When Anastasia rolled into town last night, it brought with it a powerhouse cast that captivated the audience of all ages during a magical return of live musical theatre to Richmond.
Inspired by a fable of Russian history which holds that one of the Romanov daughters, Anastasia, survived execution of the czar’s family in 1918, Anastasia advances from the twilight of the Russian Empire to the euphoria of Paris in the 1920s. Whether or not you’re familiar with this history or the fable, it’s easy to follow the story as a young woman sets out to discover the mystery of what might be her past. Pursued by a ruthless Soviet officer determined to silence her, our protagonist, a street sweeper named Anya with amnesia, enlists the aid of a dashing conman and a lovable ex-aristocrat. Together, they embark on an adventure to escape from an oppressive now Communist-run Russia to Paris, where Anya might be reunited with her would-be grandmother, the dowager empress.
Based on a book by celebrated playwright Terrence McNally, and featuring a lush, new score by the Tony Award-winning creators of the Broadway classic Ragtime, Stephen Flaherty (music) and Lynn Ahrens (lyrics), the show has been called “one of the most gorgeous shows in years” [New York Observer] for a reason. Beyond Anastasia’s sumptuous sets, stagecraft, and costumes, the orchestra and choreography are equally stunning.
Anyone who enjoys musical theatre will revel in this production. Kyla Stone, who is a rookie in this touring production, absolutely brings down the house as Anya. She has immense talent and vocal finesse. Stone’s energy lights up every song she sings and her acting is top-notch. The perfect Anya, it’s not a stretch to say she won’t be a member of a touring production for long.
Sam McLellan as Dmitry, the Russian conman/common man with the anarchist father who connects emotionally with Anya, is also a powerhouse. McLellan and Stone have fabulous chemistry on stage, especially during the second act performance of “In a Crowd of Thousands,” which happens to be that one song I know from the score.
Brandon Delgado (conflicted communist Gleb) shows great depth in a character who really doesn’t have a lot of stage time. His voice stands out even in this immensely talented cast. It’s easy to picture Delgado tackling the role of Javert in Les Misèrables with grace.
It may sound like I’m going overboard, but I can’t stress how strong the vocals are in this production. And the songs – from a score I was not familiar with – are moving, beautiful, and sometimes comical, with lyrics that are easy to follow and understand. Stone’s rendition of “Once Upon a December” will not only make your heart smile, but you’ll also be happy to hear it reprised.
Kudos go to Anastasia’s creative team, including Alexander Dodge (set design), Linda Cho (costume design), Donald Holder (lighting design), Peter Hylenski (sound design), and Aaron Rhyne (projection design) for expert artistic representation of themes that might be frightening for younger audience members – think execution, oppressive communist rule, etc.
After you lose yourself in this show, you’ll find it hard to believe this is only the third stop on a forty-city tour. Anastasia is polished to perfection already. Perfect for families with kids eight and up who appreciate musical theatre, the show is two acts and runs approximately two-and-half hours with intermission.
Anastasia runs Tuesday, October 26, through Sunday, October 31. For showtimes and tickets, visit Broadway in Richmond. Learn about the safety protocols in place at Altria Theater for Broadway in Richmond’s Anastasia.
Use Code: FAMILY to save on tickets! Go here.
[Photos: Jeremy Daniel, Javier Naval]