The music from the band pit swelled, as we were introduced to the Romanov family and the Grand Duchess Anastasia… and it was probably the most magical moment in any musical ever. (I’m so biased on this one because that movie was my childhood).
The costumes were breath-taking and glistened in the lights as the cast danced and moved around the stage. The set was incredibly clever, with its use of projections, we were transported seamlessly between an array of locations – I’d never seen such amazing use of the stage and set to keep the story moving along quickly.
Christy Altomare was perfectly cast and flawless as Anya, with such a beautiful voice and a natural charisma that the audience couldn’t help but fall in love with. Derek Klena (Dmitry) matched Christy perfectly, both in talent and heart, as the two carried the audience on their journey of discovery. Ramin Karimloo’s replacement, Max Von Essen, gave an astounding performance as the misunderstood, conflicted almost ‘baddie’ of the tale – Gleb. His role of course, replacing the movie’s Rasputin to give a more realistic feel to the story. The portrayal of the communist revolution was truly interesting to watch and gave the audience a tingle of goosebumps at those points where the story got very real.
Differing a lot from the movie, the new songs in the musical were, on the whole, well received – as were the old favourites. Unfortunately, Countess Lily (Caroline O’Connor) and Vladimir (John Bolton) lengthened out the story with their own unnecessary tale in this show which should’ve focussed solely on Anya and her journey to find her family and identity. Vlad and Lily, while they performed well and provided much comedy, belonged in a musical of their own. Had their parts been cut back a little, the show may have been a more palatable length for those partners and boyfriends dragged along by their Fanastasia girlfriends.
I have a feeling that anyone less of a fan (like my poor boyfriend whose only words were “I liked the bad guy and the set was good… but it was really long.”) wouldn’t enjoy the lengthy ballet section so be careful who you invite to this one.
I also felt that the Dowager Empress (Mary Beth Peil) did not need a song at all, and watching her song being performed put me on edge. Song aside, she was perfectly cast; I wanted her to be my grandma! Her interactions with her tiny granddaughter Anya (Nicole Scimeca) were both magical and heart-warming to watch.
Speaking as an absolute Anastasia geek (I used to watch the movie so much that I know every single word and song in order, in the whole thing), the musical did not disappoint. If you’re also a fan, you are guaranteed to fall in love with Christy Altomare, as she brings Anya to life in front of your very eyes… let’s hope this comes to London!
Book your tickets now for Anastasia at the Broadhurst Theatre in New York…