(Photo by Matthew Murphy, MurphyMade)
Written by Daniella Litvak
From the Russian Revolution sprang up a legend — Grand Duchess Anastasia (Little Anastasia played by Delilah Rose Pellow and Eloise Vaynshtok), the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicholas II (Brad Greer) and Tsarina Alexandra (Lucy Horton)— survived the communist takeover and vanished. Speculation about what happened to her has formed the basis of plays, movies and Anastasia The New Broadway Musical — currently playing at the Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
A rumor is spreading in early 20th century St. Petersburg (though officially known as Leningrad): Grand Duchess Anastasia is alive and well. Her beloved grandmother, the Dowager Empress (Joy Franz), will handsomely reward the person(s) who can reunite her with her granddaughter. Dmitry (Jake Levy) and Vlad (Edward Staudenmayer)— two desperately impoverished guys — come up with the scheme of passing someone off as Anastasia to claim the reward. In search of their meal ticket, they come across Anya (Lila Coogan). She’s a poor street sweeper with no memory of her past but desperate to find what she lost. As the trio go forth with their plan, it becomes clear Anya is much more than what she initially appears to be.
Anastasia is inspired by the animated film of the same name from the 90s. You’ll hear the film’s songs — such as “Once Upon a December” and “A Rumor in St. Petersburg” — along with songs original to the musical. Also, a certain blue dress will make its appearance. However, fans of the animated film shouldn’t expect complete adherence to its story from the musical. The film’s magical and more cartoony elements have been excised, which was the right call.
Besides, the real magic comes from the singers. The songs themselves are good, if not quite reaching the level of memorability as say the songs from My Fair Lady, but it’s the performers who make them shine. Songs like “In My Dreams” and “The Neva Flows” require belting, and it can honestly be said Coogan and Jason Michael Evans (who plays Gleb) sing their hearts outs during those numbers. Tari Kelly (who plays Countess Lily) and Stuadenmayer’s performance of “The Countess and the Common Man” brought down the house.
The staging enhanced the show. What made “We’ll Go From There” unique was the “train car” rotating while the actors took turns singing solos. During the final showdown between our heroine and the villain, the background action upped the tension. Plus the dance choreography — featuring ballet, waltz, and many other types of dancing — was beautifully executed. (Fans of Swan Lake will be in for a treat).
The set design and costumes were stunning. Even though they were digital, the backdrops gave the appearance of depth and texture. The striking visuals also eased the burden of providing explanations. The costumes were gorgeous: ballroom gowns, Paris couture, and lots of bling. They served a narrative purpose as well. Without needing to say a word it was obvious who was rich, who was poor when the setting was St. Petersburg and when it was Paris.
If you’re looking for something dramatic and luxurious go see Anastasia.