Ever wonder what casts do when they come to South Florida and stay for a few weeks on national tour?
Tari Kelly, who arrives at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts this week as Countess Lilly in the touring production of "Anastasia" remembers coming to Fort Lauderdale for a long run in "Showboat."
"A bunch of us in the cast of that show decided if we were going to be down there for a bit, let's get scuba certified," Kelly says on the phone from a tour stop in Durham, N.C. So, she and other "Showboaters" became certified scuba divers.
Originally from Madison, Wisconsin: "I'm a Cheesehead," she proclaims, Kelly got her start as a dancer. "As a kid I took ballet, tap and jazz and I was extremely shy." When she tried out for a community theater production of "Anything Goes" when she was 13, life changed. "It brought me out of my shell and I knew that's what I wanted to do the rest of my life – be in musical theater."
"Anything Goes" was also the show that won her a South Florida Carbonell Award in 2011 as Best Actress in a Musical when she starred at the Maltz Jupiter Theatre.
In "Anastasia," her character is the "comic relief," she says, adding that the Countess role lets her stretch her comic muscles along with Ed Staudenmeyer who plays Vlad.
"When I come in in Act II, it's like a tip to the audience that says, 'OK, you can laugh now.' "
One of the things she says she enjoys about performing in the show, that while it is for any age, it is mostly family friendly. But the scenes she has with conman Vlad have dialogue that oftentimes go over the heads of the kids in the audience but land squarely into the laps of the adults. "It's like one of those Pixar movies and there are jokes only the adults get, and then the kids are wondering, 'Why are you guys laughing?' "
The show takes audiences from the twilight of the Russian Empire to the euphoria of Paris in the 1920s as a young woman sets out to discover the mystery of her past. Pursued by a ruthless Soviet officer determined to silence her, Anya enlists the aid of a conman and a lovable ex-aristocrat.
The show was so popular on Broadway and now on national tour there are groupies known as Fanastasias. I ask Kelly why she thinks people are so enchanted with the musical.
"I think it's really the message of finding where you want to be in the world, finding where you belong. It's about finding out where your home is and where your family is even if it's not where you first thought it was."
She says audiences also become transfixed by the opulence of the show. "It's one of the most visually stunning that I have ever been a part of, and the costumes are incredibly decadent. They are some of the most beautiful I have ever had the pleasure to wear."
Kelly would love to get back to Florida regional theater, but Broadway has been keeping her busy, and now the national tour.
In January 2018, she was set to perform Lina Lamont in The Wick production of "Singing in the Rain," but was cast in a Broadway show. She says it isn't the first time she was supposed to perform in Florida, but the Great White Way got to her.
"I was always hoping to be back. The Riverside (Theatre in Vero Beach) called me three times to audition for them. They probably never will hire me again. Because everytime I'd audition for them, I would end up getting a Broadway show." She jokes: "I always like it when they call me for an audition because I'm like, 'ooh, that means I'm going to get a Broadway show again.' "
"Anastasia" at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts is part of the Broadway Across America series. The show opens Tuesday, April 23 and runs through May 5 at the Broward Center, 201 S.W. Fifth Ave. Fort Lauderdale. Ticket prices start at $40.25. For ticket info and showtimes, go to www.browardcenter.org.