In researching the history behind the hit musical Anastasia, it’s hard to decipher if the story is, in fact, based on true events that happened to the Romanov family or simply an old Russian legend. Regardless of the historical context, the play is fantastic! Anastasia brings together the staples we hope to see in a Broadway musical – drama, comedy, beautiful music, extravagant costumes, and most of all, stellar actors.
From the moment the curtain rose, seeing little Anastasia and her grandmother sharing a tender moment with a special music box, then seeing Anastasia’s mother enter the stage, dripping in jewels and a gorgeous tiara, I was hooked. Right away there is a huge musical number with dancing, gorgeous Russian style costumes in snowy white and pale pink, and an introduction to the family this story is all about, the Romanov’s. From the first scene through the end of the first act, we get a sense of the torrid world that is Russia, Petersburg specifically, between 1917 and 1927. The first act shows us the tragedy that happened to Anastasia and her family, introduces us to Anya and her new comrades and sets the stage for what’s to come in act two.
Act two, right away almost feels like a different play. The scenery is airier, the costumes brighter and the atmosphere a lot lighter. We find Anya and the two Russian con-men, Dmitry and Vlad, who have lured her into their scheme in Paris. The goal – to introduce Anya as the long lost Anastasia, whose wealthy grandmother, the Dowager Empress, has offered a reward for her return. Through each scene, we watch as Anya, an orphan with amnesia, learns who she really is. We grow to love the con-men too, as we can now better understand they needed money to escape a terrible place, but Paris brings new motivations for each.
While Anya (Veronica Stern) and Dmitry’s (Willem Butler) relationship develops, so does Vlad’s and his one time love Countess Lily, who happens to be the key to getting the threesome access to the Dowager Empress, whom she works for her. Countess Lily and Vlad, played by Madeline Raube and Bryan Seastrom, really bring the humor and joy to this show. They are comedic in all the right ways, and make us laugh as they sing their way back to one another. As you can guess, Anya and the Dowager Empress (Gerri Weagraff) do meet, but what the outcome is, you’ll have to figure out for yourself.
While the story and music was captivating and the actors were enthralling, the highlights of this show for me were the costumes and the scenery. The costumes worn in act one were drab in color, signifying the turmoil in Russian, and the truly plush fabrics were expertly tailored to look worn. Act two was full of glitz, glam and gilded fashions that appeared to be straight out of a royals closet from the 1920’s. As for the scenery, it was probably the most immersive I’ve seen of any Broadway show. There were a few tactile architectural pieces on stage, but most of the scenery came from the giant screens that made up the backdrop. They portrayed images of the Emperor’s home, Petersburg, a moving train and Paris (even an elevator ride up the Eiffel Tower), to name a few. The imagery was spectacular and truly made the audience feel like they were there.
Show Dates: September 20-25