"Anastasia" on Stage at the Saroyan

by Lorie Lewis Ham

The musical Anastasia is coming to Fresno this week and will be performing at the Saroyan Theatre on February 22 and 23. KRL had a chance to chat with one of the actors recently about the show, here is our interview with Sam McLellan who plays Dmitry.

KRL: Where are you from?

Sam: A small town in Wisconsin called Wautoma.  

KRL: When did you first become interested in acting?

Sam: Doing my first musical in High School (Guys and Dolls) was when it hit me that I had never experienced such joy before. I fell in love, and knew I had to make this my life’s work.

Sam McLellan as Dmitry in North American tour of "Anastasia"

KRL: What was the first role that you ever played?

Sam: Sky - Guys and Dolls

KRL: What are some of the roles you have played professionally?

Sam: Sky - Mamma Mia, Younger Brother - Ragtime, Sasha - Fiddler on the Roof, Jamie - Last Five Years. 

KRL: Why did you want to play this role in Anastasia?

Sam: I feel as though I can empathize with Dmitry’s outlook on life very easily. I feel as though I understand him and his struggles in a way that I don’t always with other characters.

KRL: Were you a fan of the show before this?

Sam: No! I didn’t actually know that much about Anastasia before I auditioned. It was after I received the audition request that I began researching the show, listening to the album, and prepping to play the character. 

Kyla Stone (Anya) and Sam McLellan (Dmitry) in North American tour of "Anastasia"

KRL: What do you like best about playing this role?

Sam: I like that Dmitry gets to go on this incredible emotional journey. He ends in a place so different from where he began, and navigating that as an actor is exciting and challenging every night. 

KRL: What has been the biggest challenge in playing this role?

Sam: The biggest challenge is the sheer amount of stamina it takes to perform the show. The physical, mental, and emotional toll it takes is like pushing a boulder up a mountain. That being said, I wouldn’t want it any other way. 

KRL: What have you done to prepare for this role?

Sam: As with any role I play, the biggest piece of prep work I do is study the text. The history/setting of the show is easy enough to wrap your head around, but the details in the text are really where you need to focus your energy. Understanding the function of each scene within the grander picture of the story and identifying every moment of development in each character’s relationship is what makes the difference between a stale and gripping performance. 

KRL: What do you like best about the show?

Sam: I like that this show has such a broad appeal. No matter who you are, you can find something to connect with in our story. Whether you’re 6 or 106, there’s something in it for you. The audience’s overwhelming love for this story is truly a blessing and I could not have wished for a more positive response. 

KRL: What is a typical day like for you while in this touring show?

Sam: The time commit for a professional stage actor is relatively low and we typically have every weekday free, only working at night. Because of this, I work another job to keep myself busy. I work as a remote recruitment consultant for a firm in New York part time during the days and then go to the theater at nights to do the show. Between work, I like to find local coffee shops and restaurants for sustenance, but I typically don’t spend much time exploring the cities due to my busy work schedule. 

Kyla Stone (Anya) and the cast of the North American tour of "Anastasia"

KRL: How has Covid changed how you do a show?

Sam: The only thing that’s different is that we wear masks backstage and are tested daily. It’s a small price to pay in order to do what you love. 

KRL: Anything else you would like to share?

Sam: I couldn’t be prouder of our production. From the crew to the cast, I thoroughly enjoy working with every single individual that’s involved.

Anastasia performs in Fresno February 22 and 23 at the Saroyan Theatre. Tickets are available online at BroadwayinFresno.com, by phone at 800.745.3000, or in person at the Fresno Entertainment and Convention Center Box Office. Current health and safety protocols can be found at BroadwayinFresno.com/Health.

Special note: Local actor William Aaron Bishop is in the ensemble for this show!

All photos by Jeremy Daniel. 

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Lorie Lewis Ham is our Editor-in-Chief and an enthusiastic contributor to various sections, coupling her journalism experience with her connection to the literary and entertainment worlds. Explore Lorie's mystery writing at Mysteryrat's Closet.