“Anastasia” the musical will take viewers on a “Journey to the Past”

Kaitlyn Schafer, Editor of Reviews, Editorials, and Features

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“Anastasia” the musical went to the Straz Center over the weekend of May 10-12. The musical is based on the true story as well as the 20th Century Fox film by the same name. The musical includes new characters as well as new songs that are all-around fantastic additions to the story of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov of Russia.

Everything to win: Christy Altomare and Derek Klena as Anastasia and Dimitry in the Broadway musical. The musical’s U.S. tour cast started performing in Oct. 2018. “Overall, I thought the play was amazing. It was a perfect mix of comedy, adventure, romance, and not to mention it gave us a little bit of a Russian history lesson,” stated Johanna Guenther, a sophomore.

This musical is an extremely loose rendering of the fall of the entire Romanov Russian royal family in 1918. There is a legend which says that the tsar’s youngest daughter, Anastasia, survived the attack on the palace because her body was never found. The real story is a morbid one but the play is nothing short of bright and positive. It shows the life that Anastasia Romanov could have had if she ever survived the attack.

The musical is entirely made up and starts years later after the attack on the royal family by the Soviets. The Grand Duchess of France offers a reward for Anastasia’s return. Two scheming Russians, a dashing conman named Dimitri and a loveable ex-aristocrat named Vlad, plan to hold auditions for the role of Anastasia and choose an orphan girl named Anya with a remarkable resemblance to the missing duchess. They bring her to Paris for the reward, not knowing she is the real Anastasia. Along the way, the three embark on an epic adventure to help her find home, love and family.

The set design for “Anastasia” is a huge part of what makes the play so unique. Unlike other musicals where most of the set is hand-made, the backdrops for this musical are mainly shown through projections. In order to fully capture the beautiful views and architecture of St. Petersburg and Paris, the backdrop shows projections of the breathtaking streets and buildings in Russia and France.

“My favorite part of the musical had to have been when Anya sang ‘Journey to the Past’ on her way to Paris. I loved how the pretty pink trees in the background moved with her as she was walking and then at the very end when the trees parted to finally show the Eiffel Tower. The backdrop really gave it a cool vibe,” stated Kiara Fulk, a junior.

What differs from the 1997 film to the musical are the antagonists. In the film, the villain was Rasputin, a man who sold his soul to a high being to have the Romanovs killed, whereas the play had a storyline a bit more realistic and adult-friendly. The antagonist in the musical is Gleb, a Soviet officer whose father was one of the guards that helped kill the royal family. Once the Soviets realize they missed one, Gleb is given an order by a superior to end the Romanov line for good. This storyline is a huge relief because if Rasputin was ever put on stage, audiences would never have been able to hear the amazing songs by Gleb: “Still” and “The Neva Flows”.

The Russian royalty’s attire in the late 1800s and early 1900s were generally heavily decorated and made of fancy materials like silk or fine wool. The costume department for this musical really outdid themselves with the gorgeous flowing gowns of the women with just the right amount of sparkles. So not only were the suits and dresses accurate for the time period but they were absolutely captivating as well.

The most key feature of any musical are the songs. Most people who have seen the 1997 cartoon of “Anastasia” know of the classic songs, but more songs were added in the musical, and it is a good thing they were. For example, the new songs “My Petersburg” and “Everything to Win” are sung by Dimitry which helps give insight into who his character really is, which makes people love him even more. The glorious time between the songs “The Land of Yesterday” and “The Countess and the Common Man” is ten full minutes of total comic relief which was a complete blessing to watch.

With its opulent settings, dazzling costumes and a soaring score including the song favorites from the hit animated film, “Journey to the Past” and “Once Upon a December,” “Anastasia” is the spectacular new musical about discovering who one is and defining who one is meant to be.