‘Anastasia’ makes the right connection with dancer

The Broadway musical Anastasia makes a pre-holiday visit to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts, beginning with the show press opening tonight (Nov. 5) and concludes its two-week run Nov. 17.

With a backdrop that will take audiences through the withering Russian Empire and the romantic escape of Paris, Anastasia focuses on the travels of a young woman seeking to make a connection to her mysterious past.

While all of this is going on, expect a lot of singing and plenty of movement from some talented folks gracing the stage as they interlope the acting part of the performance with some expected dance wizardry. One of those individuals who will be popping in and out of the show’s production is a newbie stage veteran Ronnie Bowman Jr.

Dancer Ronnie Bowman Jr. stars in the Broadway musical “Anastasia.” Courtesy photo

Bowman is a newbie in the sense that he just completed getting out of college a couple of years ago and Anastasia represents his second national tour. However, his stage acumen is detailed with the National Tour: A Chorus Line and in regional performances in the Westside Story and My Love Letter to Broadway.

In other words, Bowman is working up the ladder when it comes to putting showcase performances under his belt. But with two national tours secured on his resume, it’s a good bet that Anastasia won’t be the last production that Bowman graces the stage in.

When it comes to Anastasia, Bowman, who performs in the production as one of the lead dancers, originally didn’t think the musical would be a good fit for him when he went and tried out for a part. The reason being was that the part he auditioned for was more centered around ballet, something he wasn’t quite comfortable doing, he said.

“At first when I got the call, I was a little hesitant just because right off the bat I didn’t think I was necessarily right for the show or necessarily think it was a show for me,” Bowman said. “Anyway, I still went. It was a great audition. They gave us three combos back-to-back. We were maybe in the room for two hours. It was pretty intense and they kept making cuts after each combination.”

Segerstrom Center for the Arts – Victoria Bingham (Little Anastasia) and Joy Franz (Dowager Empress) in the National Tour of ANASTASIA – Photo by Evan Zimmerman, MurphyMade.

Bowman’s trepidation about auditioning for his part in Anastasia stems from the fact that he didn’t see himself as being a superior ballet dancer.

“It is a ballad-based show, and as much as I love ballad, I didn’t consider myself the strongest ballad dancer,” Bowman said. So, I was tentative. I always tell this story because sometimes the auditions that you don’t put an immense amount of pressure on that you set for yourself like creating this anxiety like I have to be perfect. I felt like in the room because I didn’t put so much pressure on it, I was able to focus and pick up the choreography and execute it. I tell that story when I teach master classes.”

Interesting enough, the very thing that nearly kept Bowman from his Anastasia audition is now his favorite part of the show.

“I love the ballad,” said Bowman. “The ballad is great because the ballad is one of those things that look pretty but is so difficult to do. Even if it’s just a three-minute ballad or maybe even shorter, there’s always…I always feel like there’s something that I can perfect or work on in the ballad and that is so helpful to when you’re doing a show. We just got to 350 performances, and I’ve been here from the beginning. It’s very nice to have something like that in the show that you can continue to make new when the show becomes so repetitive.”

Segerstrom Center for the Arts – Lila Coogan (Anya) and Jake Levy (Dmitry) in the National Tour of ANASTASIA – Photo by Evan Zimmerman, MurphyMade.

Bowman, who hails from Connecticut, first found stage life when his mother took him and his sister to an audition for a part in a children’s ensemble at the Bushnell, a renowned live theatre and musical haven.

“I, at the time, did not want to audition,” Bowman said. “I wasn’t sure what being in a theatre show would entail. I was very into like T-Ball and baseball at the time. I did alright at the audition. My sister did really well, and since I was her younger brother they said, ‘Well, why not? Just throw him in.'”

Going to rehearsals was fun but it was a lot of work as well. No lightbulb went off in Bowman’s head that said performing on stage for a living what something he could aspire to. After all, he was eight years old at the time. It wasn’t until the day of his first live performance that Bowman finally understood that performing in front of people was something he wanted to do.

“I remember opening night when I was nine years old; we would all run out and we sang in this line, Kriss Kross, Apple Sauce, and we would just smile out at the audience,” Bowman said. “I smiled out at the audience. I saw the ring of lights in front of the balcony and a sea of dark figures. And then I just knew I loved it. This is what I wanted to do. At that point, I was saying I wanted to be an actor.”

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