Feature photo: Lila Coogan (Anya), Stephen Brower (Dmitry) and the company of the National Tour of ANASTASIA. Photo by Evan Zimmerman, MurphyMade.
Adventure, romance, beautiful music, breathtaking snow-inspired costumes. Anastasia has it all. If you haven’t seen a musical in Philadelphia yet this season, take a journey to 1920s Russia and Paris by way of the Kimmel Center’s Academy of Music. Anastasia will be there waiting for you, now until April 14th as the show stops here during its first national tour.
Anastasia is inspired by the real life story of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanov of Russia. Well…just a bit. This is a romanticized, fairy tale version and, in my opinion, way better than what really happened. If you aren’t familiar with the true story of St. Petersburg’s Romanov family, I suggest not checking out Wikipedia until after you see this show.
You find out early on in Anastasia that [slight spoiler alert here] the entire Romanov family is executed by the Bolsheviks. Or so we think. Ten years later, the city (now known as Leningrad) is buzzing with a rumor that Anastasia (played by Lila Coogan) is alive and survived the execution of her family. Her grandmother in Paris is offering a reward for her return. “A Rumor in St. Petersburg” is a great Broadway number that sets the scene and get the audience excited for what’s to come.
Enter Dmitry (played by Stephen Brower) and Vlad (Edward Staudenmayer), two con-men who come up with a plan to find a woman who can pretend to be Anastasia and convince the grandmother. Then, they all walk away richer. They meet Anya, a street sweeper with amnesia. She looks a lot like Anastasia and the two men are confident they can pull off their scheme. Through their journey, we discover along with Anya that she may actually be the real Anastasia.
There is so much adventure and suspense in Anastasia. The use of a digital backdrop helps set these tones and pull the story along. They create an easy, yet very detailed way to change settings. As Anya, Dmitry and Vlad try to escape Russia and travel to Paris, the audience feels like we are on the train with them.
Act Two packs in so much emotion, thanks to a stellar cast and crew who are clearly passionate about the story and characters. We meet Countess Lily (actress Tari Kelly) whose performance of “Land of Yesterday” was my favorite part of the show. She and Vlad also make the audience laugh with their very animated number “The Countess and the Common Man”.
The story, of course, belongs to Anastasia and songs like “In a Crowd of Thousands” and “Once Upon a December” make the show the magical fairy tale it’s meant to be. “Journey to the Past” is powerful and Lila Coogan gives it her all with amazing vocals. Everything she sings or says on stage is perfect. She is Anastasia.
Despite the dark background of Anastasia, the guns and bombs, and the threatening government, this really is an encouraging show. We see the importance of not giving up through the trio of Anya, Dmitry and Vlad. Though they may be deceitful at times, they are each just trying to survive and create a better life.
For everyone who may be trying to find themselves or anyone who just discovered who they really are- this show is for you. For anyone who loves a story with a happy ending even though it doesn’t seem like there could be happiness left for the characters- Anastasia is that story.
Anastasia recently closed on Broadway, but people all over the US can now experience her story. Go see it. Anastasia really is family-friendly, though it may seem a bit scary at times. It’s a fairy tale with fancy costumes, well-written songs, and some history to boot. Take a journey with Anastasia and grab your tickets here.
You can also read our interview with Stephen Brower here.