Fox gave Disney a run for its money when it released the 1997 animated feature film Anastasia, about an amnesiac orphan who might be the lost daughter of the last czar of Russia. With a winning formula of cute animal sidekicks, catchy musical numbers, and a quest for identity, Anastasia tapped into every girl’s presumed desire to be a princess and find romance. The 2017 musical, with book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty, and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, nixes the sidekicks and turns up the Russian revolutionary history a notch for a visually stunning family-friendly show with few surprises.
Anya (Lila Coogan), a sweeper scrapping on the streets of Leningrad, meets Dmitry (Stephen Brower) and Vlad (Edward Staudenmayer) just as they are auditioning women to pose as the lost grand duchess. They want reward money, she wants exit papers, and they strike a deal—only to find that Anya recalls more than what they’ve fed her. Now they only have to worry about the Bolsheviks, who want to finish exterminating the ruling class, and securing the approval of a dowager empress sick of having her heart broken by gold-digging frauds.
The snow whirls in lacy eddies in Russia; the trees are flush with effulgent masses of blooms in France; all of Europe races by, meadows rising up and receding as a skeleton trolley of a train rattles along; unfathomable wealth, summarized by ball gowns, jewels, and waltzes; the streets of Paris. If you’re craving a Broadway musical as pretty as a pastry, Anastasia does the trick. v