Skip to main content Skip to footer site map

Review: National Tour of ANASTASIA Pays a Glowing Visit to Los Angeles

Review: National Tour of ANASTASIA Pays a Glowing Visit to Los Angeles

Anastasia The New Broadway Musical/book by Terrence McNally/music by Stephen Flaherty/lyrics by Lynn Ahrens/directed by Darko Tresnjak/Hollywood Pantages Theatre/choreographed by Peggy Hickey/musical director: Lawrence Goldberg/through October 27 only

Based on the 1997 animated film "Anastasia", Anastasia the New Broadway Musical, bowing on broadway in 2017, is an entertaining whirlwind of sight and sound. It will make you laugh and cry. You will undoubtedly leave the theatre with a lasting impression of grande theatricality and how it weaves its magic into our humdrum lives. Plus, it is based on fact. Currently onstage at the Hollywood Pantages until October 27 only, this Anastasia has the makings of a great big hit.

In 1917 when the Romanov dynasty was gunned down in St. Petersburg, Russia by the revolting Bolsheviks, the entire family perished with perhaps the exception of Grand Duchess Anastasia of Nikolaevna. It was rumored that she survived, merely a rumor, no proof. In 1927 impoverished street sweeper Anya (Lila Coogan), looking for other work, stumbles upon conmen Dimitry (Jake Levy) and his partner Vlad (Edward Staudenmayer), who are determined to come up with a girl that they may train and pass off as Anastasia to her grandmother the Dowager Empress (Joy Franz). The lady resides in Paris. She is a hardboiled woman who lives with the dream of finding her granddaughter but is quick to decry a fraud of any kind.

Terrence McNally has cautiously structured his book with Act One in Russia and Act Two in Paris. In 1927 Paris offered everything that Russia did not: freedom, and the opportunity for creativity, basically to live as one pleased. The characters we see in St, Petersburg in Act One are searching for something better. Orphan Anya wants to know who she is and Dimitry, also an orphan, longs to find his identity as well. Vlad wants to find passion with his former lover Countess Lily (Tari Kelly), now a lady in waiting to the Dowager Empress, and the Dowager Empress still dreams of being reunited with Anastasia. Another character, new to the Anastasia storyline, is Gleb, a villainous Bolshevik general who has taken control of St. Petersburg, now called Leningrad. Gleb's (Jason Michael Evans) father was one of the revolutionaries who gunned down Anastasia's family. Gleb longs to be like his father and kill Anastasia, if she exists. Unfortunately, for him, he falls in love with Anya and cannot complete his mission.

The beauty of the story is that the old adage "the grass is always greener on the other side" may be applied here. Happiness cannot be bought. Anya is Anastasia and is reunited with her grandmother, but she finds she is in love with Dimitry and would rather continue her life with him than live amongst the wealthy members of the royal family. Dimitry too gives up his desire for the money and settles for the beauty of being forever in love with Anya. It's a lovely fairytale come to life.

Under Tresnjak's uber skilled direction and with Peggy Hickey's fast and furious choreography, the ensemble is sublime. Coogan is dynamic as Anya with a rich and powerful vocal instrument. Staudenmayer is a fabulous dancer and delightfully funny as Vlad. Evans makes a strong villain out of Gleb, a pretty much unnecessary character, and Levy is fine as Dimitry. Franz is superb as the Dowager Empress, torn by doubt and filled with relentless passion. The real scene stealer in Act Two is Tari Kelly as Lily. She is hilarious as the member of the court in love with a commoner and goes all out to get thunderous laughs.

Technically, projection design by Aaron Rhyne is over the moon. St. Petersburg at night converting in Anya's mind into the 1917 ball preceding her family's execution is astounding as is the ride on the train from Russia to France. With the movement of the railroad tracks behind, you could swear you were onboard. Add bravo to scenic designer Alexander Dodge, to gorgeous costumes by Linda Cho, to the magnificent lighting design of Donald Holder and to the vibrant sound design of Peter Hylenski. McNally's book moves along at a good pace providing tears and laughter, and Lynn Ahrens' and Stephen Flaherty's score is memorable, especially during the "Traveling Sequence". The train station reminds one almost to the letter of the immigrants in Ragtime, which the pair also co-wrote.

Don't miss Anastasia the New Broadway Musical! It is a theatrical experience of the highest order. I saw men cry as well as women, so forget that macho misconception! This is a sensitive tale filled with passion for everyone young and old

(photo credit: Evan Zimmerman)

From This Author - Don Grigware

  Don Grigware was a writer for BroadwayWorld through December 2019.                             ... (read more about this author)

BWW Interview: Pop Singer Tiffany Bailey Talks About Her Projects for 2020
January 28, 2020

Actress/singer Tiffany Bailey has many talents. She also happens to be a behavioral therapist for children with autism. I laud her for that. Last spring 2019 she released an album entitled Jazz with Pop and her cabaret show was very well received. In this interview she updates our readers as to the success of the CD and talks about her other projects for 2020.

BWW Review: Megan Hilty and Cheyenne Jackson a Smash at the Wallis Annenberg
January 27, 2020

One of the most highly anticipated concerts of the season took place Saturday January 25 at the Bram Goldsmith Theater of the Wallis Annenberg in Beverly Hills. It co-starred Megan Hilty and Cheyenne Jackson. To say the least both performers were at the very top of their form and blew the roof off the Annenberg by just being their professional selves, singing sublimely separately and together and sharing stories about their career and personal lives.

BWW Interview: Alfred Molina Speaks About THE FATHER at Pasadena Playhouse
January 24, 2020

Florian Zeller's play The Father is so topical, for it deals with a father who is suffering from dimentia. It opens for previews on February 5 at the Pasadena Playhouse with the official opening night set for Tuesday February 11. Alfred Molina whose stage and film appearances are laudatory stars as the father Andre, a former tap dancer. He talks succinctly about the role as he settles in to a comfortable rehearsal period.

Candlelight Pavilion Presents a Sterling MAN OF LA MANCHA
January 22, 2020

Man of La Mancha /book by Dale Wasserman/music by Mitch Leigh and lyrics by Joe Darion/ directed by Chuck Ketter/choreographed by Daniel Solis/ music direction by Douglas Austin/Candlelight Pavilion Dinner Theatre/through February 22 This has to be my hundreth viewing of this show. As many times as I see Man of La Mancha, I relish the music and high dramatic moments of this classic piece of theatre. Such is the case when the production is top notch, with the perfect actors and highly skilled direction. Candlelight Pavilion's current revival is fantastic with artistic director John LaLonde stepping into the role of Cervantes for the sixth time. In spite of the entire cast's excellent performances, he is the main reason to see this fine production.

BWW Review: Suzy London Presents a Playful TATTOOS ON MY HEART
January 21, 2020

Actress Suzy London is a dynamite performer onstage. She really digs in deep to become the character she is playing. Her cabaret appearance - her second over the past year - on Sunday January 19 at Sterling's Upstairs at the Federal proved that she can conquer the cabaret scene with equal finesse. It takes a performer of versatility to grab hold of an audience and keep them riveted to you... as yourself. Here in cabaret, you are exposing a side of yourself that is covered over in a specific character role.