“Anastasia” Broadway Production Review


This December, I had the opportunity to go see the production of “Anastasia” in Broadway. The musical, starring Christy Altomare as Anya and Derek Klena as Dmitri, is based on the 1997 Don Bluth film. Stephen Flaherty and Lily Ahrens, the movie’s composers, were responsible for providing the lyrics of the new stage adaptation. The musical started shows at the Broadhurst Theatre on March 23rd, 2017, and a Spanish stage adaptation in Madrid has been announced for this year’s fall.

The following parts may contain spoilers.

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The story follows Anya, a young woman with no memory on a journey to reunite with her family. Anya is accompanied by a duo of thieves/con-men, Vlad and Dmitri, who convince Anya to present herself as Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov, youngest daughter of the recently-deceased Tsar Nicholas II of Russia, in order to claim a hefty reward. The musical, now adapted into a more realistic version, shreds Rasputin and instead introduces us to Bolshevik commander Gleb Vaganov, a headstrong yet conflicted man who has taken it upon himself to stop Anya. Besides Altomare and Klena, the cast includes John Bolton as Vlad Popov, Caroline O’Connor as Countess Lily Malevich (in the movie, Sophie), and Mary Beth Peil as Anastasia’s grandmother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. The role of Gleb, previously played by Ramin Karimloo (who you may know from Les Misérables and The Phantom of the Opera), is now played by Max Von Essen.

Firstly, I’d like to acknowledge the unsung heroes of the production: the light technicians, the orchestra, makeup artists, setting- and costume designers. Without them, the production would be a bleak adaptation. Certainly, transporting the audience to Russia during its early communist stages is no easy task, but it almost seems like it, with beautiful, detailed costumes that are accurate to the time and setting, great lighting and effects, and each of the songs performed in a way that moves you. The musical’s score is loyal to its movie predecessor, with classics like “Journey To The Past”, “A Rumour in St. Petersburg” and “Once Upon a December” among other new pieces. “My Petersburg” and “In My Dreams”, new songs were written for the stage adaptation, are exceptional, with emotional lyrics that add to the depth of the characters, and whose melodies are sticky while also being elegant and fitting to the atmosphere of the entire production.

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The ensemble is talented in a way that’s hard to express. Like in the movie, one of the key scenes is set in the Paris Ballet, where Anya is set to confront the Empress. This scene is brought to life with great vividness, with an actual ballet performance incorporated into the performance. Anya’s dreams and flashbacks create a dramatic, melancholic picture – a Russian ball, where the Tsar and Tsarina, along with the rest of the ‘ball attendees’ display magnificent gowns seemingly taken out of a genuine royal portrait. The choreographies keep the speedy pace of the musical, entertaining the audience while also displaying the versatility and talent of the other performers.


Speaking of performers, I definitely agree that the main roles are in safe hands. Altomare’s voice is lovely, displaying the delicacy, pride, stubbornness, and strength to Anya’s character through powerful notes and delightful vibrato. Klena, on the other hand, brings out the sadness, innocence, resilience, kindness and hopefulness to Dmitri, a side we had not really seen in the film. Anya and Dmitri’s dynamic is cute, tender and pleasant to watch, producing (in my opinion) one of the best songs of the score – “In A Crowd of Thousands”. Bolton and O’Connor, both amazing on their own and as a pair, provide the comedic element to the musical. Their chemistry shines, as do their vocals. While not precisely deep characters (one of the possible flaws of this story), they add to the story and give two great performances. Speaking about Gleb, I wasn’t able to see Ramin Karimloo, but I did get to witness Max Von Essen’s great work as Gleb. His vocals are incredible, and his take on Gleb is very fitting to the whole Bolshevik character. The addition of this character is vital to the realistic element of the story, and it’s his internal struggle, his complex relationship with his father and his own desires and values, that makes him stand out and, probably, even encourage the audience to sympathize with him. Overall, most of the characters are well-rounded and tolerable, and together they drive the plot wonderfully.

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The production left me pleasantly surprised, so much that I’m struggling to spot flaws in it. If anything, as a lot of Broadway shows, do, the second act feels a bit rushed. For fans of Rasputin and Bartok, brace yourselves for disappointment, as they do not show up this time around at all. However, even with such and other elements changed or gotten rid of, the story is definitely reminiscent of the classic film. Because of this, the ending may feel anticlimactic to some, and the plot grows slightly cheesy at times. Other than that, I believe that “Anastasia” is a jewel in the crown of Broadway, and fan of the movie or not, shall you ever find yourself in New York City, you should definitely book a ticket to go see it.

"Anastasia" on Broadway