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"Anastasia", a New Musical, at the Broadhurst Theatre

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Stage Entertainment, Bill Taylor, Tom Kirdahy, Hunter Arnold
et al.
And Executive Producer: Eric Cornell
and in association with Hartford Stage

(Anastasia Website)

Book by Terrence McNally
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens

Inspired by the Twentieth Century Fox Motion Pictures

Directed by Darko Tresnjak
Choreographed by Peggy Hickey
Music Supervisor/Director/Conductor: Tom Murray
Commissioned by Dmitry Bogachev

At the
Broadhurst Theatre
235 West 44th Street

Starring: Christy Altomare, Derek Klena
John Bolton, Ramin Karimloo, Caroline O’Connor, Mary Beth Peil
and an ensemble of actors/singers/dancers

Scenic Design: Alexander Dodge
Costume Design: Linda Cho
Lighting Design: Donald Holder
Sound Design: Peter Hylenski
Projection Design: Aaron Rhyne
Hair & Wig Design: Charles G. LaPointe
Makeup Design: Joe Dulude II
Casting: Telsey + Company
Craig Burns, CSA
Orchestrations: Doug Besterman
Vocal Arrangements: Stephen Flaherty
Dance Arrangements: David Chase
Music Coordinator: Michael Keller/Michael Aarons
Marketing Director: Richards/Climan, Inc.
Advertising: AKA
Production Stage Manager: Bonnie Panson
Press: Polk & Co.
Executive Producers: Joey Parnes, Sue Wagner, John Johnson
Production Management: Aurora Productions
Company Manager: Kimberly Kelley
General Management: Richards/Climan, Inc.

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 27, 2017

Even without the swoon-worthy title tune from the 1956 film “Anastasia”, with Ingrid Bergman, the new Broadway show at the Broadhurst has swoon-worthy projections, of Russian snow, a rural train ride to Paris, the interior of the Paris Opera House, and reflective chandeliers galore. This is more a remake of the 1997 animated feature for teens, by 20th Century Fox, than its decades-earlier, mysterious masterpiece. Yet, not only does it draw in its younger generation fans, it also captivates the imagination of mature crowds, who like historical docudrama. The fate of young Anastasia, after the 1918 Bolshevik assassination of Tsar Nicholas II and his family in St. Petersburg, has always been fascinating for Russian history buffs. In this remake of the Romanov family drama, the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanova is mostly front and center, although competing with high definition, panoramic backdrops. Terrance McNally’s book, springing from the late 90’s film, with Stephen Flaherty’s music and Lynn Ahrens’ lyrics, provides a sweeping tale, although at times a fragmented one. We see young Anastasia (Nicole Scimeca) and her family in 1907, enjoying royal parties and kissing Grandma, the Dowager Empress (Mary Beth Peil), goodbye, as she retires to her estate in Paris. Before she leaves, she gives Anastasia a music box with a secret winding mechanism. That music box will figure prominently in the ensuing plot.

This show dates the royal family’s mass murder, by Bolshevik secret police, at 1917, with blood red projections swirling behind the gunshots. Christy Altomare stars as the teen Anastasia, who awakes in the hospital with amnesia and fends for herself, by sweeping Leningrad streets. The Dowager Empress in Paris offers a reward for the safe return of Anastasia, as rumors exist that she, alone, escaped on her family’s tragic night of death, and imposter after imposter arrives at the Empress’ estate to claim identity as her heiress. Within the life on St. Petersburg streets, Anastasia (now called Anya) befriends Dmitry (Derek Klena) and Vlad (John Bolton), who hatch a plot to claim the Empress’ reward for themselves, after investing some time to train Anya in royal behavior and details of the Romanovs’ family stories. Just about here the music box makes another appearance. Anya seems to have more than excellent short-term memory, as long-term memory kicks in with personal anecdotes and fond family tales. Anya and Dmitry create some chemistry, and a relationship across the Russian social strata is born. Yet, complicating matters, if Anya is actually Anastasia, or even if she just convinces the Empress that she is, how will Dmitry be received. Vlad, as the plot veers, becomes enamored of the Empress’ lighthearted lady in waiting, another emigre from Russia, Countess Lily (Caroline O’Connor). But, the fate of this magnetic brood rests in the hands of the final central character, Gleb (Ramin Karimloo), a Russian military commander, whose father had not been able to lift his gun on the fateful night in 1917. Now, in 1927, the son seeks to do just that, to erase the woman who seems to have survived and escaped to Paris. He lurks behind the scenes ever so quietly, but he cannot help loving Anya, too.

Although for this writer, who did not see the animated feature from which some of the show’s songs derive, the music seemed bland and repetitive, many in the audience screamed in delight (in youthful fervor). Anya’s “In My Dreams”, Gleb’s “Still”, Dmitry and Anya’s “My Petersburg”, the Empress’ “Close the Door”, and Vlad and Countess Lily’s “The Countess and the Common Man” were all enjoyable in the moment, but forgotten in the next moment. Regardless, voices were rich (especially Ms. Altomare and Mr. Karimloo), soothing (Ms. Peil and Mr. Klena), and vivacious (Ms. O’Connor and Mr. Bolton). In particular, Ms. Altomare succeeded in her breakthrough role with aplomb. Mr. Karimloo, as well, finally deserves his own, more intimate show, as he also drew a rave review on these pages in the 2014 Les Misérables. Darko Tresnjak, Director, threw in a scene from Swan Lake, when Anya and ensemble attended the Paris ballet, but he should have recruited more classically trained dancers. Like the show’s tunes, the ballet excerpt was art-light. Alexander Dodge’s scenery and Linda Cho’s costumes were excellent, inspired, and eye-catching. Peggy Hickey’s choreography was lovely in the 1917 brief ballroom scene, prior to the deluge. Tom Murray kept the orchestra vibrant. But it was Aaron Rhyne, projection designer, who gained most of the kudos here, for transporting the audience by train, across Russia toward France, right to a gleaming Eiffel Tower and the City of Lights.

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at