I will find some good things to say about Anastasia later, but first the sad truth. This musical is quite bad in very many ways. Based on both a cartoon movie and an Ingrid Bergman film, this is a musicalized tale of the execution of the Russian Romanoff family and its aftermath. (They wear Dr. Zhivago white and parade around ghostlike when we need a visual reminder.) Their daughter Anastasia went missing and was never found. So, we have an amnesiac heiress named Anya who may or may not be the real deal. Let’s get her to Paris for the reward money! Let’s sing “Paris Holds the Key (To Your Heart)” at the opening of the second Act!
I have not seen either movie so my only frame of reference is what I saw from my seat. A handful of good songs out of 32 in the show. Music and lyrics are by the often reliable Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens (Once on this Island, Ragtime). Act II is significantly better than the first for two reasons: (1) there is more dialogue so we stop getting bored by the musical monotony, and (2) the main story moves offstage and we get a little fun with Countess Lily and Vlad, played by Caroline O’Connor and John Bolton, in “Land of Yesterday” and “The Countess and the Common Man.” Never a good sign for a musical to shine when it’s less musical and spends more time with minor characters.
The sets were bad. The whole show is framed by a Russian palace/rotunda with screen projections that were obviously not working properly. The creative team here was Darko Tresnjak (Director), Peggy Hickey (Choreographer), Alexander Dodge (Scenic Design) and Linda Cho (Costume Design). That’s the team behind the Tony winning A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. I was not a big fan of that one either but at least it was creatively staged. This was not. The leads here, Christy Altomare and Derek Klena, sing nicely but could be any young, in love couple in any show. Mary Beth Peil was nominated for a Tony for her work here as the Dowager Empress and she brought real depth and heart to her performance. A story that you might care about was trying to emerge. That’s the last of the good news about Anastasia.