By Ally O'Connor
During a recent trip to New York City, I was lucky enough to see Broadway’s new hit musical, Anastasia. Based on the 1997 animated film of the same name, Anastasia follows the legend of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, which suggests that this daughter of Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra escaped the execution of the royal Romanov family. The musical depicts Anastasia (renamed Anya at an orphanage) as a young woman suffering from amnesia who has a strong desire to discover her family and her past. During Anya’s journey, she meets two con men, Dmitry and Vlad, who hope to use her similarities to the Grand Duchess Anastasia to their monetary gain. They teach Anya to behave in a regal fashion and take her to Paris to be presented to Anastasia’s grandmother, The Dowager Empress. The musical captures Anya’s strong desire for love and belonging as she connects with The Dowager Empress and as her romantic feelings for Dmitry, the younger of the two con men, blossom.
Before seeing the Broadway musical, I knew the 1997 animated film version of Anastasia well and was curious to see how the plot would be altered and portrayed in a theatrical style. To my pleasure, I was thrilled by the reinvention of the story. The creators not only maintained six songs from the movie, but also added sixteen new musical numbers. Further, the Broadway musical removed the animated film’s somewhat childish magical elements by replacing the demon-like Rasputin and his comedic animal sidekick with Gleb Vaganov, a general for the Bolsheviks (who had taken control of Russia) and the son of the very man who had murdered six members of Anastasia’s immediate family. Gleb’s dark character adds a more realistic and serious element to the story, which is a significant improvement from the animated film. In addition, the musical’s creators also expanded upon one insignificant character from the animated film, The Dowager Empress’s lady-in-waiting, Sophie (renamed Lily). Lily, portrayed by Caroline O’Connor, is funny, likable, and a perfect addition to the tale as she sings about her lost Russia and flirts with Vlad, the older of the two con men traveling with Anya. Moreover, Lily’s story is woven into that of the numerous other lead characters, helping to create a more complete and mature ending than in the animated film.
Overall, I found the Broadway remake of the animated film, Anastasia, to be even better than I had expected. Christy Altomare and Derek Klena’s portrayal of Anya and Dmitry, respectively, was nothing short of fantastic. Altomare’s strong vocals and sweet character paired with the new and more dramatic score allowed for absolute perfection. I was glad to have seen something so spectacular, and would see Anastasia again in a heartbeat if I had the chance.