'Journey To The Past' With Anastasia

The Broadway musical runs through Sunday, May 19.

May 15, 2019
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The fabled story of Anastasia has had quite a long life. Beginning originally as a play in the 50s which was then turned into a movie (scoring a Best Actress Oscar for Ingrid Bergman in 1956), the Broadway incarnation of Anastasia is more in line with the animated film version from 1997, minus the villainous Rasputin.

Featuring a score and songs by the animated film's song composers Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Once On This Island, Ragtime), Anastasia once again tells the tale of the youngest daughter of Tsar Nicolas II. While the family were all known to be murdered during the Russian Revolution, Anastasia concocts the idea that Grand Duchess Anastasia actually survived and is now known as Anya (Lily Coogan). Suffering from amnesia, she is discovered by con men Dmitry (Stephen Brower) and Vlad (Edward Staudenmayer), who are aware that the girl's grandmother, the Dowager Empress (Joy Franz), is living in Paris and has a hefty reward if anyone can produce her youngest granddaughter. 

But getting out of Russia and making it to Paris is the first obstacle they must overcome, hindered in part by Gleb (Jason Michael Evans), a Bolshevik general intent on making sure she doesn't meet up with the Dowager Empress (her possible grandmother). 

The conclusion of Act 1 finds Anya, Dmitry and Vlad aboard a train heading to Paris in a spectacular blend of stage and film, making it appear as if they are really traveling on a train. It's just one instance of stage magic (another being the ghosts of Anastasia's departed relatives who waltz on stage) that is prevalent throughout the entire production.

After their arrival in Paris, Countess Lily (the radiant Tari Kelly) is introduced. The right hand gal to the Dowager Empress, and a former flame of Vlad's, Lily is the key to getting Anya/Anastasia a meeting with the Dowager Empress. "The Countess and the Common Man," an extremely funny duet between Lily and Vlad, beautifully displays the strong song and dance techniques of the two actors.

As Anya/Anastasia, Coogan nails the otherworldly qualities of her character which seem to suggest that she really could be of nobility born and also demonstrates a powerful singing voice on one of the show's most well-known numbers, "Journey to the Past." 

Brower's pluckish Dmitry, who unsurprisingly develops romantic feelings for Anya/Anastasia, is an appealing stage presence, although his vocals suffered some during Tuesday's opening night performance. 

Broadway veteran Franz, as the Dowager Empress, is perfect in the role, bringing both strength and vulnerability to both her acting and singing. 

The musical's end result is the culmination of the mystery of Anastasia, and we're not about to give that away. But we will say it's an extremely agreeable payoff.

Like two other productions this season, Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen, demand for Anastasia is high, with just a few tickets remaining for the run. So get those tickets now! 

Anastasia plays the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts at 8 p.m. through Friday, May 17; at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, May 18; and at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sunday, May 19. Click here to purchase tickets.