This year just got a lot more musical for one USC School of Dramatic Arts teacher. Vicki Lewis—who teaches various classes on performing and auditioning for musical theatre, and co-teaches the school's voiceover class with her husband Phil Allen— returned to the Broadway stage this April, replacing Caroline O'Connor as Countess Lily in "Anastasia," a new Broadway musical based off of the 1997 animated cartoon of the same name.
In this musical, years after the Russian royal family has been executed, there is a rumor that the Grand Duchess Anastasia may have survived the massacre. Now, two con men, Vlad and Dimitry, hope to cash in on this rumor by training someone to impersonate Anastasia in order to elicit money from the Dowager Empress. Cue Anya, an orphan with no memory of her childhood, and who bears a striking resemblance to the Grand Duchess. When her desire to find her family leads her to team up with the two men, the three embark on a journey that will change them forever.
As Countess Lily, Lewis will be playing the Dowager Empress' close friend and confidante.
Lewis has enjoyed an extensive career in theatre, television, and voiceover. Her other Broadway credits include "Damn Yankees,"— Lewis performed the show's song "Shoeless Joe" at the 1994 Tony Awards — "Chicago," and "The Crucible." Television credits include "NewsRadio," "Modern Family," "Angie Tribeca," and "Curb Your Enthusiasm," just to name a few. And in her voiceover career, Lewis has brought to life many well-loved characters, most notably Deb and Flo in "Finding Nemo."
Below, Lewis shares her experience working on Broadway, as well as some honest advice for students looking to follow in her footsteps.
How did you prepare for this role?
I researched the historical details of the collapse of the Romanov family dynasty and the subsequent brutal murders of the Czar's family by the Bolsheviks; That history informed and colored the nuances of the relationships in the play. To me, the wreckage of that history on the characters informed everything.
The cartoon "Anastasia" is a childhood favorite for many. What sort of pressure comes along with having to bring to life a story that so many people are attached to?
There is pressure to find the authenticity in these iconic characters while giving a nod to the original characters in the film. The film holds such precious childhood memories for the audience, and in addition to fans of the film, there is a Russian audience drawn to the show because of the rich history of the Romanov Empire. You are aware that you holding a precious piece of storytelling in your hands, and it is important to handle it with care and love and to reveal the humanity in it.
What is the best part about working on Broadway?
The best part about returning to Broadway is the community. It is an authentic town. You need true talent, grit, and perseverance to survive and thrive here, and that takes a special kind of artist who has the tenacity to do that, so you find yourself in a certain amount of awe and respect for every one of your fellow artists. And of course, the city itself hums and vibrates with energy, and it is impossible not to be swept up in it.
What advice do you have for students trying to break into the theatre scene?
I think it's important to play the long game. There will be victories and devastating losses, and to attach oneself to the result is exhausting, all-consuming, and will most always let you down. Surround yourself with friends, fill your time with things that bring you joy, enrich your life through charity work – it will make the journey easier, and when the losses inevitably come, you will have a tribe to carry you, and when you get the wins they will mean so much more because you can share them with people who are truly happy for you.
Is there anything you would like people to know about your experience working on "Anastasia"?
Booking "Anastasia" was a dream come true. I had missed New York and the Broadway stage, but the most delightful thing [about being a part of the show] has been the creative team and the company. They are the most gracious, generous, talented and kindhearted group of people I have ever had the good fortune to work with. It is the greatest gift to feel part of their family.
You can catch Vicki Lewis as Countess Lily in "Anastasia" at Broadhurst Theatre, 235 West 44th Street, NYC Street, NYC, for more information visit https://www.anastasiabroadway.com