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Anastasia better on screen

Based+on+the+1997+animated+classic+%E2%80%9CAnastasia%E2%80%9D+directed+by+Don+Bluth+and+Gary+Goldman%2C+the+musical+follows+the+tumultuous+and+trying+life+of+a+street+sweeper+turned+Grand+Duchess.
Based on the 1997 animated classic “Anastasia” directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, the musical follows the tumultuous and trying life of a street sweeper turned Grand Duchess.

Based on the 1997 animated classic “Anastasia” directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, the musical follows the tumultuous and trying life of a street sweeper turned Grand Duchess.

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Courtesy of Creative Commons

Based on the 1997 animated classic “Anastasia” directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, the musical follows the tumultuous and trying life of a street sweeper turned Grand Duchess.

Courtney Kushnir and Isabella Cavazzoni

Before seeing “Anastasia” on Broadway, we didn’t think it possible to take a coup in communist Russia and make it into a musical. Though, our first mistake was doubting the theatre community and their ability to turn any idea into a full-scale production (i.e. “Hamilton,” “SpongeBob SquarePants,” the list goes on). While we commend their effort, we didn’t really enjoy the play overall.

Based on the 1997 animated classic “Anastasia” directed by Don Bluth and Gary Goldman, the musical follows the tumultuous and trying life of a street sweeper turned Grand Duchess. Anya, an impoverished woman living in St. Petersburg, stumbles upon two con men, Dmitry and Vlad, hoping to capitalize on rumors that Anastasia is actually alive. An elaborate and dangerous plan to poise Anya as the long-lost Grand Duchess of Russia leads to a tale of love and self-discovery.

Without leaving Midtown, playgoers travel across country borders and through time, from St. Petersburg to Paris. A single stage served as the Yusupov Palace and the French countryside. Aesthetically, Anastasia soared, with historically-appropriate costumes and set design.

But, what the musical had in aesthetic, it lacked in a compelling musical scheme. The songs dragged, too long to effectively keep the audience rapt but too short to eliminate any dialogue entirely, in the style of “Les Miserables” or “Hamilton.” The score, to us, felt like one long lullaby that gets stuck in your head and never leaves you alone. In fact, one of the first songs in the show, “Once Upon a December” pops up at least every five minutes in the show, whether sung by Altomare or played from a music box. And while we were glad to hear the familiar tune from the movie, we could have done without hearing it so many times.

Having seen the movie “Anastasia” before seeing the play, we found ourselves missing the magical aspect that the movie brought to the table. Though the musical’s communist leader was a more realistic antagonist, we longed to see the movie’s villain, a seer named Rasputin who used his powers to torture Anastasia. The musical already teetered on the verge of being a Disney-esque princess story, we think they may as well have leaned into it and added a little magic.

The musical also incorporated a grossly out-of-place romance between Countess Lily (Caroline O’Connor) and Vlad (John Bolton). Their affair intended to provide comic relief, but took away from the musical’s true focal point instead. Where the plot should have focused on Anya and Dmitry’s budding affections and Anya’s quest for her true identity, Countess Lily and Vlad’s inappropriate tension, namely their gratuitous stage kisses, distracted.  

There have been many successful movies turned musicals by way of Broadway, but “Anastasia” on Broadway was not the smashing success that it was at the box office.

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Anastasia better on screen