Anastasia the Musical: The Original All Grown Up

Recently showed in Orange County, the Broadway phenomenon, “Anastasia,” has a refreshing yet familiar take.

Anastasia the Musical is a must-watch for those who enjoyed the original.

Photo Courtesy of Wikipedia

Anastasia the Musical is a must-watch for those who enjoyed the original.

As a robust orchestra, bright blue lights and elegant ballet numbers fill the Segerstrom Theater for the Arts with the wintry chill of “Once Upon a December,” the Broadway rendition of the beloved 1997 Warner Bros. Studio animation, “Anastasia,” takes on a more mature tone while still piercing the audience’s hearts with nostalgia. 

Based on the real events of the House of Romanov, the musical opens with a dazzling dance number of the Romanov family as they hold a magnificent ball in 1916’s St. Petersburg, Russia. We meet Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanov, one of the youngest of the family and most beloved of her grandmother, the Dowager Empress.

The breathtaking scenery of the Romanov family clad in illustrious garb manages to implement a smooth yet shocking segue into the story’s tragic conflict. Instead of the Warner Brothers’s mystical villain, Rasputin, the musical approaches a more historically accurate take with the antagonist of Gleb Vaganov, a general representing the political tensions of early 1900’s Russia; the Bolshevik Revolution wiping out the bloodline of the Royal House of Romanov, overthrowing an autocratic regime into one of communism. 

As an avid fan of the fantasy movie (as well as Rasputin), the story’s more grounded take pleasantly surprised me. With many elements of the movie being either changed or omitted, the Broadway adaptation had still managed to strike the same sentiment that the original had brought to the childhoods of many. With 25 unforgettable tracks such as “Learn to do It,” and “Paris Holds the Key,” the musical beautifully translated the whimsical aura of the animation’s soundtrack into a surreal live experience. 

Alongside the nostalgia the musical brings, the mesmerizing stage production immersed the audience within the brilliant colors of St. Petersburg, the regality of the Romanov’s palace and the roaring euphoria of 1920’s Paris. The detailed scenery and overall well-rounded technicality maintained the integrity of the many climactic moments of the story, touching the audience beyond just the spectacle of the stage.

“Anastasia” the musical gave me a newfound appreciation for the original that I had known and loved. It made me unsure that the thrilling adventures and endearing characters of such a magical animation could be rendered into a live performance, but despite the lack of the movie’s fantastical elements (and its lovable animal comrades, Pooka and Bartok), the on-stage rendition was an extravagant experience that surprised me with its loyalty to the original’s sentiment. As Anastasia once belted during the crux of one of her most memorable scenes, this Broadway spectacular truly took me on a newfound “Journey to the Past.”