I must admit that I went in to Anastasia, a new Broadway musical, with low expectations, for no reason. I just never know how big animated motion pictures based on heroines based in another country (in this case, Russia) like this will fare on the Broadway stage.
But I took my teenage daughter, and together, we went in with open hearts, ready for a play about a young heroine. Neither of us knew the story or quite what to expect. The outcome? We both loved the fact that the play focused on a strong, young woman with excellent morals and a kind heart. The lead character is truly a solid female protagonist for our modern times. She has a certain sense of conviction, determination, and bravery. I know that my daughter left the theater feeling empowered, which is a quality I want every show to leave her with.
We were both somewhat mesmerized when we left the Broadhurst. First, the set is stunning. The production team did an amazing job, making audience members feel deeply rooted in its locales, Russia and Paris. The lighting is sumptuous and the costumes are lovely. The creative team of librettist Terrence McNally, composer Stephen Flaherty and lyricist Lynn Ahrens wrote and composed beautiful music, much of it sticking in my mind as I left the theater.
The story starts in Saint Petersburg, Russian in the early 1900’s with a heartwarming scene between the Dowager Empress, played by the wonderful Mary Beth Peil, and her grandchild, Anastasia, played by Nicole Scimeca. Grandma is leaving for Paris, and she gifts her granddaughter with a music box and a promise that they will stroll through the streets of Paris together one day. Then we are taken to a royal ball, where Anastasia’s parents, siblings, aunts and uncles are brutally and senselessly murdered. For many years, Anastasia, played beautifully by Christy Altomare, is believed to be dead, but we soon encounter a poor street sweeper called Anya, who two con-artists believe can pass as the real Anastasia to win the generous reward offered for her return. She is already a young woman, eager to find out about the fate of her family, much she has forgotten.
The plot is more complicated. Gleb, played by Ramin Karimloo and a skillful singer at that, is the son of the late guard who killed Anya’s family. He has a conviction to finish his father’s mission to kill Anastasia. At the start of the play, we see that he has feelings for her, which muddle up his plans. Dmitry, played by Derek Klena, one of the con-men, also develops feelings for her and the two fall in love. The other con-man, Vlad, played by John Bolton, picks up with Countess Lily in Paris, played by Caroline O’Connor, a close cohort of the Dowager Empress.
Somehow these characters come together in the end and all the plots are resolved. The show has a bit of a fairy tale ending but we were both generally satisfied. Mainly because of Altomare, who plays Anastasia with such feistiness and determination. She also has a beautiful voice and basically carried the entire play. I have a feeling the actress is just as lovely as her character in real life.
Overall, we really enjoyed Anastasia. It’s a crowd pleaser, but more importantly, a play that oozes #GirlPower.
Anastasia is playing at the Broadhurst Theatre. More details can be found here: www.anastasiabroadway.com.
Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary tickets to Anastasia to facilitate this review and others. As usual, all opinions are my own.