A new musical based on the 1956 live action and 1997 animated classic fairy tale "Anastasia" opened on Broadway Monday night. NY1 theatre critic Roma Torre filed the following review.
Disney has some formidable competition in the animated film-to-stage business. "Anastasia," the 20th Century Fox movie that imagines the Russian Tsar's youngest daughter escapes the firing squad and survives the revolution, is now a big Broadway musical. And if it doesn't live up to the best of the Disney shows, it has plenty of its own charms to thrill its target audience.
That target would be girls enchanted by the 1997 movie featuring a spunky princess, her budding romance, and a daring adventure to find her beloved grandmother. In short, it is a fairy tale with an uneven adaptation by Terrence McNally, who curiously decided to do away with the film's scary villain. The evil sorceror Rasputin is out now, replaced by Communist revolutionary Gleb, who's ordered to hunt down Anastasia and kill her; and while it's no fault at all of the mega-talented Ramin Karimloo, the role just is no't developed enough to pose any real threat.
That aside, there are some wonderful plusses here. Director Darko Tresnjak takes a filmic approach to the material, and it moves from scene to scene quite seamlessly. A huge nod to the contributions of the designers: the costumes are exquisite - right out of the movie; and the three-dimensional projections by Aaron Rhyne resplendently eye-popping.
Fans of the film might recall a couple of beautiful tunes courtesy Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens. They added a whopping 19 more to the musical, and if not as memorable as the popular "Journey To The Past" or their haunting "Once Upon a December," the songs are quite lovely.
Besides the golden throated Karimloo, Mary Beth Peil as the Dowager Empress is splendidly regal. John Bolton and Caroline O'Connor almost steal it with some much-needed comic relief in the second act subplot. And if there's any doubt who's in the audience, just wait for Christy Altomare and Derek Klena as Dmitri to finally kiss. The squeals say it all. Both are as talented as they are attractive.
The entire show is most appealing to the eye and ear. And if the storytelling tends to bog down in the middle, film fans should not be disappointed. It all wraps up quite happily ever after in the end.