Posted at TimesofSanDiego.com on 10/3/19
RUN DATES: 10/1/19 – 10/6/19
VENUE: Civic Theatre
First, let’s get one thing out of the way. It’s pretty hard to feel sorry for the poor, victimized Romanov family and the surviving grandma who lost all her loved ones.
They were, after all, the fabulously wealthy Czar and Czarina who were responsible for the death of millions, and their execution was part of the Bolshevik Revolution in 1918 that marked the revolt of the common people.
Ever since then, rumors have swirled that Anastasia, the fourth of their five children, managed to survive the firing squad.
The 2017 musical, “Anastasia,” is based on the 1997 animated musical-historical fantasy film of the same name.
In a convoluted plot, spanning the years 1906-1927, two Russian conmen in St. Petersburg audition women to pose as the young Grand Duchess, so they can claim the reward from the Dowager Empress living in Paris.
A street-sweeper named Anya fascinates them with her resemblance to Anastasia and her complete amnesia about her past.
Their grooming and training of her is more than vaguely reminiscent of the ‘remake’ of “My Fair Lady.” Other moments call up “Ragtime” (also written by the composer-lyricist team of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens) and scenes from other musicals: “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Les Miz,” for example (there’s an Inspector Javert-like character who stalks and trails the three to Paris in order to kill the would-be Anastasia).
Romance is, of course, part of the story, which was written by Terrence McNally (who also penned “Ragtime,” among many others).
All the creatives attached to this project comprise a Who’s Who of Broadway talent, including Tony Award-winning director Darko Tresnjak, former artistic director of The Old Globe, as well as scenic designer Alexander Dodge, costume designer Linda Cho and lighting designer Donald Holder. They all do excellent work here.
Though the plot is weak, the orchestra is strong, and the performances are compelling — especially Lila Coogan as Anya/Anastasia, Edward Staudenmayer as con mastermind Vlad, and comical dancer/singer Tari Kelly as Countess Lily, who pairs off with Vlad in the end.
But the real star of this jaw-droppingly gorgeous production is the stunning, ever-changing projections (Aaron Rhyne), which completely transport us to St. Petersburg, a revolving-perspective train-ride through the Russian countryside and multiple dazzling locations in Paris, including an elevator ascent to the top of the Eiffel Tower, for an expansive nighttime view.
The starry skies, the snow, the cherry blossoms, the multicolored St. Petersburg spires… you won’t see anything like this any time soon — no matter how you feel about Anastasia and her infamous family.
©2019 PAT LAUNER