On Thursday, July 6 at 7:30pm at New York City’s Broadhurst Theatre, I finally saw the musical I’d been waiting years for. We used to daydream about an Anastasia musical in my little high school drama club. How would they stage “In the Dark of the Night?” Who would play the title role? Would Dimitry be hunky?
The musical, though based on the century-old myth that the Duchess Anastasia survived the Romanov massacre, is far more firmly rooted in reality than the Fox Studios children’s movie (which was in turn based on the Ingrid Berman classic.) This adaptation replaces the villainous sorcerer Rasputin with military officer Gleb, a rising star in Lenin’s administration whose father took part in the murder of the Romanov family. Dark, right? Still, the magic and romance of the film still runs through every moment of this new, more adult adaptation.
The fact that we now know the gruesome fate of the entire Romanov family has not seemed to curtail their hold on the popular imagination. When the animated film was released in 1997 (in retrospect the subject was about as inappropriate as Pochantas for a children’s film), the bodies of the family had only recently been identified, and the remains of the final two children were only found in 2007.
As for the show itself, the orchestrations were pure magic. The musical director (Tom Murray) and orchestrator (Doug Besterman) deserve a standing ovation. Though Rasputin was cut, they deftly interweaved motifs from “In The Dark of the Night” to signify danger and villainy. The very first notes of each familiar song – from “Once Upon A December” to “Journey to the Past” made my heart and eyes fill with nostalgia. As a little girl, I LOVED Anastasia, y’all. Knew every song, begged my mom to rent it at our local Blockbuster (RIP). The minimal, rotating set employed light and projection beautifully to create Revolutionary Russia and the dazzling streets of 1920s Paris. There’s a particularly charming scene on a train that’s worth the price of admission.
John Bolton’s Vlad and Mary Beth Peil’s Dowager Empress were the standout performances of the evening and felt truest to the film. And though both Christy Altomare (Anya) and Derek Klena (Dmitry) were talented, with strong voices and a fair amount of charm, they fell short of my expectations. Charisma and stage presence are difficult qualities to pinpoint, especially when competing against a perfectly drawn animated princess. Still, it was a satisfying night overall. (We started with Ethiopian food and ended with gelato, so that certainly helped.) Click here for more tickets information about Anastasia.
I am currently in tech week for Hamlet, and at the risk of sounding cliché, this play is SO good. Shakespeare makes me proud to be an actor, and this is one of the most wonderful casts I’ve had the pleasure of working with. A post about the pain and glory that is tech week coming soon. But for now, you can learn more about our production here: http://www.ninjazofdrama.com/. I’m playing Horatio. Come see us if you’re in SF!
Love and theatre,