Television and Radio Criticism

Anastasia - Media Review #1 - Brenda Spivakovsky

This article is to review the characters and a production aspect of the hit musical “Anastasia.” This review discusses the differences between the movie (released in 1997) and play that tell the story of young woman who has had no memory of who she is and her pursuit to find any trace of who she could be.

Broadway has taken a “journey to the past” with one of its newest hits, Anastasia. It’s been 11 years since Anastasia (Anya) travelled from St. Petersburg to Paris in search for the life she once knew and the family she was separated from. The 20th Century Fox film had inspired many creative adaptations, it’s most recent being the broadway musical “Anastasia.” Since 2016, fans of the hit movie have the chance to watch the lost princess find her way back to her family by teaming with two con artists who use her likeness and innocence to impersonate the Grand Duchess.
Previews for the musical were held in Hartford, Connecticut at the Hartford Stage in May of 2016 but have since made their way to the Broadhurst Theatre in New York, New York where most of the original cast from Hartford continue to take the stage. The musical takes it’s inspiration from the original movie and brings audiences into a world of its own. Although the musical takes several key elements from the original film, it does decide to go with a more historical accuracy as opposed to taking on the supernatural element the film is well known for.
Christy Altomare continues to take on the lead role of Anya, the orphaned amnesiac who stops at nothing to find out who she really is, and has received critical acclaim as the main star of the show. Although she has starred in other productions, she has truly made her mark as Anastasia, showcasing the character’s perseverance and emotional excitement as she tries to move forward and onward in the corrupted government of Russia during 1927 and finds her way to reclaim her title as Grand Duchess.

It’s safe to say the main character was well casted, luckily it’s proven the same for two other well-known characters from the movie, Dmitry and Vlad Popov. St. Petersburg’s two favorite con men are played by Zach Adkins as Dmitry and John Bolton as Vlad. They are introduced in the first act where they are seen brainstorming ideas to leave Russia thanks to the “A Rumor in St. Petersburg” speculating the possible survival of Anastasia. Adkins does a wonderful job playing the cunning and quick thinking Dmitry, while Bolton plays does an extraordinary portrayal of Vlad who can be considered the comic relief to the story while keeping the romanticism and tenderness of his movie character.
The one noticeably different character worth mentioning is the villain of this adaptation, Gleb Vaganov. Fans of “Anastasia” will notice that the villain has taken a different identity in the musical. The film’s villain was an evil sorcerer, Grigori Rasputin, who curses the Romanov family, which is the reason for the Russian Revolution and what separates Anastasia from her grandmother. As stated, “Anastasia” the musical takes on a more historical path and has changed the villain to Gleb, a general for the Bolsheviks that is instructed to keep things in order and to put to rest the rumors of Anastasia’s possible survival. Unlike Rasputin, Gleb is a more realistic villain that isn’t just set on destroying the Romanov family, but is more concentrated on fulfilling a family legacy and carrying out his orders while fighting an inner battle with what he should do.
The show itself is very well done visually. Throughout the entire show there are pillars on stage that are seamlessly integrated into every scene. Alexander Dodge does an excellent job transforming the streets of Russia and Paris, interior locations like the palace and the opera house are all beautifully transformed in the story without distracting the audience with full out set changes. Perhaps the most well done scene in the entire production is in the first act during the number “Once Upon a December.” In this part the audience is transported back in time to the night of the attack where the Romanov’s were killed and Anya is reconnected with a music box given to Anastasia by her grandmother when she was a child. As figures from her past reemerge on stage, computer generated figures are dancing in part to give the audience the effect that they are part of the scene.  

Overall, the play was exceptional! Just as the movie, it tells the story of the Romanov family and provides an exciting tale of hope and adventure for the audience.

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