Fascinating that an anticipated stage musical adapted from a beloved animated feature film should open the same month as Disney’s critically ill-fated Beauty and the Beast live-action remake! Another update to a 90’s childhood favorite, Anastasia: The Musical promises to be particularly popular with the Millennial crowd that craves more realistic renditions of cartoons from their youth.
Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, who worked on lyrics and vocal arrangements in the 1997 film, return to write 26 new songs (six out of seven from the original remain), so we know they not only respect the source material, but also compose excellent music.
So hyped. I can’t wait.
What They Will Do:
Rejoice, revolution enthusiasts! Although it won’t be 100% faithful to history (because, let’s face it: the mystery has been solved thanks to DNA testing and Anastasia died along with her family), Anastasia: The Musical will be more grounded in the reality of the Bolshevik Revolution.
And how will they accomplish this?
What They Won’t Do:
Dosvedanya, Rasputin and Bartok. They won’t be making the leap from screen to stage. In an interview with HelloGiggles, Lynn Ahrens said, “We really didn’t want to repeat the animated movie onstage — and those two ‘cartoon’ characters simply didn’t fit this version […] You’ll be happy to know that we’ve replaced Rasputin with a much more complicated and charismatic antagonist, a Russian officer played by Broadway’s sensational Ramin Karimloo.”
Karimloo (Love Never Dies, Les Misérables) will play Gleb, a Bolshevik officer representing the new Communist Regime. A regime that has no place for the Romanovs.
What They Should Do:
Address the complicated nature of revolution. Our heroine comes from a loving family brutally and unnecessarily executed by the Bolsheviks, but most historians agree that Tsar Nicholas II did not govern particularly well. As a result, thousands of common people suffered under his rule. Because of Nicholas II and many of his forefathers, the Russian people finally decided to revolt.
Gleb’s got a point. Hopefully the show lets him make it.
What They Should UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES DO:
I don’t think Anya and Dmitri should be given any more previous connection than what they had in the movie. Adaptations often gravitate towards backstory, but I think that if they go beyond the boy who opened a wall, the story’s value will suffer.
There was something beautiful in Dmitri realizing who Anya was before she did, and choosing not to use that knowledge for his own gain. It represents how he’s changed; that he wants to make the moment special for Anya and not claim the money and split. In addition, that memory—that he’d helped the Grand Duchess and the Dowager Empress escape—was a part of himself he always kept secret. Even when it became key to unlocking the truth, he never told Anya herself about their meeting that fateful night.
If the creators make him a childhood acquaintance of Anastasia’s, or someone who’d always loved Anastasia from afar, it gives him goals outside of his con man desire for the Dowager Empress’s reward. His character wouldn’t change so drastically if he got something he wanted all along.
Give Dmitri backstory, sure. But not with Anya.
Wish List Item:
Even though Bartok could never be duplicated well on stage, I would squee a bit if I heard any other character say, “Anastasia? Yeah, just one problem there, fella. Anastasia’s dead. All the Romanovs are dead. They’re dead. Dead, dead, dead.” What can I say? Bartok’s delivery of that gem of a line is priceless.
Chances of this happening:
Pretty low, I’d say. Given my prediction of the musical’s overall tone and lack of evil sidekicks it doesn’t seem likely. Unless there’s a goofy Bolshevik character whose one shining moment is giving Gleb some sass? I’m going to go with 10%.
Technically, Anastasia already premiered on May 12, 2016 at Hartford Stage in Hartford, CT, but previews begin March 23 at the Broadhurst theater on Broadway. The show stars Christy Altomare, Ramin Karimloo, and Derek Klena and is written by Terrence McNally, scored by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, and directed by Darko Tresnjak.