Photo by Matthew Murphy
SCHENECTADY — Edward Staudenmayer arrived into Schenectady the night before and admits he has “butterflies” in his stomach for what’s about to take place.
“I literally got here last night,” said Staudenmayer, who plays Vlad in a musical adaptation of the popular 1997 animated film “Anastasia.” Over the phone, he sounds excited. “I’m going to rehearsal. I’m going to 12-hour rehearsal. … I have not seen our new tour set. I have not seen my costumes. So, all that happens, today.”
The traveling production launches a 29-stop U.S. tour with shows at Proctors in Schenectady on Tuesday, Oct. 9. Outside of the performances he’s watched as an audience member, he has yet to see the costumes. He’s yet to do a walk through with his fellow actors.
Anastasia features the work of several Tony Award-winning creators. The story transports theatre-goers from the twilight of the Russian Empire to the euphoria of Paris in the 1920s. The plot involves Anya, a brave young woman who sets out to discover the mystery of her past. Pursued by a ruthless Soviet officer determined to silence her, she enlists the aid of a dashing conman and a lovable ex-aristocrat. Together, they embark on an epic adventure to help her find home, love and family. The musical features a book by celebrated playwright Terrence McNally, a lush new score with music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics written by Lynn Ahrens, and direction by Tony Award-winner Darko Tresnjak.
For Proctors, “Anastasia” is yet another bead in a string of several national tours to launch from its storied stage. The old vaudeville house has previously teched or launched the first national tours of Disney’s “Newsies” in 2014, “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder” in 2015, “An American in Paris” in 2016, and both “Something Rotten!” and “The Color Purple” in 2017.
Staudenmayer admits to knowing little about the history behind the story framed by Anastasia and the Russian Imperial Romonav family that was executed during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1918. He peeked at bits of the animated film after he was offered the role of Vlad for the show’s Broadway production. In the cartoon, Vlad appears as a short and portly socialite voiced by Fraiser television star Kelsey Grammer. He turned it down.
“I said, well that’s just not me,” said Staudenmayer. “So, I didn’t go in.” After friend and fellow actor John Bolton landed the role, he said he had second thoughts. “I heard he got it and I thought, darn. Maybe it changed and I didn’t know it.” He later learned that the part was changed, it had become “sexier.”
Like Vlad, who goes from serving time as a member of Russia’s Imperial Court to a Parisian socialite, Staudenmayer is a traveling man. The actor, who recently finished touring in a production of “Phantom of the Opera,” is a touring veteran. He travels from city to city in his own car, with his companion, a Shetland Sheepdog named Mac. During his downtime, the two go off exploring for the best hiking spots. His castmates often approach him with questions on where to eat or visit. He laughs when he’s told he could write a book.
“I haven’t figured that out yet,” said Staudenmayer. Through his travels as an actor, he said he and Mac are inseparable. During matinees, he sends Mac to doggy daycares so he can have his fun. He’s developed as strong a knowledge on such daycares as he has for local restaurants. “Maybe I can write one on the best dog daycares.”
With the showing of “Anastasia,’ Proctors will be asking patrons to turn on their cellphones. The theatre is experimenting with an innovative application currently exclusive to New York City. The GalaPro app provides automated multillingual subtitles, closed captioning, dubbing, audio describptions and amplifictions.
For tickets and information, visit proctors.org.