Review: Anastasia, Broadhurst Theatre

Christy Altomare and Zach Adkins in Anastasia the Musical
RATING: ★★★★

When my family moved me to New York a few weeks ago, there was only one show that we all really wanted to see on Broadway: Anastasia. The animated film was actually the first one that I ever saw in a cinema and I've adored it ever since. When the cast album released last year, I was thrilled to find that they'd managed to capture the essence of the original while making some changes that thrilled my history-major heart. (Thank you, thank you, thank you for acknowledging that St Petersburg was Leningrad at the time this musical is set.)

I'm pleased to report that the show is absolutely gorgeous. The cast are brilliant and while the book is not perfect, the design is lovely. Under Darko Tresnjak's direction, the worlds of Soviet Russia and 1920s Paris take shape. The musical retained the charm of the film while also developing its darker side, by replacing Rasputin with the Soviet officer Gleb. New songs have been added to the show including some gorgeous solos for Anya that I actually prefer to the original ones.

Christy Altomare is perfectly cast. She captures the fairytale princess Anastasia and the scrappy street urchin Anya equally well. She has lovely chemistry with every person in the cast somehow and is able to portray Anya's struggle to remember who she is with surprising nuance. I feel so lucky that I got to see the show with her still a part of it.

Zach Adkins and John Bolton in Anastasia the Musical 
Sadly I didn't get to see Zach Adkins as Dmitry, but I did get to see the incredible understudy Kyle Brown. He absolutely never missed a beat. I have high standards for Dmitry, as the character was probably my first crush as a little girl, but Kyle actually exceeded them. His "My Petersburg" was definitely one of the highlights of the show.

My favorite member of the cast was definitely John Bolton as Vlad, Dmitry's accomplice. It's rare to see a performer with that much energy through his whole performance. He's one of those actors that's a joy to watch simply because he seems like he's having a great time. I love that the musical fleshed out the role of a Vlad a bit more from the film and John makes the most of it.

I was curious what I would think of Max Von Essen as the new antagonist Gleb. While I adore Ramin Karimloo's voice on the cast album, I wasn't sure that his interpretation of the character made sense to me within the plot. Max's Gleb is very different and worked much better for me within the context of the show. His voice is gorgeous (making "The Neva Flows" and "Still" splendid) and watching his internal struggle throughout the show was fascinating. He reminded me quite a bit of one of my favorite screen actors, Jeremy Northam.

Max Von Essen and Christy Altomare in Anastasia the Musical
I was so excited to see Judy Kaye as the Dowager Empress and her voice is still so gorgeous. Vicki Lewis is delightful as the Countess Lily and the physical comedy she and John Bolton have in "The Countess and the Common Man" is hilarious. The whole ensemble were lovely, especially the ballet dancers.

One of the things that I loved the most was actually the design of the show. It's the best use of projections (designed by Aaron Rhyne) that I've seen in a theatre in a long time as they create many different backdrops. I love how they staged the scenes on the train and I thought that Anya's flashbacks were done very well. The costumes, designed by Linda Cho, are stunning especially in the pre-revolution Russian scenes and the Paris section of the show.

Christy Altomare in Anastasia the Musical
It's no secret that I cry in a lot of musicals, but not many can make me cry multiple times in the first act. (If anyone else misses their grandmother, ready.) Getting to see one of my favorite childhood films come to life on stage with a great cast and beautiful design, with added elements of historical accuracy and a darker undertone, honestly felt like a dream come true. This is definitely a show that I'll be returning to, as soon as possible.

Anastasia the Musical is selling tickets on Broadway through June 2019. 
Photo Credit: Matthew Murphy 
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