Anticipation builds for arrival of “Anastasia” at Watertown High

Spring musical to take the auditorium stage Friday, March 10, at 7 p.m., Saturday, March 11, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, March 12, at 2 p.m.


Eden Salley and Sarah Khan

Have you heard? There’s a rumor in Saint Petersburg – except it’s not Saint Petersburg, it’s Watertown High School, and there’s no rumor, just facts: the spring musical, “Anastasia,” is fast approaching.

“Anastasia” is a Broadway adaptation of an animated film from the 1990s. It follows Anya, a young amnesiac, on a journey of love and self-discovery after the fall of the Russian Romanov family in the 20th century.

The WHS production is led by Robin Wilson, Dan Wulf, and stage manager and cast member Emma Griffith. It will be performed Friday, March 10 (7 p.m.), Saturday, March 11 (7 p.m.), and Sunday, March 12 (2 p.m.), in the WHS auditorium.

How did the school choose “Anastasia” to be this year’s spring musical? Ms. Wilson and Mr. Wulf narrowed down a list to five shows and then read those scripts. They especially wanted a show where the ensemble had a lot of work.

“I’ve been a fan of this musical for a long time,” Griffith says, “and I’ve always adored the scene where they’re traveling on the train to Paris. “The song associated with the scene, ‘We’ll Go From There,’ is one of my favorites in the show, and the overall design of the set and the mechanics of it has always mesmerized me. There’s a moving cart on stage with many different passengers and the three main characters, Anya [played by Desiree Ambila], Dimitri [Christopher Papazian], and Vlad [Kiran Owens], all move around the cart singing their overlapping lines.”

The cast and crew started preparing for the play in December. Rehearsals last for about two hours each day after school, when the cast practices its lines and choreography, and the crew handles technical issues and sets. The students are either working with Ms. Wilson, the director and choreographer, or Mr. Wulf, the music director.

It’s up to to the cast and crew to come up with the costumes and learn the choreography for “Anastasia,” which will take the Watertown High stage March 10-12, 2023. (Raider Times photo / Raider Times staff)

The cast usually starts rehearsals with vocal warm-ups and/or stretching led by fellow students or Ms. Wilson.

Mr. Wulf, who has been helped produce shows at WHS for 27 years, said he feels confident about the musical because they have been over the material so many times that the cast and crew already know what to expect during opening night.

“You know the quality of the product and you want to share it,” Mr. Wulf says. “You want the students to get an audience,” says Mr. Wulf.

Something really special about high school theater productions is that the students get to participate in every aspect, and it takes a mountain of people working together to make each one happen. There is a talented crew and costume team, musicians who will play live – including WHS principal Joel Giacobozzi on trumpet – and a dedicated cast all working together to bring Saint Petersburg to life before your eyes!

Griffith, a seasoned actress, is cast in the show as the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna Romanov. While her character doesn’t “necessarily” resonate with her, she is “very excited to play a character like her” and hopes “that people will enjoy whatever I can bring to the character.”

The musicians in the pit have been working hard to prepare for the debut of “Anastasia,” which will take the Watertown High stage March 10-12, 2023. (Raider Times photo / Raider Times staff)

In addition to being stage manager and cast member, Griffith works closely with head of costumes Avery Macdonald (who also plays Countess Lily Malevsky-Malevitch) to prepare the outfits.

“[Macdonald] has really taken the lead on curating and coming up with ideas for the costumes,” Griffith says. “The process starts with making a list of all the different roles in the show ranging from Anya herself to Black Marketeer No. 3 and then going through the actual Broadway show and picking apart their costumes one at a time. We then cross reference the list with any items we might already have in the drama storage closet and then a whole new list is made of the things that we need to outsource for. We also rely heavily on our cast and crew mates who always, without a fuss, will donate any items they have at home to complete either their own costume or others.”

The costume crew has a difficult task for this show, which requires everything from military uniforms to ball gowns.

With so many different roles in production, Griffith offers an interesting perspective on the overall process.

“In every production, I love the feeling backstage right before the show – but specifically on opening night,” Griffith says. “Everyone’s a little nervous, but there’s always just so much excitement in the air. What took months of rigorous rehearsals will finally be shown to an audience, so there’s this wonderful energy that everyone feels and all the hard work is worth it just for those few moments you have with everyone backstage.”

Students are eager to see the finished result.

“I’ve heard lots of things about the musical and I’m very excited to see the end product,” says Valentina Quiroa DeFaria, a freshman at Watertown High.

Come be a part of the audience that experiences this incredible show next weekend, and see what the cast and crew have spent months putting together. Tickets are free for WHS students and teachers, and $10 for general admission. There will also be a dress rehearsal open to all and free of charge on Thursday, March 9, at 6 p.m.

–March 5, 2023–