The first thing you should know about the musical “Anastasia,” now on stage at the Orpheum Theater, is that it’s not exactly like the 1997 animated film.
It’s not uncommon. Most movie-based musicals — animated or live-action — take a few liberties with scripts, songs, and character arcs.
The plot of the film and the musical is based on the legend that one of the Romanov children – Grand Duchess Anastasia – had escaped capture and execution and was alive somewhere.
The musical version of “Anastasia” has a plot somewhat closer – but not close to precision – to historical events. (The Romanov royal family were originally taken prisoner during the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia and left St. Petersburg before their execution.) In the film, the family are cursed by the mad wizard Rasputin, just before the fall of their dynasty. In the musical, it is implied that they were executed at the castle.
So if you’re hoping to see Rasputin and his wacky sidekick, Bartok, who were the film’s antagonists, prepare to be somewhat disappointed. The Russian military acts as the villains for the musical, specifically in the character of Gleb, a soldier who acts as a guard/PR man on the city streets.
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The show’s two leads, Kyla Stone as Anya/Anastasia and Sam McLellan as Dmitry, have great chemistry and deliver great vocal performances. Their duets in “My Petersburg” and “In a Crowd of Thousands” are sweet and romantic, and the two actors play well against each other.
Stone has a strong and charming voice, which is best represented in the series’ title track “Journey to the Past” at the end of the first act.
But Bryan Seastrom – who plays Vlad, Dmitry’s partner in crime – commands the stage in every scene he’s in. He owns every line he says and every song he sings. He is fun to watch. Especially when he teams up with Madeline Raube’s Countess Lily. These two bring a lot of life — and a bit of pizzazz — to the second act, especially in the song “The Countess and the Common Man.”
Lincoln native Harrison Drake deserves kudos for his portrayal of Count Leopold – a relative usurper trying to get his hands on the remaining Romanov fortune. He brought the right amount of attitude to the role.
One final note: the show’s costumes are gorgeous and, in the case of Anastasia’s family ghosts, beautifully haunting. They really add something special to the show.
“Anastasia” is a family show, so kids should enjoy it. But be aware that the themes and some scenes are a bit darker than the movie.
The show runs until Sunday and tickets are still available. The show makes for a great family evening (or afternoon this weekend) experience. Enjoy it while it’s here.
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