The magical tale of Anastasia is at Merriam Theater now through 11/28

-Brenda Hillegas

I was thrilled to hear Anastasia would be returning to Philadelphia this season…due to popular demand too! No wonder it’s so loved. It’s a fairytale version of St. Petersburg’s Romanov family, filled with adventure and romance, some really great tunes, beautiful sets and costumes. Anastasia takes audiences through the end of the Russian Empire to 1920s Paris as Anya, who lost her memory, tries to discover who she really is. In real life, there were many rumors that Anastasia Romanov survived her family’s demise and this musical by playwright Terrence McNally- and based on the 1997 animated movie- shows us what could have happened if that were true.

After a chance meeting between street sweeper Anya (Kyla Stone) and a scheming duo (Sam McLellan as Dmitry and Bryan Seastrom as Vlad), the trio set out on a journey to convince Anastasia’s grandmother, the Dowager Empress (played by Gerri Weagraff), that Anya really is her granddaughter. Of course there is trouble and road blocks along the way!

Anastasia’s music screams classic family-friendly Broadway to me. These are songs you’ll be singing together for a long time (“Learn to Do It” and “My Petersburg” constantly pop in my head). Written by the award-winning duo Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Once on This Island, Ragtime), you can expect to love what you’ll hear and will even recognize some of the songs if you’ve seen the movie. Though Anya is technically the lead in this show as the title character, so many other characters have their time to shine with incredible numbers. “Close the Door” by Dowager Empress is beautiful yet heartbreaking, the Romanov family’s “A Nightmare” is chilling, “The Countess and the Common Man” by Vlad and Lily (Madeline Raube) is a comedic love song and the two of them bring a lot of laughs! I also personally enjoy the “show within a show” scenes with the over-the-top “Land of Yesterday” number for Lily and the ensemble where elite Russians go to party in Paris, and the “Quartet at the Ballet” where we get treated to a ballet performance!

The cast is absolutely phenomenal. Seriously, this show is such a delight to watch and really is perfect for a first time theatre-goers because the people playing these characters are really dedicated to bringing the story to life. Kyla Stone is incredible as Anya and if her voice doesn’t give you chills, why are you even there? Stone is the first Black actress to play this part and this is her first national tour. You can feel her radiate through the theatre, especially in “In a Crowd of Thousands” and “Journey to the Past”.

Anastasia is a great show for all ages, filled with hope and a “happily ever after”. Get tickets this holiday weekend for your family (now through 11/28 at Kimmel Cultural Campus Merriam Theater). Philly will also be happy to see some local faces on stage- Gerri Weagraff was raised in Delco and resides nearby. Madeline Raube is from Camden and has lived in Hatboro and West Chester as well.

Masks are required. All guests 12 years of age or older will be required to show proof of full COVID-19 vaccination. Adults 18+ will be required to show photo identification as well. Unvaccinated and partially vaccinated children under 12 will be required to show a negative COVID test.

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