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Tallahassee Students Mount A Pandemic Comeback With 'Anastasia'

A woman in a yellow shirt and jeans stands smiling in an auditorium with a stage behind her.
Gina Jordan
18-year-old Lincoln graduate Joelie Campana plays Anya/Anastasia. She’s double cast in the title role along with Lily Zuehlke.

The pandemic shut down a lot of activities last year, including the ever-popular summer production by Leon Performing Arts. The show is back this year, as a cast and crew of nearly 150 present Anastasia.

This is what I love doing, and I'm just so happy to be back and so thankful,” says 18-year-old Joelie Campana, a recent Lincoln graduate. “It just feels normal again, you know, I didn't know we could have that back so quickly.”

This is Campana’s fourth Leon summer show. She is double cast with Lily Zuehlke as the title character - who thinks her name is Anya.

“She's been living on the streets for a while and she has amnesia, and she just wants to find her home,” Campana says. Anya meets two people who live in Russia and can help her get to Paris. “She believes that she might be the lost Princess Anastasia. So it's just like a journey of self-discovery and finding your home.”

49 students are in the show, with lead roles double cast. The team includes a live orchestra comprised entirely of students. Also returning to the summer show is director Naomi Rose-Mock.

It's amazing - exhausting, but amazing,” Rose-Mock says of her return to the theatre. She says Anastasia seemed a fitting choice for Leon Performing Arts’ comeback show.

We thought it'd be really good to have a strong female lead - a show that centers on a strong female figure. It's got wonderful music. The ensemble in the show is involved in, I'm going to guess approximately 90% of the numbers,” Rose-Mock says. “They’re playing I would say over 70 characters, so each person is playing five or six different characters. It's great. So there's a lot going on for everybody.”

The musical theatre version is unique but similar to the movie Anastasia from the 1990s, which is now streaming on Disney Plus.

Rose-Mock even sees a little bit of pandemic symbolism in the show. “The opening of the show covers 20 years of the beginning of the Russian Revolution," Rose-Mock says. "I think it definitely underscores the haves and the have-nots, the poverty, and sort of what people were experiencing - and the isolation of that, which I think we can all relate to in some way after this past year.”

The show opens July 9th and runs on select dates through the 18th. Even at full capacity, the summer show at Leon usually sells out. For this production, only half of the seats will be sold due to social distancing. Tickets are $12, and masks are optional. Click here for tickets.

Gina Jordan is the host of Morning Edition for WFSU News. Gina is a Tallahassee native and graduate of Florida State University. She spent 15 years working in news/talk and country radio in Orlando before becoming a reporter and All Things Considered host for WFSU in 2008. Follow Gina: @hearyourthought on Twitter. Click below for Gina's full bio.