“Anastasia” on Broadway

      The Broadway adaptation of “Anastasia” debuted in April of this year. The cast, which includes Christy Altomare as Anya (Anastasia), Derek Klena as Dmitry, and John Bolton as Vlad Popov, brings the beloved characters from the 1997 animated film, “Anastasia,” to life in this performance.

     The movie and the play follow the story of the historical figure, the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia. The real Anastasia was killed along with the rest of the Romanov royal family in the early 1900s by the Bolsheviks, a rebel group made up of working class members led by Vladmir Lenin. After the execution, there was speculation as to whether the duchess Anastasia and her brother, Alexei, survived since all of the bodies except for those two were found. Following the history, the play begins with the murder of the Romanovs when Anastasia was young and then fast forwards to the Saint Petersburg that exists now that there is no royal family leading; in the song, “Rumour in Saint Petersburg,” the townspeople are similarly suspicious that Anastasia is still alive. Young women, in both reality and the play, came forward claiming that they were Anastasia in an attempt to inherit the life of the duchess. This historical mystery is so intriguing and makes for a great storyline, and so the Anastasia impersonators are a big part of the play, too.

      In 2007, though, the bodies of the duchess and her brother were identified and the Anastasia mystery was solved. That doesn’t make for good entertainment: everyone dies. The end. The play “Anastasia” changes the plot to make it more entertaining rather than retaining complete historical accuracy. In this story of Anastasia, the duchess survives the killing. The twist is, she has no idea who she is, as she developed amnesia after the Bolsheviks attacked. Going by the name given to her by the nurses who found her on the road, “Anya” lives her life after the execution with nothing but flashes of memories that she has no understanding of.

      The play is all about Anya’s journey to Paris to find out about her past, so there are a lot of people and places to see along the way. The visual aspect of this performance is gorgeous. Instead of traditional back drops for the scenery, the show has a variety of different landscapes and buildings projected onto the stage to give the feeling that you are traveling to Paris with Anya. In the last scene of the first act, Anya, Dmitry, and Vlad have hopped off of their train from Russia and are just a few miles away from their destination. As Anya sings the closing song, “Journey to the Past”, the projection shows the flora “surrounding” the characters and pans up so that you can see the Eiffel Tower and the rest of the beautiful city that the characters have finally reached. The projections also make Anya’s memories come to life. In one scene, Dmitry gives Anya a music box that he bought, thinking it was a Romanov treasure. When Anya opens the box, which in itself is spooky, since no one else knew how to open it, a lullaby (“Once Upon a December”) starts to play. The ghosts of the royal family dance on the stage, and projections of dancers are displayed all around the theater so that the audience is fully immersed in the memory.

     And then there is the music. With your student discounted Spotify Premium account, you can stream this soundtrack all of the days of your life. And you should, because these songs are great. The animated film score was nominated for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score and Best Original Song in 1998. This soundtrack, successful as it is, is brief. To make the story flow as a Broadway show, the same songwriters who wrote the songs for the movie, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, created new tracks. These songs add emotion (Anya’s and Dmitry’s feelings are expressed in “In a Crowd of Thousands”), comic relief (especially in the number “The Countess and the Common Man”), and excitement that is needed to make the story fit as a musical. The new tracks along with the songs from the film, like the classics “Journey to the Past” and “Once Upon a December,” sung by the extremely talented cast, blend so well and make the story of Anastasia that much richer.

      Anastasia has got it all: it’s a mystery, it’s historical, it’s political, it’s funny, it has romance, it has tragedy, and a phenomenal group of people performing it for you. Find some money and spend it all to go see this show. Maybe there’s a lost duke from Poland that you could impersonate to get the funds you need.

   Sources: biography.com, imdb.com




photo credit: Anastasiabroadway.com

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