Wednesday, December 7, 2022

Antastasia - The New Broadway Musical


Last night was the opening night of Anastasia - The New Broadway Musical at The Fox Theatre in Atlanta.

If you are not familiar with the story of Anastasia, here is a very brief summary to catch you up:

"...ANASTASIA ... transports us from the twilight of the Russian Empire to the euphoria of Paris in the 1920s, as a brave young woman sets out to discover the mystery of her past. Pursued by a ruthless Soviet officer determined to silence her, Anya enlists the aid of a dashing conman and a lovable ex-aristocrat. Together, they embark on an epic adventure to help her find home, love, and family."

I was not too familiar with the Romanov family story, but I vaguely recalled it was a animated feature back in the late 1990s for 20th Century Fox Animation. Sadly, I wish I had known more about the basis of this musical. I'm sure I would not have attended.

To catch myself up, I went and Googled the Russian Romanov family's history today. Anastasiya Nikolaevna Romanova was born on June 18, 1901.  She later died (her entire family was assassinated) on July 17, 1918.  She was the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, the last sovereign of Imperial Russia, and his wife, Tsarina Alexandra Feodorovna.

It is a gruesome story of the twilight years of Russia, and if you don't have a weak stomach, feel free to Wikipedia it and catch up on your history lesson for the week.  Otherwise, steer clear.

I have to say, and I do try and be honest in my writings and reviews of the musicals I am graciously allowed to preview for all of you, I am surprised (as I was last night) in the number of young girls in the audience.  Our entertainment industry has taken a very gruesome and sorrowful story in the world's history and transformed it into a mystical, magical fairy tale of a Russian Princess, a handsome love interest, and a happy ending.  In real life, the story was far from this magical musical and the animated movie version.

I'm not sure I agree with taking such an important story that intertwines with war and creating a pretend Princess fairy tale out of it.  I'm not sure that's the kind of story we want our daughters emulating or aspiring their dreams toward.

But, that said and as far as musicals are concerned, this one is exceptional.  The production and talent for this particular touring company are superb.  Stunning costumes, amazing backdrops, and an A+ cast.

Veronica Stern plays Anya (Anastasia) in the North American tour, and she is spell binding with a crystal clear voice that belts out songs like, "In My Dreams" and "A Secret She Kept" with an almost angelic quality (see video posted below).

William Butler plays Dmitry, opposite Veronica, as Anastasia's love interest.  Together, they make a beautiful fairy tale couple finding themselves and each other along the way as our characters travel from a war-torn Russia to the beautiful and lively Paris of the Roaring 20s.

Other phenomenal cast members include Gerri Waeagraff as the Dowager Empress and Bryan Seastrom and Madeline Raube as the enchanging and engaging couple Vlad and Countess Lily.  They bring (to me anyway) the best song of the evening with, "The Countess and the Common Man."

I say "the best song of the evening" because the entire first Act of the play (again, to me, and in my opinion) moves along slowly and with a more negative pace, setting up our storyline (much like the entire first part of the movie Up).  It was nice to have a bit of humor and positivity in such an engaging song near the beginning of the second Act.  Doing this lightens up the mood in the theatre and gets us ready for the true fairy tale transformation of our story and a Princess.  Bryan and Madeline are fantastic!  Not only in voice, but their physical performances through the song are just so funny!  Great jobs by both of them!

As in all fairy tales, this one ends happily ever after with Anya (now Anastasia) finding her way back to her Nana, the Dowager Empress (the last surviving member of the Romanov family).  Anastasia and Dmitry also end our fairy tale by falling in love and confessing their devotion to one another.  It's just how it should be a Happily Ever After ending.

Why has this musical and story captured the imagination of so many? As Lynn Ahrens (the Tony-Award winning lyricist of Anastasia) quotes, "Stories become legends when they resonate with our dreams and hopes. Anastasia has themes of romance, redemption, and reunion at its core...who wouldn't love a story with all that?"

Couple this theme with the absolutely stunning backdrops, videos, and costumes and you get the perfect formula for a totally declicious Broadway-quality show.

Anastasia plays at The Fox Theatre through Sunday as part of Regions Bank Broadway in Atlanta’s 2022-2023 season. It will play tonight and tomorrow at 7:30pm, Friday at 8pm, and Saturday at 2pm and 8pm.

Tickets are available at The Fox Theatre box office (660 Peachtree Street NE, Atlanta, Georgia 30308), by visiting by calling (855)-285-8499. Group orders of 10 or more may be placed by calling the Fox Theatre at (855)-285-8499.

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