Review: ANASTASIA is a Journey to the Past That Thrives in the Present

Anastasia Holds the Key (To Vancouver's Heart) until March 12th!

By: Mar. 12, 2023
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Review: ANASTASIA is a Journey to the Past That Thrives in the Present
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One of Broadway's newest musicals, ANASTASIA, has arrived in Vancouver! Being the 3rd musical to come to Vancouver this year with Broadway Across Canada, ANASTASIA has proven itself to be the best one yet. Playing at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre from March 7th to 12th, ANASTASIA has graced audiences night after night this past week with its outstanding songs, lyrics, and acting. With its humor, love, drama, and suspense, ANASTASIA had a little bit of everything to appeal to a wide range of audiences. Be sure to check out Anastasia in Vancouver before the touring production moves to Kansas next week!

Inspired by the hit 1997 animated movie, ANASTASIA dives into unraveling one of history's greatest mysteries about what happened to Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov after the execution of her family. Taking place in the 1920s during the Russian revolution near the Bolshevik regime, we follow Anya, a young orphaned woman living in St. Petersburg with barely any money to her name. Unclear of her past, Anya is determined to rediscover her roots. When she meets spunky duo Dmity (a conman) and Vlad (ex-aristocrat), they recruit her to take on the "role" of Anastasia to fool the Dowager Empress (last remaining Romanov). The more Anya "pretends" to be Anastasia, the more of her past she starts to remember and the more she realizes that she might actually be the princess after all. With Soviet officer, Gleb, after her while she's on the run to Paris, Anya embarks on an adventure of a lifetime filled with love, heartbreak, and friendship. ANASTASIA is a musical about finding who you are, regardless of who you used to be or what people think you are supposed to be. Finding true happiness lies at the roots of the musical, making it a must-watch for anyone looking for something to lift their spirits.

Anastasia (Non-Equity)

Photo: Willem Butler (Dmitri), Bryan Seastrom (Vlad), Veronica Stern (Anya) and The Company in the North American Tour of ANASTASIA - Photo by Evan Zimmerman for Murphy Made

One of the most beautiful parts of this musical is the music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens. Ahrens and Flaherty have been collaborators since 1983 winning Tony, Drama Desk, and Outer Critics Circle awards together. The music and lyrics of the musical complement each other really well allowing a cohesive telling of the story. With fan favorite songs such as "Once Upon a December," "In My Dreams," "Journey to the Past," "Learn to Do it," and "Land of Yesterday," the music of ANASTASIA is guaranteed to have you listening to the soundtrack long after you see the musical.

The most spectacular aspect about ANASTASIA was the scenic design by Alexander Dodge and projection design by Aaron Rhyne. Everything about the scenic and projection design really brought the musical to the next level. From the subtle snow falling through the windows during the scenes in the palace to the breathtaking scenic displays during the moments in Paris, Dodge and Rhyne did not hesitate to take this part of the musical to the next level. Another standout aspect of the show was the costume design by Linda Cho. Right from the start, I was immediately drawn to the intricacies of the costumes on every member of the cast. The dresses and suits worn by the Romanovs were well crafted, really reinforcing the royal positions they held. In addition, Her colour choices and accessories for the main characters were eye-catching. I'm sure years down the road, people will be able to remember the iconic costumes used in the show.

As someone who has seen the New York production of ANASTASIA on Broadway with the original Broadway cast, I was very attached to the actors who originated the main roles. Seeing Christy Altomare (Anya), Derek Klena (Dmitry), and John Bolton (Vlad) excel as their characters, I went into the touring production with high standards and expectations. Luckily, the touring cast did not let me down and left me thoroughly impressed with their work. The main cast consisted of Veronica Stern (Anya), Willem Butler (Dmitry), Bryan Seastrom (Vlad), Christian McQueen (Gleb), Gerri Weagraff (Dowager Empress), and Rebecca Hartman (Countess Lily) (who played the role in for Madeline Raube on opening night).

Anastasia (Non-Equity)

Photo: Veronica Stern (Anya) in the North American Tour of ANASTASIA - Photo by Evan Zimmerman for Murphy Made

Veronica Stern was a true highlight of the show. As Anya goes through such a journey from beginning to end, Stern was able to represent her in a way that was very genuine yet empowering. Being at the centre of the show is not easy and Stern carried herself with confidence bringing truth to her character. Vocally, Stern was very stable and had excellent chemistry with her counterparts Willem Butler and Bryan Seastrom. Butler was a great choice for Dmitry, he was very charismatic and had excellent chemistry with Stern. Their relationship was very believable and pure making their banter very enjoyable to watch. Seastom and Rebecca Hartman were definite crowd favorites. Their number, "The Countess and the Common Man," got the crowd riled up and had everyone laughing (in a good way) from start to finish. Christian McQueen as Gleb was very refreshing. McQueen brought such conviction and drive to his character. When you first meet Gleb, you take him as someone with a single purpose. As the story progresses, McQueen shows different sides to Gleb that helps you unravel his inner conflicts and softer sides. I really enjoyed seeing McQueen in the role of Gleb. Lastly, Gerri Weagraff as the Dowager Empress was a treat. Right from the start, Weagraff brought a very respectable aura to her character. One of my favourite moments of hers was the conversation she had with Stern (Anya) at the end of the show. Despite them not being related in real life, the way she embraced and conversed with Stern showed how deep of a connection she was able to create amongst her castmate. Any actor who can successfully accomplish that is exquisite.

ANASTASIA ranks highly amongst all of the musicals that have come to Vancouver within the last couple of years. Along with fan favourites such as Hamilton and Waitress, there is no doubt that ANASTASIA is up there with them. Whether you are familiar with the animated movie or not, the show has a little bit of something for everyone and will leave you satisfied by the end of it. ANASTASIA is a show that will live in our memories for a very long time.

ANASTASIA will play at the Queen Elizabeth Theatre in Vancouver from March 7th to 12th and will move to Lawrence, KS for their next stop on tour. Tickets are available at the link below!

Top Photo: Willem Butler (Dmitri) and Veronica Stern (Anya) in the North American Tour of ANASTASIA - Photo by Evan Zimmerman for Murphy Made

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