Theatre Review: ANASTASIA brings classic tale to life at The Fabulous Fox
Playing now through January 6 in St. Louis.
If you’re looking for a terrific show to see this holiday season with the entire family, The Fabulous Fox has you covered. A timeless tale, packed with fantastic songs and performances, ANASTASIA The New Broadway Musical is truly a delight!
The show is inspired by the true story of the Romanov family and the countless rumors of a surviving heir – The Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna. It is also a Broadway adaptation of the beloved Don Bluth film Anastasia from 1997, from which it gets many of its memorable songs like “Once Upon a December” and “Journey to the Past” among others.
The show is a bit slow to start without Rasputin (the magical villain of its animated counterpart) and the action that comes with him. However, as the stage adaptation takes a more historical approach surrounding the Bolsheviks’ control during the Russian Revolution, it leads to a compelling storyline for new villain General Gleb Vaganov (Jason Michael Evans). Once things get started, ANASTASIA takes hold and doesn’t let go until the very end. There are so many great songs – new and old – as Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty return to build upon their memorable numbers from the film.
Lila Coogan plays Anya, a young woman with no recollection of her past. Ten years after the revolution at the start of the show, the only clue she has to discover her family is a locket she was found wearing which reads, “Together in Paris.” As she tries to find passage to France she meets Dmitry (Stephen Brower) and Vlad (Edward Staudenmayer) – a couple of grifters who are hatching a scheme to pass off an actress as The Grand Duchess Anastasia to receive a reward from her grandmother The Dowager Empress (Joy Franz). The duo becomes a trio when Anya fits the bill, and the group heads off on their adventure.
The story translates very well to the stage, as do the musical numbers. I honestly prefer the live-action version to the film, which I also enjoy quite a bit. Part of what makes the stage show so magical is how technologically advanced the sets are. The show features multiple video walls which transition seamlessly throughout the performance, transitioning everything from the backdrops to changes in the weather. Not only are the 3D renderings beautifully designed by Aaron Rhyne (who also worked on one of my favorite shows, A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder), but also give the feeling of a traditional theatrical backdrop. Curtains and other digital backgrounds will lower and raise as though they are being controlled by ropes, creating a unique and wonderful transition. Paired with the beautiful scenic design by Alexander Dodge, the show magically captivates the audience.
As Anastasia, Dmitry, and Vlad travel to Paris there is a breathtaking new number called “We’ll Go From There,” where the train car rotates on the stage in sync to the moving background. The effect is mesmerizing, making full use of the technology in the show.
Coogan is fantastic as Anastasia, and has a voice as royal as her character’s lineage. I was blown away by the power of her singing, which I believe could have filled the massive auditorium of the Fox without any microphones. You can feel the energy of her performance every time she sings, sending chills through the audience. She also transitions wonderfully from sweeping the streets to learning how to become royalty. The number “Learn to Do It,” a song I love from the movie, is even better in this show. The actor also gives quite an emotional performance, as her character is forced to deal with so much confusion and loss throughout the show. Coogan handles the ups and downs of the role excellently.
Brower and Staudenmayer are terrific together as Dmitry and Vlad. The two characters are as thick as thieves, and the actors share brilliant chemistry with one another. They seemingly leap from the animated film on to the stage, and are sure to become instant favorites. I was especially thrilled with Staudenmayer’s portrayal of Vlad, which is a perfect companion to the animated version. He is absolutely hilarious as he brings the character to life with heart and humor. His scenes with Tari Kelly who plays Lily (Sophie in the movie) are fantastic, causing the entire house to erupt into laughter.
ANASTASIA has something for everyone, making for a fun and magical night of theater. It has fairytale elements for kids, a love story and humor for adults, and wonderful musical numbers for theatergoers of all ages. The show is a terrific adaptation of the animated film, and builds upon it in ways that transition perfectly to the stage. Whether you are looking for a show to see with the entire family or for date night, you can’t lose with this delightful new musical.
See ANASTASIA The New Broadway Musical now through January 6 at the Fabulous Fox Theatre in St. Louis! Tickets range from $30-$104, and are available via MetroTix. For more information, visit The Fabulous Fox or the official tour website at anastasiathemusical.com.