*I do not own the rights to any photos in this post*
I just got back from celebrating the 4th of July with friends in NYC (or Happy Fourth of Juyl according to our misspelled decorations). While I was there, Brennen and I also spent some time taking advantage of New York’s theatre scene by going to see Anastasia on Broadway.
I have been saying that the 1997 Anastasia film should be a Broadway musical for years. When it was announced that it was finally being turned into a stage show I was delighted. Some of the news that was released about the show was a little troubling (no Rasputin and thus no Dark of the Night with dancing bugs), but the pictures coming out were promising.
The curtains opened, the show began, and I was struck by how perfect the opening scenes were. The opulence of the Russian royal court was captured brilliantly – in no small part thanks to the costumes.
After the opening, where we see the final moments of the Russian royal court, the first act got a little weaker in my opinion. I had expected changes to the story (there would have to be changes given that they cut Rasputin), but I hadn’t realized just how substantial those changes would be. The contrast between the former Russia and the new Soviet Union was emphasized, and the pacing of the events in the story was changed from the movie. That Rasputin was replaced with a Soviet Union officer further distanced the show from the movie. When intermission arrived I was disappointed – the fairytale element of the movie had been abandoned in favor of a more gritty, realistic look at the early Soviet Union. The film Anastasia is clearly a fantasy – Anastasia didn’t survive in real life – so it felt odd for the stage show to attempt a more realistic depiction. Additionally, the pacing was a little uneven, and the new songs hadn’t inspired me very much.
Luckily, the second act turned the show around for me. In Paris we saw former noble Russians mourning the death of the Russia they knew and trying to figure out their new place in the world. This was an intriguing new element, and mirrored Anastasia’s struggle to find her own identity. The second act also better captured the magic of the movie. The new characters and songs were more memorable. I don’t remember most of the new songs from the first act, but I have had Land of Yesterday from the second act stuck in my head for days.
The second act made the changes to the first act make sense. The creators wanted to anchor the story slightly more in reality. In the first act, this resulted in a loss of the fairytale elements, but in the second act in meant the story presented a slightly fantastical, but plausible “what if?” to the story of Anastasia that fell in line with history. I loved how the ending both fell in line with the original movie, but also history.
The show did make some changes that I didn’t love (mild spoilers!!). Anastasia doesn’t magically transform into a gorgeous yellow dress while singing Once Upon a December. I understand why that would have been difficult to pull off on stage, but I still wanted it. I hated Anastasia’s hair in the first act. It never seemed to lie right and was oddly distracting for me. I doubt anyone who isn’t interested in costuming would be bothered much by it though. The change I liked least was that child Dmitri no longer opened a secret passage that allowed Anastasia and her grandmother to escape the fate of the rest of the Romanovs. Without this moment it was unclear exactly how Anastasia survived when the rest of the her family died. It was also unclear why her grandmother would have held out hope for so long that Anastasia might still be alive (if everyone in the family was shot, then why would Anastasia not be dead as well?). Most importantly, the show cut my favorite moment from the movie:
If you’re a fan of the movie, Anastasia on Broadway is well worth your time, but be warned that there are significant story changes.