A Reaction to Broadway’s ‘Anastasia’

It’s no secret that I’ve been dying to see Anastasia on Broadway. I grew up adoring the 1997 animated film, and when I was older, I loved reading both nonfiction and fiction about the end of the Romanov dynasty. Even upon hearing about the notable differences of the stage musical (stick to the movie if you want to see Rasputin and Bartok), I was so eager to find a chance to see this show!

With the summer winding down, I was ready to pull a Fiddler on the Roof and ask for Anastasia tickets for my birthday. However, when I ended up in the city for a networking opportunity back in August, I was free by 1:30 with a completely open evening ahead of me. With the whole afternoon free, I wandered around until the daily discounts at the Times Square TKTS booth went up around 2:30. If you aren’t familiar with TKTS, check out the video I found below!

TKTS doesn’t officially open on Fridays until 3:00, so my timing worked out perfectly. After hanging out in a Starbucks and entering some musicals’ online ticket lotteries (ha, that was successful), I was back by the booth right as the discounts were revealed. There were enough half-off deals for shows I was interested in that I hopped on the line. This was a very hot, muggy day, and being stuck on a line in close proximity to other people didn’t really help with that. Once the office opened, the line moved quickly, and a lady in front of mentioned that it always moves along, so I wouldn’t turn anyone off of trying out TKTS based on the wait!

I narrowed my top choices down to Anastasia or Waitress and when the TKTS employee asked which I preferred, I asked for whatever was the better price. The seat actually turned out to be a little pricier than I expected, but I quickly learned that at TKTS (perhaps especially for people only wanting a single seat), it’s more often discounts for the really good seats than it is discounts on the cheaper balcony seats. That being said, going ahead with the spontaneous purchase was so worth it! I ended up only 10 rows from the stage, which was a great view.

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After grabbing dinner and wandering around the area, I ended up approaching the street of the Broadhurst Theatre right as Mary Beth Peil, who plays Anastasia’s grandmother in the show, was going to work! I looked sideways while waiting to cross the street, and there she was. I had a quiet fangirl moment – “Do I say hi? Do I smile?” – and tried not to be too creepy walking behind her to the theatre. Is there an understood etiquette for spotting actors on the way to their shows, guys?

She met a friend on the street before going inside, so I was able to walk past without looking like a total stalker. I had a very brief phase in high school of watching Dawson’s Creek, and once texted my best friend a play-by-play of the intense Grams in the first season’s birth scene. Fun fact, I guess?

Sitting in my seat and watching the theatre fill up before the show, I was literally antsy and shaking in anticipation. I was so eager to finally see it! Once the lights finally dimmed and that sweeping, familiar music started, I definitely felt myself almost on the verge of tears. This was a beloved part of my childhood coming to life.

This show is absolutely gorgeous visually. The main set utilizes a series of pillars grouped around a projection screen, which shows vivid, beautiful scenes of St. Petersburg, the countryside, and Paris. Additional sets work well with the stage direction (the show handles the movie’s ballet scene so interestingly), and the setup was something I’d never seen in theatre before. I know a lot more shows are using projections to their advantage, so I am curious if that technology is starting a new era of set design.

The musical incorporates all of the movie’s classic songs (except for Rasputin’s, of course) and several new ones. Christy Altomare performing “Journey to the Past” at the end of Act One was another close-to-tears moment for me. It’s hard to live up to Liz Callaway’s original version of this song, but Christy does an amazing job of putting her own twist on it.

Out of all the other old songs, the presentation of “A Rumor in St. Petersburg” was most memorable to me. The buildup of peasants versus the government in it actually gave off some major Les Mis vibes and made it clear that the stage show is far more political than the original movie. The new villain is a Bolshevik general played by Ramin Karimloo, and his subplot focuses on trying to quench the rumor that a Romanov may still be alive. While the character isn’t as strong as he could be, Ramin has such a great stage presence and a powerful voice!

I truly loved the production’s new songs! Derek Klena plays Dmitri and has a solo called “My Petersburg,” which may very well be my favorite song from Anastasia‘s stage version. He performs it so well and the lyrics felt very relevant to me. If you feel particularly attached to a certain city, this song will probably hit you hard in the feels.

I also loved Vlad and Countess Lily (Sophie in the movie) and their songs together. When I saw the show, the understudy Ken Krugman was on for Vlad, and I thought he was great! He felt very much like an older Josh Groban both physically and vocally. He and Caroline O’Connor are hilarious together in “The Press Conference” and “The Countess and the Common Man.” A visual treat is Caroline performing “Land of Yesterday” with very Russian-looking costumes and dances. There are some musical sequences that were more memorable visually than vocally, particularly in the opening and the climax. Keep your eyes open for these!

Perhaps it was because of my great seat or because I was already so emotionally attached to the story, but I left Anastasia knowing that if my sisters or friends wanted to see it, I would want to go with them. I’ve never felt that I needed to see the same Broadway show twice, but this one was different. It has treats for nostalgic fans of the movie, history buffs, and theatre devotees interested in technicalities.

What about you? Have you seen Anastasia or have any interest in going? What shows have caught your attention?

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2 thoughts on “A Reaction to Broadway’s ‘Anastasia’

  1. Pingback: More “If These Books Were Movies…” | Bookworms and Fangirls

  2. Pingback: A Reaction to Broadway’s ‘Waitress’ | Bookworms and Fangirls

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