by Shina Ann Morris
Anastasia was the first show I have ever originated a role in, starting my journey with our out-of-town production in Hartford, so I've felt like I had a part in bringing these characters to life. Though bits and parts and stories I loved were cut by the time we opened here on Broadway, I still felt so humbled to have created something as an original cast member (that wasn't a revival).
I completed about 550 shows by the time I left the show. My decision to leave was actually a combination of two things: I've been nursing a knee injury that my doctor decided was time to operate on, so I'll be having minor surgery soon. Dealing with a chronic injury while doing a show eight times a week is frustrating and at times very painful. We performers are extremely tough and will suffer through a lot for our craft. At first, I was to take a leave from the show to have the surgery, but when an opportunity presented itself to be a part of How to Succeed... at the Kennedy Center (bless you, Denis Jones!), I jumped at the chance. Around the same time, I was offered a track in the out-of-town tryout of Tootsie, so what became a leave from Anastasia ultimately turned into giving my notice.
To me, it was a very strange thing to give my notice. I always joke to myself that I'm the "Broadway closer"; I'll be with a show until it closes. People kept asking me how I felt about my time ending with Anastasia, and "bittersweet" was the word that kept coming to me. I love the people in this show DEEPLY. We are a crazy, crazy group of people who LOVE TO SNACK, have shenanigans, and just genuinely like each other. I feel so blessed to have spent the last year and change with these people. I will miss being their Comrade the most. I also love singing this glorious music, and love getting to be a princess, even if dancing in a heavy princess dress is pretty hard!
I think the hard part about leaving a show is knowing when the time is right. A while ago, I was having a difficult time coming to work and trying not to be the dark cloud of the bunch. I'm not quite sure what was going on inside my soul, but there was a point where I thought if I stayed, I would make myself and others around me really unhappy. The last thing I wanted to do was be in a place where I brought negativity around. I think a lot of it had to do with my injuries and the amount of pain I was in, and how I dealt with not being able to live and perform to my full capacity. It can truly take a toll on your heart and soul.
Saying goodbye to Anastasia was easier knowing 1) I'd see these wonderful people again. You never say "goodbye", it's always "see you later"; 2) I am taking the time to heal my body, and at the simultaneously my mind and soul; and 3) I had a gig to dive into after my recovery. I am very aware how blessed I am for this, and I am so grateful for the JOURNEY I took with Anastasia.
Until we meet again...