If you remember the 1997 20th Century Fox titular film, you’ll recall that “Anastasia,” was on par with other iconic Disney princesses at the time such as Belle or Ariel. In fact, Princess Anastasia was everywhere, from Barbies to cassette tapes, to toy figurines. I definitely owned one of those Barbies and still have it.
This nostalgia alone was enough to leave an indelible impression on my childhood. Lots of little princesses came out for the opening performance of the show Tuesday night to experience a new generation of this beloved princess.
The new musical “Anastasia” by Terrence McNally with lyrics by Lynn Athens and music by Stephen Flaherty, is just as fantastic; a dreamlike production with a myriad of history and fantasy woven together. The opening ballroom dancing scene (choreography by Peggy Hickey) is purely magical as all the nostalgia comes flooding back.
“Anastasia” whisks you away over several periods of time. A past memory of the Romanov dynasty with dancing figures, opulence and glittering lights segues to the atrocities of an entire royal family murdered during the uprising of a revolution.
Cue to 1927 post Imperial Russian Leningrad where the tsar has been overthrown and common folk are lauded as “comrades.” A quiet and shy young woman named Anya is a streetsweeper just trying to get by. There’s a rumor on the streets of St. Petersburg (“Rumor in St. Petersburg,”) that a lone survivor, the Romanov Grand Duchess Anastasia still exists. A new Communist regime rules now in it’s place as spies lurk vigilantly.
Enter Gleb, the Bolshevik leader ruling St. Petersburg. Played by Brandon Delgado, the operatic tenor soars with an impressive range, showcasing his vocal power. The designated villain of the story, he’s not nearly as terrifying as the original film and historical portrayal of Rasputin, but he still bodes an ominous presence as he pursues Anya.
Anastasia chances upon Dmitry and Vlad, two chummy con artists who are looking for a girl to play the part of the rumored princess and get a big reward in return (“Learn to Do It”). Kyla Stone makes history as the first Black actress to play the role of the Russian princess. Her sparkling voice is the epitome of the “Disney princess” sound with a set of robust pipes. A girl with amnesia with no knowledge of her identity, Anastasia searches for who she is, and longs to find her journey to her past.
Dmitry played by Sam McLellan is a quirky and good natured rogue with every get rich scheme up his sleeve. His partner in crime Vlad, (Bryan Seastrom,) is a charmingly comical role and he plays it for all it’s worth.
Madeline Raube making her debut as Countess Lily is sheer dynamite with a high, bright voice and expert comedic timing. Paired with Seastrom, they almost steal the show with their farcical over-the-top slapstick.
The show encapsulates the animated motion picture in many forms. If anything, go see “Anastasia” for the dancing, lavish sets and exquisite costumes. It’s a historical fairytale come to life, and one you’ll be sure to enjoy!
Before you go: this production uses strobe lights, theatrical haze and fog and has some strong graphic imagery. Masks are optional. “Anastasia,” runs through June 12th. Tickets available at https://o-pa.org/on-stage/broadway.