Helias Catholic to present “Anastasia” March 11-13

Musical production follows a Romanov princess from the Winter Garden to the City of Light


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A beautiful story of loss and renewal, rendered in song and dance with a cast of 54, anchors Helias Catholic High School’s spring musical production of “Anastasia.”

Students will give Central Missouri’s first high school performance of the musical on Friday through Sunday, March 11-13, in the Miller Performing Arts Center, 501 Madison St. in Jefferson City.

“It’s a beautiful play with a rich history,” said Production Manager Ron Vossen, a member of the Helias Catholic faculty.

“It’s about finding your home and finding your family no matter where you are in life,” said Amy Pringer, the production’s director.

The story is based on the popular legend of a daughter of Czar Nicholas II of Russia surviving the brutal and bloody Communist revolution of 1918 that claimed the lives of everyone else in her family.

“‘Anastasia’ is a musical journey of hope that transports audiences from the darkness of the Russian Empire to the exhilaration of Paris in the 1920s,” the promotional materials state. “The music throughout is stunning, each song allowing the characters to show the audience the heart and soul of the story.”

It’s a dream-come-true for the students who are performing and for those are contributing behind the scenes.

“We’ve been working so hard for this, and I know this is going to be one of the best shows we’ve done,” said Helias Catholic senior Eliza Pierce, who serves as senior director and plays the role of the Dowager Empress, Anastasia’s grandmother.

“The set is gorgeous, the costumes, the singing — I’m so excited about it,” she said.

Ms. Pringer believes in student-driven leadership in staging school musicals. Student directors coordinate everything from blocking to scheduling to stage lights, make-up and hair.

“They foster ownership for the craft, not to mention the show itself,” said Ms. Pringer. “They’re prouder of the finished product because of what they do to help bring it about.”

She also believes in showcasing all the performers’ talents.

“We’re extending our ensemble numbers to make sure they get a lot of stage time,” she said.

In a technological first for a Helias production, almost every scene in “Anastasia” will have moving projections in the background.

“It’s basically like a video behind your production,” said Ms. Pringer. “It’s for giving perspective or historical information or atmosphere, or historical cues of where we’re at. It will be a balance with the music and what’s going on on stage.”


“In the moment”

Ms. Pringer said everyone involved is working hard and learning important life skills.

“They’ve been at this for going on four months,” she said. “By the time we get to this point, the show is theirs, this performance is theirs, and they should be very proud of it because it’s good.”

The stage, auditorium and backstage areas were buzzing with activity the evening of March 1, the day after rehearsals moved from Helias Catholic’s Band Room to the Miller Performing Arts Center.

Helias Catholic senior Ava Morrisey, student stage manager for “Anastasia,” took a break to watch the cast rehearse.

Ava enjoys singing and acting and was involved in student productions all through middle school.

Upon joining the Helias track team her freshman year, she no longer had time to commit to an on-stage role, so she signed up for the backstage crew.

“I tried it and really liked it, so I decided to keep doing it,” she said.

She sometimes misses being out under the lights, but the fellowship behind the scenes is great and she gets to enjoy the show from a unique vantage point.

Being stage manager this year has yielded invaluable experience.

“It’s about knowing what’s going on at all times and making sure you know what everyone should be doing, and writing everything down and being really attentive,” Ava said.

It’s given her a deeper appreciation for the theater, the work everyone has to do to bring an elaborate production to the stage, and what it means to be a leader.

“Backstage, it means knowing what’s going on and having people count on you to know what’s going on,” she stated.

She recalled the moment in the middle of a previous year’s production when a piece of scenery broke off on stage.

“We fixed it and it all worked out,” she said. “When something like that happens, you learn who’s good at fixing things in the moment and getting things done quickly.”

She believes she has become one of those people.

“So much fun!”

Helias Catholic senior Addison Schroer plays the role of Lily, an ex-countess.

“I’m pretty much just in Act 2, but I have a few fun songs,” she said. “My character is very preppy and enthusiastic” — an interesting counterpoint to many of the other characters who are living with culture shock in their newly adopted homeland.

“I definitely like the style and the jazzy look,” she said. “I have these wild shoes that I get to wear and walk and dance in, and it’s not easy!”

