BWW Blog: Happy Trails to ANASTASIA on Broadway!
On Sunday, March 31st, Anastasia played its final Broadway performance and closed its doors. Today, I'm saying "Happy Trails" to its cast, crew, and musicians. Anastasia holds a special place in my heart. I was lucky enough to see it six times during its approximately two year run, each time becoming more and more attached to its heartwarming and hopeful story, and grateful for the talented and compassionate artists telling that story eight times a week.
Adapted from the 1997 animated film of the same name, and penned by the legendary Lynn Ahrens (lyrics), Stephen Flaherty (music), and Terrence McNally (book), Anastasia tells the story of Anya, a young Russian woman attempting to discover the secrets of her past and her heritage. Truth be told, I wasn't very familiar with the story prior to seeing the show for the first time; I hadn't grown up with the film like many others, and I was only minimally aware of the real-life history of the Romanov family. What initially drew me to the show, rather, was its casting of Ramin Karimloo.
If you read my first BWW piece, you know Les Misérables was the show that really got me interested in theatre. After seeing it three times during the summer of 2015, starring Ramin Karimloo as Jean Valjean, I knew I would be buying a ticket to whatever show Ramin was in next. It wasn't until I actually saw Anastasia for the first time that the show meant much more to me.
First of all, the story is beautiful. The music is beautiful. The book is beautiful. But what really got me was the observable, tangible love that the company possessed for the story and for each other, and then shared with the fans in countless ways. Much of that love and kindness came from Christy Altomare, who played the title character.
On the evening of her final performance this past Sunday, Christy met with fans at the stage door for about four and a half hours -- over four hours of taking pictures, signing autographs, giving hugs, and saying goodbyes (for now). If that doesn't convey the otherworldly kindness and appreciation for fans that Christy and the company as a whole possess, I don't know what does. I mean, that has to be some kind of Broadway record. That's not to say Broadway performers are required to stagedoor for hours and hours to prove their kindness. What really made myself and my girlfriend, Lauren, appreciate the spirit and energy of the company were the behind the scenes looks at backstage antics, like Christy's Instagram livestreams and the show's Broadway.com vlog series.
More influential than that, however, was an experience I had when Lauren and I were stagedooring Anastasia for the first time, after the second time we saw the show. Christy was making her way down the line, and a girl about our age asked for advice on working in theatre. Christy's response was far too eloquent and inspiring for me to accurately represent here, but the point was this -- be kind to others. I really took that overheard advice to heart, and Christy became a significant role model for me. I felt like she was exactly right, and it was so refreshing to hear that kind of sentiment come from a star in show business. When I made my first official film school movie about a year and a half later, I was lucky enough to be able to assemble a kind and talented crew of my friends, and those who I hadn't already known became my friends through working together, which I think is exemplative of the Anastasia spirit.
As time went on, Lauren and I continued to go see Anastasia, meet the cast at the stage door, and bring gifts for Christy and the company. For me, going to college in California, it was a real treat to be able to stop by the Broadhurst while I was home on break. A trip to NYC without it felt like something was missing. More significantly, Lauren and I were by no means alone -- countless fans from all over the world would come to New York to see the show, some of them upwards of ten times. I really think it was because of the positive, comforting, and grateful spirit radiating from Christy and the entire company. So thank you, Anastasia, for being such a bright spot in our lives. I'm so glad that the spirit lives on in three other productions around the world. And as for the cast, crew, and musicians of Anastasia on Broadway, I can't wait to see how your journeys continue!