Anastasia is the new Broadway hit about the legend of the Grand Duchess Anastasia, a Russian princess who was rumored to have survived the Romanov massacre. The musical follows the journey of an amnesiac Anastasia (now named Anya) who joins two conmen in search of her real family in Paris.
The musical is also an adaptation of the 1997 animated film, which features iconic songs such as “Once Upon of December” and “Journey to the Past.” These songs and a couple of others from the movie return in a new light on-stage. But one song that fans of the 1997 film might miss is “In the Dark of the Night,” sung by Rasputin.
Rasputin is unfortunately not in the musical because, well, the musical is trying to be more historically accurate. In the movie, Rasputin was involved in the Romanovs’ deaths and he comes back as a zombie-like being to kill Anastasia. In reality, Rasputin wasn’t involved in the massacre, but was long dead before the Russian Revolution started. He also didn’t come back as a zombie and sung a catchy melody in limbo with a bunch of dancing bugs (yeah, that’s pretty silly, but the film holds a special place in ’90s kids’ hearts with its songs and characters).
The antagonist in the musical is a communist named Gleb Vaganov, whose father was one of the guards that shot the Romanovs. While Gleb’s character is a bit weak (hey, it was either communism or a zombie), actor Ramin Karimloo’s incredible singing makes up for it.
Everyone in the cast is exceptional. Christy Altomare, who plays Anastasia, is charming in the role and her rendition of the movie’s songs are great. As someone who grew up with the 1997 film, it was amazing to hear the songs on stage 20 years later.
Derek Klena, who plays Dmitry, is a heartthrob and has wonderful chemistry with Altomare. Though, there wasn’t as much bickering as there was in the movie, their relationship is still believable and they share some really sweet moments together. The two sing a duet called “In A Crowd Of Thousands,” which is a new song and recalls the time that the two had met as children. Their first interaction has also been changed in the musical, but it doesn’t hurt the story, nor the inclusion of a new villain. (Though the climax with Gleb is a bit underwhelming when you compare it to that of the animated film, where there was a confrontation on a collapsing bridge with an undead Rasputin and a possessed horse statue. I’m not sure how you could beat that.)
The new changes are much-welcomed since the musical isn’t just a repetition of the 1997 film (looking at you, live-action Beauty and the Beast). As fun as Rasputin was, his absence was needed to make the story more accurate. The only unrealistic part is that Anastasia’s alive, but that’s what makes this a modern fairytale. The 1997 film was criticized for its inaccuracies in regards to Russian history, so it was a good call for the musical to fix that.
Anastasia is a visually stunning musical that treats fans of the film and fans of history to great songs, a great cast and a great story.