Who am I? That’s the burning question in the new Broadway musical “Anastasia,” starting previews on Thursday.
The show follows an 18-year-old amnesiac, Anya, who treks from St. Petersburg, Russia, to Paris — on foot, no less — in search of her identity.
But there’s another mystery: Who is she? As in, who’s Christy Altomare, the New York unknown starring in the show?
Broadway musicals run $12 million to $15 million a pop and rely on star power to sell tickets, so casting a non-celeb is a big deal.
Altomare is taking it in stride. “It sounds awkward,” she told the Daily News. “But sometimes you know in your soul you’re the character. I felt a connection.”
Darko Tresnjak, who won a Tony Award in 2014 for his direction for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love & Murder,” considered many actresses for Anya.
“The singing in the show is challenging and must be very stylish,” he said. “And you also need that Audrey Hepburn fragility. Christy had both.”
Altomare, 30, who grew up in Bucks County, Pa., honed her skills at the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music and on stage in the national tour of “Spring Awakening” and the Off-Broadway run of “Carrie.” She made her Broadway debut as the bride, Sophie, in “Mamma Mia!”
“I feel like I’ve grown with my roles,” she said. “I’ve gone from adolescent Sophie to, now, Anya, who’s dealing with more complicated issues.”
Like the Communist regime in early 20th century Russia — and first love.
If you’ve seen the 1997 animated “Anastasia” with Meg Ryan or the 1956 film with Ingrid Bergman, the journey of a lost girl who may be a Russian princess will be familiar.
Songwriters Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and author Terrence McNally — the team who made “Ragtime” — were inspired by both movies while creating “Anastasia.” But they said the musical on Broadway, seen last year at Hartford Stage, is a fresh take on what McNally called “a modern fairy-tale legend.”
Which means Bartok the bat and evil Rasputin from the 20-year-old cartoon are nowhere in sight, exiled to Siberia, perhaps. But the hummable “Journey to the Past,” which earned Ahrens and Flaherty a Best Song Oscar nod, is in. A batch of new songs are being introduced, along with a character who represents the Communist regime.
Altomare called her starring role “a beautiful challenge” and welcomed the chance to put her stamp on the part. “People are connected to Anya in a very specific way,” she said. “When you’re an Anya lover, you’re a die-hard Anya lover.”
She paused, then added, “I know. I’m in that category.”
“Anastasia” opens April 24 at the Broadhurst Theatre.