Gemma @ 'Anastasia' - I’m a total sap
What’s it about?
Anastasia is a musical inspired by both the 1997 animated film and the 1956 live-action movie of the same name. (The cartoon version is my favorite princess movie to date.) The story is a romanticized version of Russian Grand Duchess Anastasia’s life if she had escaped her family’s execution.
For as long as I can remember, Anastasia has been my favorite princess movie. I adored everything about Anastasia (also known as Anya), from her voice and looks to her feisty personality. Her love interest, Dimitri, was one of my earliest animated crushes — he would not be the last 😳 — and her little dog, Pooka, was total #petgoals. I played regularly with an Anastasia Barbie doll and a plush version of Pooka. Most of all, I was obsessed with the music from the movie, particularly the two songs, “Once Upon a December” and “Journey to the Past.” There are dozens of recordings of me performing those songs throughout my childhood, adolescence and now adulthood. It’s nice for me to find that, although my voice has changed over time, my fondness for this movie and its music has never wavered.
I recently paid way too much money to purchase the official music box from the movie (thanks, eBay), which plays “Once Upon a December.” It was worth it!
Needless to say, I was pretty hyped when I heard one of my favorite childhood movies was coming to Broadway. But I was that kind of cautiously excited that you get when you don’t want something you share such a profound connection with to be ruined by a poorly executed adaptation for the stage.
For one thing, the major villains in the 1997 movie, Rasputin and his tiny sidekick Bartok the bat, aren’t in the show at all. Which means that “In the Dark of the Night,” one of the best songs in the whole movie, isn’t in the Broadway musical. In their place was Gleb Vaganov, a strict Bolshevik General. After meeting Anya, a young and frightened street sweeper, Gleb found himself oddly drawn to her. When the rumors started to spread that Anya might in fact be the surviving long-lost Grand Duchess Anastasia, he was ordered to investigate and kill her if that turned out to be true.
I have to say… this villain didn’t do it for me. Like, at ALL. I didn’t find him interesting or even all that intimidating. I just viewed him as a plot device, only there to stand in the way of Dmitry and Vlad ever getting Anya to Paris so she could be reunited with her grandmother.
But thankfully, I was sold on Anya’s relationship with Dmitry (not to mention Dmitry’s friendship with Vlad), which felt pretty reminiscent of the one from the animated film. Dmitry and Anya had one of those relationships where they hated each other for most of the story, and fought whenever they had the chance, but that was really to cover up the fact that they had real feelings for each other. The cutest moment between the two of them was the romantic duet “In a Crowd of Thousands,” which revealed that Anya and Dmitry had encountered each other years ago as children in a parade, and still remembered a decade later. I’m a total sap and their living happily ever after at the end made my fangirl heart so freaking happy.
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