REVIEW: Anastasia - Original Broadway Cast

Recording CoverLike any 30-something, I have extremely fond memories of the 1997 animated film Anastasia, and was excited when I learned that it was being updated as a new musical. I was also deeply suspicious, as the movie is so treasured, and holds such a special place in the North American cultural zeitgeist that I was concerned about how it would be adapted. I am delighted to say that this album has abated any fears I may have had, and is excellent.

With music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens, the show and cast recording contain five of their songs from the 1997 film, as well as twenty new ones, all superbly orchestrated by Doug Besterman. While every song may not be a stand-out, each is extremely well crafted, and a pleasure to listen to.

There is one major change from the film to the musical, and that is the replacement of the over-the-top villainous Rasputin, voiced in the animated film by Christopher Lloyd (complete with anthropomorphic bat sidekick), with the much more believable Russian officer Gleb, wonderfully performed by Ramin Karimloo. Instead of being a straightforward antagonist, Gleb has his own story, and you empathize with his conflicted feelings towards Anya. Kudos to book writer Terrence McNally for this very effective character change. Gleb’s songs – especially the stirring "The Neva Flows" where we learn about his tragic past – are standouts due to Karimloo’s evocative interpretation.

Anya, aka Anastasia, played by Christy Altomare, is - to quote another musical - "young, scrappy, and hungry", and decidedly charming in every way. Altomare has a beautiful voice, and her earnest performance is captured on the cast album. Her rendition of "Journey To The Past" is great, but I enjoyed "Crossing A Bridge" and "In My Dreams" just as much, if not more. It is no easy feat to play a role beloved the world over and make it your own, but Altomare has done just that.

The album abounds with ensemble pieces, usually featuring Anya, Dmitry and Vlad, the two con men who are attempting to groom Anya into the princess Anastasia, played by Derek Klena and John Bolton respectively. Klena is the literal real-life embodiment of his animated counterpart, so you no longer need to feel weird about finding an animated character dead sexy – thanks Derek! Klena brings additional layers to the character of Dmitry, and his solo number "My Petersburg" is addictively enjoyable, and will end up on your repeats.

My favourite track on the album is the hauntingly beautiful "Stay, I Pray You", an ensemble number that takes place on the train leaving Russia and going to France. Reminiscent of "Anatevka" from Fiddler on the Roof, "Stay, I Pray You" is a bittersweet song of sorrow tinged with hope for the future.

Act I is decidedly stronger than Act II, but there are no real weaknesses in the lot. That being said, I could have done without the subplot between Vlad and Lily, and their two numbers, "Land Of Yesterday" and "The Countess and the Common Man".

Anastasia: The New Broadway Musical is an example of the cast album done right, and it is no rumour that this is a first-rate OBCR that you are certain to enjoy.

You Gotta Listen To:
  • "In My Dreams"
  • "Learn To Do It"
  • "The Neva Flows"
  • "My Petersburg"
  • "Stay, I Pray You"
  • "Journey To The Past"
  • "Crossing A Bridge"
You Could Skip:
  • "Land Of Yesterday"
  • "The Countess and the Common Man"
  • "The Press Conference"


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