Wednesday, October 3, 2018

Anastasia (Broadway)


As Russia prepares to transition from monarchy to communism, a strong and symbolic break from the past must be established through drastic measures to bring about a new era. This leads to the exile and eventual murder of the last heirs of the Romanov dynasty. Years later, St. Petersburg is now referred to as Leningrad. Poverty is still rampant in the streets. Con artist Dmitry (Zach Adkins) and fake noble Vlad (John Bolton) are on the lookout for yet another Anastasia impersonator to bring to her grandmother, the Dowager Empress (Judy Kaye), to Paris for a hefty reward. Street sweeper Anya (Christy Altomare) does not just fit the bill, she also seems to have had some sort of aristocratic past concealed by temporary amnesia. As they go through the process of leaving Russia in one piece and making it to France, the girl begins to believe that she might actually be Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna.

I’ve always thought that Anastasia was a Disney flick. The animated feature came out in 1997, but I wasn’t really a fan. I am familiar with the tragic history on which it is based, though, which is perhaps why the movie never appealed to me. The story is just so perfect as a film plot for producers to pass on, but none of these reiterations of history ever took a stand on whether she is indeed Anastasia or not. As a history geek with some sort of attachment to the real event, that just comes across as frustrating.

Whatever your doubts are, the musical is bound to amuse you. I was amused, indeed, but not amazed. The songs are not wow but have just the right amount of impact to merit a round of applause from its audience. Journey to the Past and Once Upon a December both stand out. Everyone on Broadway is vocally talented, okay, but when they start belting their glory notes here and there you just can’t help but adore them for their dedication. Kudos to Altomare and Adkins for such a good show.

The set is grandiose without having to be expensive. The in thing on Broadway nowadays seems to be their reliance of hologram images flashed through a projector to serve as the backdrop for the scenes. I don’t know how they do it but it allows quick transitions without sacrificing production values. For Anastasia, those backgrounds can give you a convincingly imperial Russia or a believably impoverished Leningrad. It is cool like that. Accompanied by three rotating floor panels, the cast can move with ease.

As for the supporting cast, Bolton as Vlad and Blackman as Countess Lily serve as the perfect duo for comic relief. They have good chemistry onstage and their scenes are strategically placed as some sort of breathing room in between the heavy scenes, giving you the much-needed balance between drama and comedy. As for the rest, they are very good triple threats. They even recreate some portions of Swan Lake so well that it feels like you got a bonus ballet performance embedded in the play itself.

Overall, I was satisfied with Anastasia. It’s one of those musicals that can remain on Broadway for a long time because it has appeal and is very audience-friendly. Maybe it will not wow you, but you will definitely be leaving the theater with a smile on your face. If you are a fan of the films, then this will be a worthy addition to your repertory of everything Anastasia.

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