When the stars align

Dress for RTOP production of ‘Anastasia’ had a rocky route to Pullman

click to enlarge When the stars align
Liesbeth Powers/Inland 360
Kaitlyn Atchison, left, as Anya, shows Beverly Crain, as the Dowager Empress, the music box she was given as a child in the second act of Regional Theatre of the Palouse's production of “Anastasia.”

An ornately hand-beaded, red gown will be a star of the show when Regional Theatre of the Palouse’s production of “Anastasia” opens next Thursday in Pullman.

It almost wasn’t to be.

The movie-inspired musical, which debuted on Broadway in 2017, tells the story of a young woman, Anya, who believes she might be the the youngest daughter of Russia’s Tsar Nicholas II, and costumes play no small part in the production.

Executive Director John Rich knew exactly what he wanted for the iconic gown Anya wears in the show’s final scene, having seen it in a shop in Honolulu’s Chinatown.

He purchased it and other costumes on a visit over the holidays, then packed his bags to return to the mainland, expecting to be home with weeks to spare before the show opened.

click to enlarge When the stars align
Liesbeth Powers/Inland 360
Kaitlyn Atchison, as Anya, wears a red gown in the final scenes of Regional Theatre of the Palouse’s production of Anastasia in Pullman.

Then came the incident with the Boeing 737 Max airplane losing a cabin door plug midair, and canceled flight after canceled flight after canceled flight.

Nearly 10 days after he’d intended to be home, Rich arrived at the Pullman-Moscow Regional Airport in the wee hours of a Sunday morning — and discovered his suitcases were missing.

“Everybody had left, and my bags weren’t there,” he said. “That was the topper. They had lost the costumes.”

Those “iconic, priceless, irreplaceable costumes,” in the words of th
click to enlarge When the stars align
Liesbeth Powers/Inland 360
Garrett McClure, as Dmitry, reaches out as he sings about his memories in the second act of Regional Theatre Of the Palouse’s production of "Anastasia" in Pullman.
e show’s director, Michael Todd, mercifully were delivered to Rich about 30 hours later.

With just more than two weeks until opening, actor Kaitlyn Atchison, who plays Anya, tried on the dress.
“It fit her perfectly,” Rich said.

Rich and Todd saw “Anastasia” on Broadway “and were itching to get it on our stage,” Todd said of their decision to bring the musical to Pullman.

“We’re one of the first companies in the country to do it (since it was released for general licensing),” Rich said.

Todd both directs and appears as the Tsar, alongside actors recruited from the national scene and local talent, including Garrett McClure in his first leading role with RTOP, as Dmitry, and Monica Evans, as the Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna.

click to enlarge When the stars align
Liesbeth Powers/Inland 360
Hennessy Sheehan, of New Jersey, performs as Odette during a Monday rehearsal of a ballet scene for Regional Theatre of the Palouse’s production of “Anastasia” in Pullman.

The show’s choreography, which spans multiple styles of dance, is by Washington State University senior Gavin Hamilton, of Vancouver, Wash., who called the theater company his “home away from home.” Musical direction is by longtime RTOP contributor Tina McClure, of Moscow.

“I think it’s different from any show I’ve done at RTOP in terms of dance,” Hamilton said, listing ballroom, classical ballet, a “jazzy number” and a classical musical theater number — “Paris Holds the Key” — among the performances that round out the show.

The training and technique the lead ballet performers — including dancers from New Jersey, New York and Colorado — bring to the production is remarkable, Todd said.

“I think it sets the bar higher, so those taking part just soar,” he said, noting local cast members hold their own in the dance sequences.

“It’s a very robust ensemble,” he said.

The number “Stay, I Pray You,” which Todd explained is about “honoring your heritage and moving on to the next moment,” particularly stands out, he said: “It’s an iconic moment that will touch people.”

One thing the show has in common with the others he’s participated in, Hamilton said, is the way everyone working on it learns from each other.

“I always say that I like the collaborative effort: you learning from them; them learning from you,” he said. “When you put those things together it creates the magic of the show.”

Stone (she/her) can be reached at mstone@inland360.com.

Regional Theatre of the Palouse presents “Anastasia”

When: 7:30 p.m. next Thursday-Feb. 10, Feb. 14-17, 1:30 p.m. Feb. 10-11, 17-18.

Where: RTOP Theatre, 122 N. Grand Ave., Pullman.

Tickets: $28-$30 general admission, $ 15 students (maximum two tickets with student ID) at rtoptheatre.org. Groups of 10 or more may qualify for 10% savings.

Of note
: The show runs about 2½ hours with an intermission.

click to enlarge When the stars align
Liesbeth Powers/Inland 360
Beverly Crain, left, as the Dowager Empress, touches the chin of Kaitlyn Atchison, as Anya, in the second act of Regional Theatre Of the Palouse’s production of "Anastasia."