The timeless Don Bluth (but NOT Disney!) animation “Anastasia” finally took the Broadway stage in 2017, and now it’s come to Dallas, Texas. But is this classic tale done justice by the musical theatre setting? In short: absolutely. “Anastasia” is a touching, operatic tale filled with drama, intrigue, and—not least of all—fabulous music.
Your first impression as you sit down for this show is the set; it’s quite large but rather traditional. The main setting tool used in this show is projections; ordinarily, projections in a theatrical piece are more distracting than anything, but they are used to great effect in “Anastasia.” They are subtle in a way as not to distract from the talent and story on stage, but the beautiful set pieces projected onstage are breathtaking in their own way. Snow dances across the stage, trees race by speeding getaway train cars, the glowing lights of a royal ball illuminate the stage and make you feel that you are dancing with the regal family. It’s a genuinely effective use of projection, no doubt due to the expensive technology of an off-broadway venue coupled with the artistic direction of the team that brought this show to life. The story starts in WWI-era Russia. Anastasia is given a music box by her grandmother as she leaves for Paris (:Prologue: Once Upon a December.”) 10 years later, Princess Anastasia is attending a ball with her family, when the palace is attacked by rioting Bolsheviks, who tear apart the ball and kill most of the Romanovs at the ball. The titular character, Anastasia, tries to retrieve her grandmother’s music box in the chaos, but is shot and left for dead (“The Last Dance of the Romanovs”). Act I opens up ANOTHER 10 years later, in 1927. The Bolsheviks announce that St. Petersburg is now to be called Leningrad, to the jeers of the impoverished and hopeless Russians. They hold onto hope with the rumor that Princess Anastasia is alive. Elsewhere, a poor street sweeper named Anya (Lila Coogan)—who looks suspiciously like Anastasia and has amnesia—is selected as the fake Anastasia as part of a scheme to take back Russia. The rest of the story unfolds from there as Anya struggles to find out who she is. I felt that act I was a bit rushed at times, and it covers so many plot points in a relatively short time to set up for act II. That said, act II is beautifully paced now that all of the pieces of the tale are setup, and the tale’s resolution is very satisfying.
The entire cast is musically gifted. Lila Coogan (Anya)and Jason Michael Evans’ (Gleb) performances were marked with clarity and power. Occasionally, their acting felt a bit forced and exaggerated which, to me, took away from some of the beautifully written scenes. But I cannot deny the cast’s talent and passion for their roles. Evans’ performance showed Gleb’s conflict between his duties and what he really wants to be remarkably; similarly, Anya’s inner turmoil shines through in Coogan’s performance. Who really stole the show for me, though, were Edward Staudenmayer and Tari Kelly (Vlad and Lily, respectively). The duo’s energy and chemistry were contagious. The music of “Anastasia” is perhaps the best part of this legendary musical, and the cast of this show does an incredible job of bringing it to life. The cast and crew of Music Hall at Fair Park do “Anastasia” justice, to say the least.
This is a show worth watching, and with a set this beautiful and a cast this show-stopping, now is the time to catch it. If you love the classic film, you’ll no doubt love this inspiring and empowering play just as much; young audience members, especially, can find a compelling role model in the headstrong and determined main character, so take the whole family. “Anastasia” is 2-and-a-half-hours long and runs at the Music Hall at Fair Park through Sunday, March 3rd. Catch it while it’s here!
1021's show highlights
Lila Coogan's performance as Anya
Stephen Brower's performance as Dmitry
Edward Staudenmyer's performance as Vlad
Musical Number : "A Rumor in St.Petersburg"
Musical Number : "Learn to do It"
Musical Number :"The Neva Flow"
Musical Number : "Traveling Sequence"
Musical Number : "Journey to the Past"
Musical Number :Land of Yesterday"
Musical Number : In a Crowd of Thousands"
Musical Number : "Still"/"The Neva Flows"
Sat., Feb. 23, 1:30pm Sat., Feb. 23, 7:30pm Sun., Feb. 24, 1:30pm Sun., Feb. 24, 7:30pm Tue., Feb. 26, 7:30pm Wed., Feb. 27, 7:30pm Thu., Feb. 28, 1:30pm Thu., Feb. 28, 7:30pm Fri., Mar. 1, 7:30pm Sat., Mar. 2, 1:30pm ASL Performance Sat., Mar. 2, 7:30pm Sun., Mar. 3, 1:30pm
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Spencer Carrol ( in collaboration with Berkan Dincer)