This review contains spoilers for the show.
Around March 2017, a video of Christy Altomare singing “Journey to The Past” was released online and quickly became viral.
It only meant one thing: “Anastasia” the musical was coming to Broadway on April 24, 2017.
Being a huge “Anastasia” movie fan, I told people that I was already there. And I was, on May 20, I waited outside the Broadhurst Theatre, at the corner of Eighth Ave. and 44th St.
The tickets were almost sold out, but I was lucky to find decent seats at the last minute.
Before the curtain rose, the show started with the familiar theme of “Rumor in St. Petersburg.” I remember my heart beat faster, because of all the times I watched Anastasia on my VHS reader.
The shows opened with the fall of the Tsar of Russia and his family, and immediately it’s impossible not to notice the costumes. They’re beautiful and represent the greatness of Russia’s high aristocracy. In fact, Costume Designer Linda Cho has been nominated for a Tony Award for her work on “Anastasia.”
Undoubtedly, Altomare was the perfect choice to play Anya. Actually, she is the perfect choice to play any single princess who has ever opened her mouth to sing. Her performance was so outstanding, I suspect she might be a real princess. It’s a question that deserves serious meditation.
When I realized the musical would not include the magical part of the movie— the evil, Rasputin who cursed the Romanovs—I was first disappointed. I really loved Rasputin’s buffoonery, evilness and of course his bat companion Bartok. I do recognize, however, these characters would have been difficult to stage.
Instead, the production decided to keep the story on the realistic side of Russian history; in 1917 the Bolshevik party overthrows the imperial monarchy further to their efforts in World War I.
The new mean guy is Gleb, played by Ramin Karimloo, a Bolshevik general who decided to carry on on his father’s duty of killing the Romanovs, despite developing feelings for Anya.
Karimloo sang beautifully and I was very much attached to his more complex and tortured character than that of Dimitri. I was almost disappointed to see Anya leave with Dimitry at the end of the musical. Dimitri, played by Derek Klena, despite his beautiful voice and acting, almost felt blank and I didn’t understand why, in the end, Anya was even in love with him.
The musical kept the six principals songs and also added some new. Like everybody else, my favorite scene in “Anastasia” movie has always been the “Once Upon a December” dance in the ballroom. I was very disappointed to not have this same prestigious scene at the musical. Instead, Altomare sang in the middle of the stage, her grandmother’s box in her hand, and the “memories” danced around her. I guess I am just too in love with the memories coming out of the windows and the dust of the ancient Palace of the Romanov.
Among the new songs, my favorite by far is “Stay, I Pray You” when Anya, Vlad and Dimitri, have trouble leaving their homeland, Russia. The music has a sad melody, but they also combined with the beautiful arpeggio we know from “In The Dark of The Night.”
I saw many people cry when they heard the new “In My Dream.” With Altomore’s magical voice, I couldn’t blame them.
The musical has a perfect touch of humor, mainly brought by Vlad played by John Bolton, and Countess Lily played by Caroline O’Connor. This couple made me laugh throughout the musical and brought joy to this sad story.
I have to say that what bothered me the most—and the only thing actually—was the ugliness of Altomare’s costumes. If you can see a Broadway costume is a costume, then, it is a bad quality costume.
In the movie, I always loved Anya’s dress when she goes to the opera and the one she wore at the Ballroom to celebrate her return. The musical definitely ruined this magical sense of Anya’s fashion. Her costumes were not only unpretty, but they strongly contrasted with Mary Beth Peil who plays Anya’s grandmother. If there was one character who made me see Imperial Russia, it was the Empress.
I guess I am just picky.
The musical is still a must-see. Among all the musicals I have seen in the past (Chicago, Spider-Man, Cirque Du Soleil and other French musicals) Anastasia is definitely the best and the most extraordinary.
I strongly recommend you to see it and to get your tickets in advance here.