BWW Review: ANASTASIA at The Hippodrome

BWW Review: ANASTASIA  at The Hippodrome

ANASTASIA at the Hippodrome is full of charm and exuberance. Part modern fairytale, part musical history, the show takes full advantage of the glory that was Imperial Russia and the glitter of 1920s Paris.

The sets are splendid, the costumes exquisite, and the cast so energetic one expects them to bounce off the stage into real life.

One of the great rumors of the early 20th century was whether the youngest daughter of Tsar Nikolas II had survived the execution of her family by communist revolutionaries in 1918. Books, movies, plays and false impersonators captured the public's imagination about the young Grand Duchess.

This version of the story centers around Anya (Lila Coogan) an amnesiac pauper scraping by in post-revolution Russia. She encounters two con artists, Vlad (Edward Staudenmyer) and Dimitry (Stephen Brower) who have decided to cash in on the Anastasia survives story and see Anya as the one to act it out. They tale goes from Cinderella to Pygmalion as they do a makeover that turns her into a duchess. Or maybe it's really a memory brought back to life. It is an interesting side note that the name Anastasia translates to resurrection.

Along the way, they must elude the menacing Bolsheviks, mainly comrade villain Gleb (Jason Michael Evans), escape to Paris and convince the Dowager Empress (Joy Franz) and her lady-in-waiting Countess Lily (Tari Kelly) that Anya is the long lost Romanov.

Coogan is irrepressible as Anya, a heroine survivor who looks delicate but has a voice that brings down the rafters. Her counterpart Brower is the perfect diamond-in-the-rough anti-hero. One only wishes they shared a romantic duet. Staudenmyer is delightful as royal party crasher Vlad who rediscovers his own lost love, formerly royal Lily, presented in entirely entertaining fashion by Kelly. Franz lends gravity to the story in her affecting portrayal as the exiled grandmother of a lost family. Evans has the booming voice and intimating stance of one obsessed by ideology. The entire cast share the vocal talent and theatrical chemistry needed to maintain the vigorous pace set by shifting interactions in time and place and relationships.

Director Darko Tresnjak and choreographer Peggy Hickey have done a superb job creating this extravagant world of dreamy memories, dangerous adventure and jazz age revelry. Those who saw the animated feature in 1997 will recognize some of the songs by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. The tunes are catchy but at over two hours, a little pruning may be a good thing. Though you might wish to have an even longer look at the gorgeous scenic design by Alexander Dodge and sumptuous costumes by Linda Cho.

The spirited production met with an abundance of appreciation. ANASTASIA is a show where the love affair between the performers and the audience can make for a magical theater experience.

ANASTASIA plays through December 9, 2018 at The Hippodrome located at 12 N Eutaw St. For more information call 800-982-2787 or go online to www.ticketmaster.com

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From This Author Tina Collins

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