Addison has been involved in Helias musicals since she was in sixth grade.

“To be honest, my parents got me into it,” she said. “But then I realized the family aspect and the togetherness and watching all of our hard work become this amazing piece of art that we get to perform for other people, and that’s what kept me in it.”

She enjoys looking out at the audience from the stage and knowing that the people are enjoying the show.

Addison said there’s nothing like the adrenalin rush of Opening Night.

“It’s crazy because we practice in here for so long, looking out at the chairs with nobody in them,” she said, “and then all of a sudden, we have an auditorium that’s full.”

Waiting in the wings for her cue often brings sweat and a super-fast heartbeat.

“But then you get on stage and look around and see the people you’ve known for so long all around you, and you’re just like, ‘I know what I’m doing,’ and you start calming down and start having fun,” she said.

“That’s one of my favorite parts,” she added. “I just get to have so much fun.”

Then comes the big exhale.

“What’s really cool about after our Opening Night show, we all kind of look around and look at each other and say, ‘We did this! And it’s happening right now!’” she said.

Likewise, feelings of pride and satisfaction eclipse any sadness after the final performance.

“I don’t like to think of it as an end,” she said. “I want to think of it as, ‘We did this together, we got to experience this together. And we should be proud of ourselves for pulling this all off and making it look the best we can.’”

“My people”

Eliza, the student stage director who also plays Anastasia’s grandmother, has been involved in musical productions since she was in third grade at St. Joseph Cathedral School.

She worked on the stage crew as a freshman at Helias Catholic and took to the stage the following year.

“It was so much fun and I love this place!” she said. “It’s always felt like home.”

She’s enjoying the challenge of balancing her own role with the needs of the whole cast.

“I love talking to people, I love getting to know people,” she said. “That’s probably been the best part of this for me. I’ve just gotten to talk to everyone, see how everyone’s doing, checking on everything.”

She’s gained important insights into handling stress and mediating conflicts.

“Take a deep breath and just relax, and then assess the situation, see how everything is going, see both sides of the story and then just help them talk it out,” she said. “It’s like, ‘Let’s talk through this. Let’s talk about this and see if we can find some middle ground, and we’ll get through it.”

With all of the shared rehearsal and performance time, the cast and crew start feeling like a big family.

“I think that’s what I love most about the theater,” said Eliza. “You start in December, and by March, it’s like, ‘These are my people! This is my family.’”

“Roll with the punches”

Eliza said it’s especially interesting to be performing “Anastasia” — which is set in the 1920s — a century later, with Russia back in international headlines.

She said it’s fun to imagine a Romanov princess escaping tragedy and succeeding at life in a different locale.

“Who knows?” Eliza stated. “Maybe she was just out there living her best life. Maybe she never knew who she was.

“Just being a princess and not knowing it! That’s so crazy!” she said.

Eliza said she loves the moment when the warm lights go up and her stage fright turns to the confidence that is a product of months of hard work.

“Being on that stage, that’s where most of us feel most comfortable,” she said.

She thought back to the time last year when she fell down on stage during a dress rehearsal and bruised her leg.

“And I just kept singing,” she said. “It’s the theater! You’re just got to roll with the punches. Whatever life gives you, you’ve got to just keep singing. And that’s what I live by.”

Eliza took Cecilia as her confirmation name, after the patron saint of singers and musicians.

Before performing, “I always say, ‘St. Cecilia, help me out! I’m about to sing this song! Help me out!’” she said.

Ms. Pringer lauded the entire cast and crew for their hard work and dedication.

“The team effort, the building of character, the gift of time — I hope they realize it’s worth it in the long run and that they should be proud of what they put out there for people to watch and enjoy,” she said.

For themselves and the rest of the “Anastasia” ensemble, Eliza and Addison ask for prayers for calm and good health.

“I know it will be fun, but it’s stressful sometimes,” stated Eliza. “So pray for calm, and that we have a good show.”

“Healthy, healthy, healthy! That’s always a very big thing with working our voices so much,” said Addison. “You can get super-tired.”

Tickets for Anastasia cost $15 per person. Call 573-635-6139 or for information, or write to Ron Vossen at rvossen@heliascatholic.com.