Lila Coogan (Anya) and Stephen Brower (Dmitry) in the National Tour of Anastasia.

“This story is hope personified,” says Stephen Brower, who plays Dmitry in Anastasia, opening next week at the Hobby Center.

Based on the beloved animated film and with a book by Terrence McNally, score by Stephen Flaherty, and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, this musical tells the story of Anya, a Russian exile living in Paris.

Anya may or may not be the only surviving daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, who was assassinated alongside his family by Bolshevik revolutionaries. The production traces her journey to learn about her past, even as she is relentlessly pursued by a Soviet officer and takes up with a dashing conman played by Brower.

“In Anastasia, there’s been a new regime in Russia, and it hasn’t lived up to its promises,” Brower says. “So, some people want a return to Imperial Russia—as messed up as it was—and Anya represents their hope for that. She is such a strong, intriguing character; you really want her to succeed.”

Over the course of the show, the idea of success becomes fluid. Is the surviving child the heir who can return royalty to the Russian throne? Is she just a woman making her way in the world and looking to find her own definition of self and success? Anastasia explores those nuances in what the Wall Street Journal called an “intelligent, well-crafted, and exhilarating” way.

Brower loves that his character is part foil, part partner for Anya.

“I love his ambition, how clever he is,” he says, “but he’s not noble in his intentions to Anya, and his arc is how she opens him to sensitivity. I love getting to play that every night.”

Brower left Texas State University in 2015 and headed straight to New York City to pursue his dream of being an actor. He landed roles in the national tours of Pippin and An American in Paris, and was cast as a vacation swing in the Broadway production of Anastasia in 2017, where he rose through the ranks to join the show’s ensemble, understudying Dmitry, whom he played in one Broadway performance. He took over the role on tour last year.

“I’m constantly amazed and grateful for it,” he says. “I know that sometimes actors work and work for years to be able to do this. I feel so fortunate.”

He’s looking forward to coming back to Houston, which was a stop for both of his previous tours. This time around, he’s renting an Airbnb in Montrose, instead of staying in a hotel. Mostly, though, he’s loving the chance to be back in the Hobby Center.

“I really love the theater,” he says. “The star effect on the ceiling, and I remember these murals they have on the walls backstage. I’ve also auditioned for TUTS before, and I think it’s fantastic they have the school attached to the space.”

He’s hoping audiences see the same values of hope and a journey to oneself that he finds in the show.

“I mean, it’s just beautiful—the sets and costumes and that music—it’s visually gorgeous,”  he says.  “But I think it also hits at the little kid in all of us, and the idea that life takes us on journeys to find where we belong in the world. I think that’s why this show is so loved.”

March 5–10. Tickets from $35. Hobby Center for the Performing Arts, 800 Bagby St. 800-982-2787. More info and tickets at houston.broadway.com.

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