Orange County is bringing two shows to the stage just in time for the holiday season. Musical Theatre Village will present A Christmas With Scrooge — based on the classic story A Christmas Carol — while Segerstrom Center for the Arts will present Anastasia, based on the 1997 film.
Anastasia takes on the story of Anya, who goes on a journey to explore her mysterious past during the Russian Empire’s fall and the streets of Paris in the 1920s. As she sets sight on where she came from, Anya meets the charming conman Dimitri and the two discover moments of adventure, danger and true love along the way. Anastasia at Segerstrom stars Lila Coogan as Anya and Jake Levy as Dimitri. The show is directed by Darko Tresnjak and choreographed by Peggy Hickey. The show was composed and written for the stage by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens.
In an exclusive interview, Coogan told Irvine Weekly that playing Anya is a dream come true. Growing up, she was a huge fan of the film, including owning the Anastasia doll and telling her family that she would star in the story if it was ever made into a musical. “It feels very strange to play this part when you dream about doing it for so long!” Coogan said.
One of the actress’s favorite qualities about her character is that she is not afraid to stand up for herself and go on a challenging journey to Paris. With a story about a young woman fighting to do what’s right for herself, Coogan said this is an inspiring tale that is relevant for today. “I think that young women now are looking for heroines who are not afraid to take charge of their own future and are not afraid to stand up for themselves. I think that’s a wonderful thing to see played out on stage every night, a young woman who is not going to let anyone — man, woman, anyone — deter her from what she needs.”
When Anya makes her way to Paris, she discovers more from her past than what she expected. Coogan mentioned that the show has a lot of depth to people who miss their origins. “I think that our story came at a time when our country in particular really needed it and it’s wonderful to see that its touched so many people.”
Not everything goes the way it was planned for Anya and Dimitri, but in the end, they realize that every hardship they went through led them to where they should be. Coogan said that sometimes the things we strive for could lead to new directions, which can be a wonderful thing in the end. “I think that everyone needs to hear that it’s okay to take charge of your own destiny and that what you think you wanted for a long time may not actually be what you need … self-discovery is a really wonderful and unique thing to get to have in your life, and even if you’re working toward one goal, it’s OK to end up somewhere else.”
Levy pointed out how Dimitri has his own snarky side, but as he joins Anya in her self-discovery, he has his own self-discovery as well. “As much as I play the charm of Dimitri, I try to really highlight the moments of his inner turmoil, whether it be leaving what Petersburg means to him and his relationship with Anya. I think it starts out in this fun, bantery place with the two of them, but toward the end it gets eye-opening for Dimitri and I try to lean into that as much as possible. It’s a major realization for Dimitri to a world that he’s never fully explored, which is love.”
A Christmas With Scrooge at MTV takes on the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a serious old man who lost the meaning of Christmas many years ago. As the night before Christmas approaches, Scrooge is haunted by three spirits who show him his life over the years and how he needs to overcome his own conflicts to embrace the holiday and become a better man. MTV’s version will be a musical and has approximately 140 cast members. The show’s director, Denise Fenton, said this show has the ideal Christmas magic that audience members will remember from the iconic tale. “From the opening number, ‘Christmastime in London,’ to the party at Fezziwig’s, to the romantic waltz at Young Belle and Scrooge’s engagement, to the song at Cratchit’s, and the tears in the Cratchit graveyard scene, we keep you laughing, smiling and crying. All Christmas magic!”
Fenton said that the story explores the message on how people should live toward our fellow men and sometimes lost relationships with other people can cause one to build walls. She said these storylines are one of the key reasons why this story has been told over and over for so many years. And with the holidays approaching, this is the perfect time to feel that joy again. “Christmas is here then gone so quickly. We try to give a little more Christmas to audiences and a lot more Christmas to participants.”
Anastasia plays from Nov. 5-17. A Christmas With Scrooge plays from Nov. 30-Dec. 29. For more information on A Christmas With Scrooge, visit musicaltheatrevillage.net. For information on Anastasia, visit scfta.org.