REVIEW: ANASTASIA on BROADWAY

VENUE: Broadhurst Theater, 42nd Street, Manhattan

Open Run, Tickets starting at $109 (certain shows cheaper)

BOTTOM LINE: The newly opened Anastasia on Broadway is a top-notch, classical style musical. Memorable music, soaring performances, and spectacular effects make this a must-see production. So don’t delay!

The Production: Anastasia makes innovative use of video to create a seamless and often times breath-taking effects. From the beautiful scrim which opened the play, to the majestic pillars which provided the visual structure of the various scenes, to the back LCD panels which created terrific visual effects, the production is tight, and moves the story along at a beautiful pacing.

The Story: I was curious how the plot-lines would incorporate both the Ingrid Bergman movie and the hit 1997 animation film, and I was pleasantly surprised that the plot moved away from the mystical elements of the animated film. No magical Rasputin putting a curse on anyone. The story played up the realistic drama of the Bolshevik Revolution and the aftermath of the new Russia. The villain, played by Max von Essen, was not a crazed lunatic set on revenge against the Romanovs but a loyal guard of the new Soviet order, who simply wanted to see the communist utopia come to fruition – and that meant that any Romanov sighting had to be dealt with brute force. As the young Anya, who has no memory of her past, is set to try to convince the Dowager Empress that she is indeed the lone surviving member of the Romanov monarchy, the loyal Soviet agent makes his way to Paris to put an end to the nonsense once and for all. With this high danger in the background of the story, the focus remains on Dmitry and his sidekick Vlad as they work to convince Anya that she is indeed Anastasia, so the two con men can receive a sizeable reward offered by the Dowager. But as Vlad remarks as Dmitry and Anya are prepping for the con, “they never should have danced” because that leads to the romantic undertones of the story, setting up a conflict between the con man Dmitry who is confronted with the choice of reward money or love.

The Performances: Christy Altomare and Derek Klena give spectacular performances as Anya and Dimitri, but it’s truly the most experienced actors on stage, John Bolton as Vlad and Caroline O’Connor as Countess Lily, who steal the show with comedic and unabashedly joyful performances that brought the house to its feet during curtain call. Mary Beth Peil also plays the Dowager Empress flawlessly. I always enjoyed her sense of command in her role as Jackie on the long-running TV show “The Good Wife,” and she brings the same solemn and solid form to the role of the Dowager. I must also add that another highlight was the short piece from Swan Lake performed as Anya and Dmitry try to get access to the Dowager while attending the theatre. The director rightfully treated the Swan Lake moments seriously, creating a beautiful interlude to the story as the audience was mesmerized by the talented ballet performers.

The only drawback that I noticed was a quick and somewhat forced ending. The theme of love was underplayed as was Dmitry’s conflict of refusing the reward and leaving when he thinks love is over.

Anastasia – a worthy Broadway addition. Go see it!

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