“Yes, let this be a sign!
Let this road be mine!
Let it lead me to my past
And bring me home…
At last!” ~ Journey To The Past
It is no joke when I say I have been waiting years for this show. This show has been in the works for a long while, taking its sweet time to premiere on Broadway from readings in 2012 which featured Aaron Tveit and Angela Lansbury to a workshop in 2015 which had Ramin Karimloo to finally previews in Hartford in the summer of 2016.
Finally. FINALLY it has come to Broadway and I had the amazing opportunity to see this show while it is in previews. Amazing, because tickets are selling out and with good reason.
This show is unFREAKINGbelievable.
Based on the 1997 film, and including six songs including the beloved “Journey to the Past” and “Once Upon A December” as well as sixteen original new numbers created just for the show. Which I am now attempting to wait patiently for the cast recording (June…I have to wait until June!) because they are THAT amazing.
While the movie influenced the show, this is NOT the movie and thank God for that.
As a Russophile, one of my biggest pet peeves about the movie was all the historical inaccuracies. I get it. It was a cartoon musical and as a seven year old the horrors of the Russian Revolution could be pretty terrifying. Though even at that age, I still knew that it wasn’t accurate no matter how fanciful it seemed.
The Broadway adaption cleverly removes that, staying true to the historical accuracies of the time, while still able to keep the endearing message of the movie. I even have to applaud them with how they ended it. While diverting from the movies in many ways it stays true to history and the myth that has become Anastasia in the time since the Romanovs were killed.
First up, no Rasputin. Anywhere! Thank you playwrights! Full confession, Rasputin really did scare the bejeezus out of me as a child. Since he died before the Romanovs,(Sorry, historical spoiler alert) he really added nothing to the movie, except to play the villain and let’s face it, if you have picked up a European history book, you know how scary the Bolsheviks were.
Instead, they created a new character originated by the extremely talented (and swoon-worthy) Ramin Karimloo of Phantom and Les Miz fame. A Bolshevik soldier, who’s father helped commit the murder of the Romanovs, he lives under that shadow and is torn between duty and what is right.
I wanted to hate him despite the fact that Ramin Karimloo is playing him and who can hate Ramin Karimloo? But it is also because of the impeccable acting, that Gleb elicited a range of emotion. The chemistry between him and Anya was felt all the way up to the Mezzanine and made the visceral evolution he went through all the more believable. I had goose bumps as he sang “Still” and “The Neva Flows.” It wasn’t just the crystalline, masculinity, but the gut-wrenching emotion with which he sang it piercing the audience’s soul.
Christy Altomare is absolutely smashing as Anastasia. It was another incredibly emotional performance in a show of many. The tears she cried were very real which made it all the more gut-wrenching. She is a performer that oozes feeling in every movement, and note from “Journey to the Past” to the “Neva Flows” to “Crossing Bridges” I could feel the fear, heartbreak, excitement and yes hope that she put forth and that is the premise of the show. You truly felt like you were Anastasia and taking the journey with her.
Set and Clothing Design
The sets were an architect of visual mastery, changing swiftly and with the ease of a show that has been on Broadway for years. I hope it is a sign that this SHOW WILL be on Broadway for years to come. The fluidity in which they moved from Saint Petersburg to the Bolshevik headquarters to Paris made the audience feel like they were traveling with the different characters.
While many of the costumes were simple filled with the gloominess of the period, they were still visually as well as historically accurate. There was also glitz and glam. One of the first people the audience sees walk out on stage is the Tsarina and her gown was truly a work of art itself exemplifying her status as a leader of Russia. Anya’s red gown was also stunning, and showcased her riches to rags back to riches story.
All The Feels
This is an emotional rollercoaster, but in the best possible way. “Stay I pray you” is one of the more heart wrenching songs. Sung as the russian refugees are fleeing their country though they wish with all their heart not to leave. It evoked emotions, given the current climate that we could relate to as well as a reminder that history does repeat itself if we do not heed and learn from it.
In a sea of brilliant Broadway Stars Mary Beth Peil as the Dowager empress was another one who did bring me to tears as she took the audience on a journey of a wide range of emotions as she tried to come to terms with the horrors that had been dealt her family.
Yet there was also levity especially in the second act thanks to John Bolton and Caroline O’Connor who were Vlad and the Countess Lily respectively. While alone they lightened the show up, together they were comedic gold, causing the audience to hoot and holler with belly laughs.
Favorite of the Season
This show has just become my new favorite show and I am itching to see it again. But be warned, you are expecting the movie, this is not for you.
If you are looking for beautiful music, to cry, laugh, and feel all the feels, a historically accurate, yet timeless story, THIS is for you.
The show is currently in previews at the Broadhurst Theatre and opens April 24. Take the Journey. You will NOT regret that you did!