‘ANASTASIA’: (left to right) Christy Altomare & Derek Klena. Photo: Matthew Murphy.

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Book by Terrence McNally
Music by Stephen Flaherty
Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens
Inspired by the Twentieth Century Fox Pictures
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
Broadhurst Theatre
235 West 44th Street


By David NouNou

Anastasia is a musical that can’t make up its mind whether to cater to adults or to children. It was inspired by the two 20th Century Fox movies: the 1997 animated version with talking animals and the excellent 1956 adult version with an Oscar-winning performance by Ingrid Bergman. Luckily there are no talking animals here, but this version is a highly diluted fairy tale version of the once captivating and thought-provoking notion that Anastasia Romanov was spared by the firing squad and actually survived and reunited with her grandmother, the Dowager Empress. Two standout performances, high-tech sets and projections, plus gorgeous costumes make this Anastasia momentous, if nothing else.

Anastasia starts in 1907 before the Russian Revolution in St. Petersburg at the palace of Czar Nicholas II, with a young Anastasia (Nicole Scimeca) and her grandmother (the enchanting Mary Beth Peil) singing a memorable duet “Once Upon a December.” This idyllic picture soon dissolves with the massacre of the czar and his family and the new Communist regime of Russia and poverty. Leningrad and the Communists take over the grandeur that once was St. Petersburg.

It is now 1917, Anastasia has lost her memory and is sweepings the streets of Leningrad. Two survivors of the revolution: Dmitry (Derek Klena) and Vlad (John Bolton) upon hearing rumors that Anastasia may have survived the massacre,  hatch up the scheme to find the right girl, train her, take her to Paris and pass her off as Anastasia and reunite her with her grandmother and claim the reward. In the mix is Gleb, (the wonderful Ramin Karimloo). Mr. Karimloo was Jean Val Jean in Les Miz. Here he is now playing the Javert role, the Russian officer who dogs Anastasia (Christy Altomare) to eliminate any remaining Romanov.

Well, you know the rest. With lots of training, Anastasia’s memory gets jogged, she goes to Paris, meets grandmother, and along the way falls in love with the revolutionary who discovered her. All this is good and well if it wasn’t for the rambling book by Terrence McNally and the bland score by Flaherty and Ahrens, which makes the show seem interminable. Too many unremarkable songs stretch the evening as fillers and minimalize the depth of the narrative. This is where director Darko Tresnjak should have stepped in and tightened the proceedings.

Unfortunately, the show isn’t helped any by having two extremely bland performers as the protagonists. Neither Christy Altomare nor Derek Klena have the depth or charisma to carry off the leads. They both don’t seem to realize that they are portraying Russians, instead of voiceovers for an animated film. John Bolton and Caroline O’Connor (as lady-in-waiting to the empress) perform the obligatory older folks for the light comic touch, with both having too many songs and slowing up the action.

The two gems are Mary Beth Peil, who is so regal and divine as the Empress. Young performers, take notice and learn from Ms. Peil on how she commands the stage. Finally she has been given a role that utilizes her talents. The second is Ramin Karimloo, in the role of Gleb, with a voice and presence that shakes the rafters. Oh, how wonderful it would have been if he had played Dmitry. Anyone would give up everything to be able to run away with him.

Lastly one could call the show a spectacle, thanks in large part to the dazzling costumes by Linda Cho, expert lighting by Donald Holder, but especially to Aaron Rhyne for his innovative projection design. It is absolutely astounding how seamlessly the scenes change from palace to the streets, from Russia to Paris. All three evoke the mood of a fairy tale.




Edited by Scott Harrah
Published April 27, 2017
Reviewed at press performance on April 26, 2017


‘ANASTASIA’: Christy Altomare & Derek Klena. Photo: Matthew Murphy

Matthew Murphy

‘ANASTASIA’: Ramin Karimloo & Christy Altomare. Photo: Matthew Murphy


‘ANASTASIA’: John Bolton & Caroline O’Connor. Photo: Matthew Murphy


‘ANASTASIA’: (seated, left to right) John Bolton, Christy Altomare & Derek Klena. Photo: Matthew Murphy


‘ANASTASIA’: Derek Klena & Christy Altomare. Photo: Matthew Murphy


‘ANASTASIA’: Nicole Scimeca & Mary Beth Peil. Photo: Matthew Murphy


‘ANASTASIA’: Christy Altomare. Photo: Matthew Murphy

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