ANASTASIA, the musical is a charming mix of fairytale and history, all accented by some truly stunning costumes. This musical on memory, family, and adventure is playing at the San Diego Civic Theatre through October 6th.
Anya (Lila Coogan) is Anya, an amnesiac orphan trying to make a way in the newly Bolshevik controlled Russia. She has caught the eye of two con men, a young man who used to work in the palace Dimitry (Stephen Brower) and a fake ex-member of the Imperial Court Vald (Edward Staudenmayer). Together they decide that Anya is the perfect person to tutor to present as the long lost Anastasia to the mourning grandmother the Dowager Empress (Joy Franz) and her companion Countess Lily (Alison Ewing the performance I saw, normally played by Tari Kelly) and claim the reward for finding Anastasia.
Little do they know that their adventure to Paris is also hounded by a Bolshevik general named Gleb (Jason Michael Evans) who is tasked to make sure that no Romanov’s reappear, while also fighting his growing feelings for Anya.
As memories are shared, the ghosts of the Romanov’s former glory, as well as their capes, gowns, and crowns swirl around them.
It’s an interesting story that starts off slightly dark, in a Saint Petersburg which has now been renamed Leningrad, and as the hope, memories, and love grow and transform the characters so does the show into a fun, love story emphasizing family and knowing who you truly are in the world.
The plot is based in part on three sources; the actual history of the time, the classic 1956 Ingrid Bergman movie, and the beloved animated movie from 1997 both movies share the same name as this musical.
In a nod to the classic movie, there is a con artist who helps turn a woman with a passing resemblance to the missing princess into a credible claimant for the title, and with a nod to the animated movie they fall in love through some song, dance, and a quick “Journey to the Past.”
In respect to the actual history there is no evil sorcerer Rasputin, or his trusty, comedic, bat sidekick Bartok.
Coogan as Anya is feisty, noble, and has a lovely voice as she tries to clear up the hazy memories she has to figure out her past to find her future. Coogan as Dimitry is a streetwise man with a heart of gold, and their romance is sweet if not fairytale predictable. Evans as the conflicted Gleb has a rich voice, but not much to work with as the heavy of the piece.
Staudenmayer brings the comedy relief as the conman courtier, and is especially good in his number with the fun loving Countess Lily by Alison Ewing.
The costumes by Linda Cho are breathtaking and seeing the blue dress from the animated film come to life is especially nice for those who grew up with that movie. The digital effects by Aaron Rhyne are impressive and work seamlessly with the lighting by Donald Holder.
ANASTASIA is a family-oriented, musical fairytale of historic events, and is an entertaining show that plays well to its audience.
ANASTASIA is playing at the San Diego Civic Theatre through Broadway San Diego until October 6th. For ticket and show time information go to www.broadwaysd.com