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'Anastasia' showcases musical talents of Dormont native

| Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, 12:03 a.m.

Dormont native Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens have been a part of the musical “Anastasia” since their work on the 1997 animated feature film.

The creative team earned two Academy Award nominations and two Golden Globe nominations for the songs in the movie, for which Flaherty composed the music and Ahrens wrote the lyrics.

They went on to earn two Academy Award nominations for their work on the stage version of “Anastasia,” which currently is playing on Broadway, in addition to the revival of “Once On This Island” that also features their songs.

Coming home

Flaherty says he is proud to introduce Pittsburgh audiences to the national touring production of “Anastasia” when it comes to the Benedum Center for eight performances Oct. 16-21 as part of the 2018-19 PNC Broadway in Pittsburgh series, presented by the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust and Broadway Across America.

The production features a book by playwright Terrence McNally, a new score by Flaherty and Ahrens and direction by Tony Award-winning director Darko Tresnjak.

The tour will play 30 U.S. cities in its first season, with international productions of “Anastasia” launching this fall in Spain and Germany and more countries to follow.

The Broadway musical includes several songs from the film, including “Journey to the Past,” “Paris Holds the Key (To Your Heart)” and “Once Upon A December.” Ahrens and Flaherty also wrote 15 new numbers for the show.

Musical start

Flaherty attended South Hills Catholic High School (now Seton LaSalle Catholic High School) and the University of Cincinnati College Conservatory of Music.

In Pittsburgh, he studied drama and classical piano, played in a ragtime piano group and worked on shows for Don Brockett Productions before moving to New York, where he met Ahrens.

The two also have collaborated on other stage productions, including “Ragtime,” “Seussical” and “My Favorite Year.”

The touring production of “Anastasia” features Lila Coogan as Anya, a young woman that sets out to discover the mystery of her past against a backdrop of a weakening Russian Empire and Paris in the 1920s.

Search for her identity

The musical centers on the mystery of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia and the struggles that Anya encounters in searching for her identity.

“My role is a spunky, headstrong, determined young woman who is the driving force behind the show,” she says.

One of her favorite scenes features her duet with co-star Stephen Brower as Dmitry in “Journey to the Past.”

“It’s a pivotal moment in the show, Anya’s big, climactic moment,” says Coogan.

Originally from Ossining, N.Y., Coogan says she was a huge fan of the movie. Her previous credits include “Mary Poppins” on Broadway and a regional production of “Hairspray” for Syracuse Stage.

She also can be seen on ABC-TV’s “What Would You Do?” a hidden camera series hosted by news correspondent John Quiñones, in which she plays various roles. She attended Syracuse University and received her BFA in musical theater.

‘Stunning music, gorgeous costumes’

Coogan says she is excited about her first big theatrical role in “Anastasia.”

“The music is stunning and the costumes designed by Linda Cho are gorgeous,” she says. Cho received a Tony Award nomination for her work creating the period costumes for “Anastasia.”

Ticketholders can attend a free Know the Show Before You Go event at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 17 at the Trust Arts Education Center, 807 Liberty Ave. Registration is required.


Candy Williams is a Tribune-Review contributing writer.

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