It’s not often I let myself walk into a production blind or clueless before seeing it. I’ve either viewed it on the big screen, read the book or experienced it on stage somewhere previously. That, however, was not the case with Anastasia, The Musical. To be honest, I hadn’t even seen the animated version, nor was I at all familiar with the story-line until recently. Taking all of that into consideration, I made a dramatic decision to purposely keep myself in the dark. This way, I would perhaps be that much more intrigued and attentive to everything that was happening on opening night of Broadway’s Anastasia, The Musical, at the Dr. Phillips Center in Orlando. Instead of spending my time comparing it to other renditions, I would allow myself to absorb every note, every word, every scene change…and every emotion.
This post is in partnership with The Dr. Phillips Center. However, the opinions shared in this post are 100% mine and mine alone. This post does contain affiliate links. Please see my Disclosure policy for more information.
Visiting the Dr. Phillips Center has become a favorite hobby of mine over the last six months or so. Growing up, I loved attending theatrical productions and performing on stage every chance I had. So, having the opportunity to experience the Orlando Broadway Series productions this season has been a magical dream come true for me.
Now, as I noted above, Anastasia The Musical, was a new story for me. I had knowledge of its existence and had a general idea of what it was about. However, I knew nothing specific of the characters, the history or the music.
The tale initially takes its audience all the way back to 1906 when a granddaughter of royal blood in Russia is saying farewell to her grandmother, who is about to return home to Paris.
Over the course of the next perhaps ten to fifteen minutes, we witness snippets of life with the Russian royals. Time passes and we are swiftly taken to 1917 when the palace is invaded and the royal family executed. The scene is quite dramatic and the lighting very effective. It is easy to feel the loss suffered and understand what had happened that horrific night.
From there, we jump ahead a few years and find ourselves in the streets of a hungry Russia. Amid the poverty, rumors are spreading that the Princess Anastasia may have very well survived the execution her family.
However, no one has any proof.
Two sly con men decide it would be fun to “find” someone who could play the part of the missing royal in order to gain their own personal freedom from Russia’s captivity. As they search and search, they come across a young lady with no memories of her childhood…except one. She knows she is supposed to meet someone in Paris.
As the three create their storyline and make their journey to the border before it is completely sealed off, we witness the connection they develop along the way, as well as some amazing self discoveries.
Do the con men succeed in their plan? Does Anya ever find the person she is to meet? Does she ever figure out who she REALLY is?
While the answers may be obvious in some respects, I’ll leave them unanswered here. It would be terribly rude to ruin such a beautiful story for someone who may not know the outcome.
The differences between stage and movie
Again, I don’t know much, as I didn’t see the animated film or do my research. However, I do know that 16 new songs are brought into the stage production and I believe the theatrical version relies more heavily on Russian history to set the scenes. A new character is introduced in the stage script, but the magic and sorcery that add color to the animated film are completely eliminated.
The stage production
The music was gorgeous and moving. I was absolutely enthralled with the two headliners, Once Upon A December and Journey to the Past, the two songs that were apparently pulled from the animated film. I swear, I could not get those songs out of my head for days!!!
Of course, I can’t deny the contagious effect The Countess and The Common Man had on me either! I mean, it had everyone in hysterics!
Lila Coogan played Anya and has one of the purest voices I’ve ever heard on stage. It was clear and articulate and she has a spectacular natural range. She was a true delight to see in this role.
Stephen Brower was fantastic and truly believable as Dmitry. His vocal tonality was satisfying to the ear and I enjoyed watching as his conscience got the best of him in the second act.
Edward Staudenmayer (Vlad) held the most charismatic role on that stage, which at first put me off. It didn’t seem to fit for some reason ~ almost a little too “animated.” However, when his scene with Tari Kelly (Countess Lily) played out, it all seemed to click and I was able to see how his personality fit into the big picture. Of course, Staudenmayer has quite the career on stage, so I’m not surprised that he won me over. He ended up making me laugh to the point my sides hurt at various points in the show!
Tari Kelly (Countess Lily) was another character who stole the show, in my honest opinion. Her chemistry with Staudenmayer was electric and she commanded attention whenever she walked on stage. She, too, had me in hysterics at certain points of the production.
What I loved Most About Anastasia, The Musical
My husband and I agree that we enjoyed the show and felt the performances were well played, for the most part (uh-oh….what does THAT mean?) However, it was not the acting that intrigued us most, nor the beautiful musical score. It was actually the set design and how we were literally transported from scene to scene creatively and effortlessly. It was like watching a movie at times, each scene cast against a backdrop and taking us to places such as a ball room, the streets of St. Petersburg, a train station, the theater or the city of Paris.
I found myself desperately trying to figure out how they were able to visually manipulate us so effectively!!
Now to explain the few – small – things I didn’t like
This one might hurt a little, but I have to be honest. As I noted above, I wasn’t fond of Gleb’s character as a whole or even feel connected to the person who played him. Forgive me, Jason…nothing personal. I just felt as if I simply wasn’t given a reason to feel anything for the character up there. The portrayal felt overdramatic and forced..and slightly unnecessary.
I also wasn’t a fan of the ending. Let me explain.
While I understood its intent, it felt incomplete for some reason. While I am all for the vague, thought-provoking and mysterious, it felt as if something critical was missing. Why did she run off? Why wasn’t that explained? For someone unfamiliar with the story, this left too much of a hole. It needed just a little something more to bridge the gap.
But, that’s just my opinion. I’m okay standing alone on that.
Perhaps I’m just being too critical…..because, in the end, I still enjoyed the performance and would recommend it to anyone who loves a beautiful, romantic, endearing story that takes you on a historical journey of self discovery. It may not be my favorite theatrical production, but it is certainly a compelling tale to watch play out on a live stage.
May your journey across the country be magical and full of discovery, Cast of Anastasia, The Musical!!
Don’t Forget The Stage Door!!
If you’re a theatre buff who loves to meet the cast, then don’t forget to rush out to the stage door after the performance to see who from the production comes out to say hello! On opening night, we were graced with the presence of Tari Kelly, Stephen Brower, Lila Coogan and a few of the ensemble members. It’s a fun way to connect with the cast a little more and create a memory that will make the moment last a little longer!
Anastasia, The Musical is touring right now and may be coming to a stage near you! Check their site for locations and tickets!
For more information on what is coming to the Dr. Phillips Center, please check their site for more details! From orchestral performances and comedians to the Applause Awards, master classes and next season’s Broadway shows, the Dr. Phillips Center is a true cultural hotspot in Orlando!
Curious on how to become a Dr. Phillips SUBSCRIBER? Click here for more details!
See my past reviews on the #OrlandoBroadwaySeries:
The 2019-2020 season has been announced! See what will be coming to the Dr. Phillips Center next year!