Categorized | Arts & Entertainment

“Anastasia” is a fairy tale take on a significant piece of history

Elena Morey

A&E Editor

“Anastasia,” the historical musical sensation that has become a Broadway hit, is slowly sweeping the nation.  Off-Broadway and currently on their national tour, the show has stirred some mixed reactions.  The show is set in two prominent countries in the early 1900s, Russia and France.  Act I focuses on Russia at the end of their revolution, and moves to Paris, focusing on the better future of immigrant Russians.  As the title suggests, the main character is Anastasia, and the story follows her after the supposed murder of the Romanovs.  A girl with amnesia is led to believe she is the missing Anastasia Romanov, and accompanied by two conmen, makes her way to Paris to meet the Grand Dowager Empress of Russia, her supposed grandmother.  Through the dangerous exodus of the upper class to France, a Russian officer follows the supposed Anastasia, hoping to assassinate her and eliminate the threat she presents to the new government.

This romantic comedy/ history brings the Romanov murders to light, while also belittling Russia’s power and strength at the turbulent time.    The play opens with a beautiful depiction of Anastasia’s royal family life.  The tsar and his wife are preparing for an annual ball and dance together.  Anastasia changes from a young girl to a young woman thanks to theatre magic.  However, now later in her life, at this ball, the Russian Revolution storms the castle and kills the royal family in front of Anastasia.  The scene of their murder is beautifully done.  The set mixes electronic screens with actual painted set pieces and the color red is included on the backdrop.  Silhouettes of soldiers and a flag bearer appear as patriotic music grows louder.  The royal family makes a brave stand against the suggested soldiers pointing their guns at them.

As a Russian, this scene was particularly difficult for me to watch.  I am a history major with a great respect for the Motherland.  The royal family was a staple of Russian might ever since the country was formed.  The Romanov Dynasty was positive and negative, but their murder still stands as a regret of the nation as a whole.  The portrayal of this complex event was respectful and beautiful.  One cannot help feeling patriotic and thoughtful toward the decision to murder the family.

The costumes of the first scene are spectacular.  The royal family is in all white, symbolizing Russia herself, their innocence and purity and their royal status.  The Empress’ gown in particular was astonishing.  I could not help but gasp when she first entered.  My eyes were glued to her throughout her presence on stage.

The play continues to follow the girl with amnesia, and the audience is left trying to figure out if she truly is the deceased Anastasia or if she is a fraud.  The play itself tiptoes around the truth and leaves some wondering if she was just a fraud all along.

Historically, the show is a flop.  This is not something a history buff would enjoy; if you can stomach the historical inaccuracies and speculation that Anastasia lived, perhaps you can enjoy the romantic elements. On top of that, the entire cast mispronounces the title character’s name throughout which really made me cringe. The love story is cliched, as most Broadway shows are, but some of the comedic scenes can be enjoyable. 

For most theatre goers, the allure is all in the delivery.  If there is a strong cast, reasonable writing, exceptional actors and singers and a dance number, the audiences will flock.  The historical element as well as the setting is secondary and “Anastasia” is proof of how a strong cast can take something mediocre and make it enjoyable for the two and a half hours you are sitting in your overpriced seat.

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