Anya – 1965
“My first Broadway musical and I loved “Anya”. It is the story of a great legend of our century, the czar and his family and what happened to them.
We had Rachmaninoff’s music and it was so beautiful. We also had voices from Metropolitan Opera singing the music and we had Constance Towers who was a lovely “Anya”.
We played “Anya” previews in New York for three weeks (the production was too expensive to tour) and did sell-out business until we opened and the critics turned thumbs down on us. I don’t know why.”
(Dorothy and Lillian Gish – By Lillian Gish)
My career started in New York and I went back there after doing The Horse Soldiers, The Naked Kiss, and other films. I went there at the request of Edwin Lester, who was the director of the Civic Light Opera in Los Angeles. He thought I was right for the lead in the stage musical Anya, which was the play Anastasia set to the music of Rachmaninoff. I opened in it, but unfortunately there was a newspaper strike at the time and they were building the subway on Sixth Avenue near the Ziegfeld Theatre. So, we opened under a lot of problems at Christmas time. Frank Loesser, who was the producer of Anya, withdrew, so a golfing friend of George Abbott’s–the great Mr. Abbott, the director–took over as producer. So, the show lacked a certain amount of support, even though Hal Prince was sitting there during rehearsals, helping Mr. Abbott. We were open for just three weeks, but I was fortunate that Richard Rodgers saw Anya and took me under his wing and cast me in his production of Show Boat at Lincoln Center in New York that summer. I just had one of those great experiences playing Julie, which was the Helen Morgan role. I sang the song “Bill” and had standing ovations every night, which was a great thrill. I continued to work for Richard Rodgers. I probably did more of The Sound of Music around the country for Mr. Rodgers than I did The King and I. Anyway, when they were casting The King and I revival with Yul Brynner, Mr. Rodgers called and asked if I would play Mrs. Anna and, of course, I said yes.