the musical is a completely different story, and it's rooted a little bit more in reality."

NP: Which elements of the show are more historically accurate, and which are more more fairytale?

LC: "The musical tries to stay true to where and what was happening at the time because it is a fictional story. Unfortunately, Anastasia did not survive. So, anything that happens beyond the Romanov family's capture is from imagination. All of the elements like what St. Petersburg was like at that time or what women and men had to go through during that time are rooted in historic reality."

NP: A big part of any show is scenic design and costumes. Anastasia also includes high-tech design. How do all of those things enhance the storytelling?

LC: "Our story starts in Russia and moves all the way to Paris, so we have two very different locations where the story takes place. The projections and the set really help transport you to these different locations. The projects are the best of the best. They are stunning. If you're a scenic junkie, you'll go crazy for them because they're so magical.

Our costumes were nominated for a Tony Award. Every little detail was so well thought out. Our costume designer, Linda Cho, is such an expert at what she does. Visually, this show is absolutely spectacular."

NP: There are several Broadway productions that are adaptations of animated classics. In what ways do you feel Anastasia stands out from the rest?

LC: "For me, what makes Anastasia so different and special is that it's a whole new story. You're not going to see the animated film live; you're going to see characters you love from the animated film doing a completely different story. It's not a carbon copy of the movie. It's a different journey. If you love the movie, you get to see this grand new experience with characters you love."

Stephen Brower (Dmitry) and Lila Coogan (Anya) in the national tour of "Anastasia."
Photo credit: Matthew Murphy

NP: What is your favorite scene to perform and why?

LC: "My favorite scene is 'In a Crowd of Thousands,' which is a duet i have with my male co-star, and I love it for multiple reasons. It's my favorite song in the show; it's really sweet and quiet. It's one of the moments in the show that's about living in a pleasant memory. Getting to do it every night with my Dmitry, Stephen Brower, is so special. It's actually how we met, and the songs is about when Anya and Dmitry first meet, so it's fun, and every night is special."

NP: Why is this show a good fit for kids in the audience?

LC: "The show is great for young audience members because it's so magical and informative at the same time. The music is great for young audiences, and it's a fun show to watch that includes humor. I love when I see young people leave the show saying, 'This inspires me to do whatever I want to do, to be who I want to be.' That to me is one of the most rewarding things that has come out of this experience for me."



Broadway at TPAC presents:
Anastasia (March 19 – 24; all ages)
TPAC's Jackson Hall
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
615-782-4040 |
Showtimes: Tue – Thu 7:30 p.m., Fri 8 p.m., Sat 2 & 8 p.m., Sun 1 & 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $50 – $100


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