Live theatre needn’t ever go away again! The exciting, glamour-filled touring Broadway production of the late Terrence McNally’s literary masterpiece, Anastasia, though riddled with some hiccups, has proven that the thrill of a staged performance remains one of the world’s most impactful and moving forms of entertainment and artistic collaboration.
Although microphone battles seemed to plague the sweet Anya (touring newcomer and vocal powerhouse, Veronica Stern) and the dashing Dmitri (Willem Butler) at times, and the fact that I wasn’t quite sold on their budding romance, it was forgiven by their commitment to character, and the endearing and humorous stage frolicking of former lovers, Vlad (Bryan Seastrom) and Countess Lily (Madeline Raube). Not to be excluded whatsoever here are the astounding vocal power and tenacity of the leading lovers and the entire cast, all well-supported by a spectacular orchestra and an overall talented production team.
Upon entering, the audience at the BJCC Concert Hall is greeted with the show’s title name projected onto a scrim. As the orchestra swells the first few notes of the prologue, with book and lyrics written by award-winning musical geniuses, Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, we are immediately swept away into the lives of the joyous, loving and God-fearing Romanov family in 1906, Saint Petersburg, Russia. Through a whirl of engaging lights and original projection designs that tantalizingly fool you into believing the snow falling on stage is real, even if for a moment, you are immediately smitten with the characters’ passion-filled storytelling through song and dance that spans 21 years.
Although primarily a technologically-driven production, everything in this show just works together, right down to the storyline. As a huge fan of the 1997 Twentieth Century Fox film, I am not at all perturbed at the adaptation McNally, Flaherty and Ahrens created for the stage. It would have been too easy an “out” to mimic the film’s exact storyline. The uniqueness of the story for this stage production highlights an evil that, in my opinion, is spurred by a hidden lust carried in the lonely heart of Soviet Comrade, Gleb (hauntingly-played by Ben Edquist). Clearly torn between duty for his country and his well-played fascination with the mysterious Anya, Gleb is the clear antagonist in the story who ultimately won my heart. Under the direction of Broadway maven Sarah Hartmann, and orchestra conductor, Jeremy Robin Lyons, this production should not be missed.
No spoiler alerts here! The Anastasia Broadway touring stage production is a must-see for all Anastasia fans and new fans, alike. We all are on a journey to discover who we are, and find home, love and family for ourselves. Facing and overcoming the tragedies that can haunt us in the process is a lesson from this story you will not soon forget.
Anastasia is only in Birmingham at the BJCC Concert Hall through October 30, so get your tickets here now!