Most people are at least somewhat familiar with the much-fabled tale of Anastasia, the Grand Duchess of Russia. And, while history and modern legend may not have all the facts straight, the story- one of this young woman who survived against all odds- is an intriguing one. It’s so intriguing, in fact, that it has been the subject of both an animated film and a 1956 film starring Ingrid Bergman.
Based loosely on these films and on legend itself is DPAC’s production of Anastasia, a beautiful and fantastical musical under the intricate direction of Darko Tresnjak. And, while history buffs might find things to deride within the script, it’s a whole lot of fun for anyone looking for a fairy-tale musical that’s suitable for the whole family, which is really what this production aims to be.
The script and its lively score begins on a high note, at a time when young Anastasia (Delilah Rose Pellow) is still living a sheltered life, doted on by her grandmother, endearingly and sympathetically portrayed by Joy Franz, and adored by her family. The script quickly fast-forwards through the first few joyful years of Anastasia’s life, ultimately landing on the tragic event which caused her to lose her family members. This scary event is handled via amazing visual effects that, while awesome to look at, should not cause too much distress to younger viewers. In fact, throughout, the show’s darker moments are handled tactfully to ensure that the production remains suitable for viewers of all ages.
After the harrowing past is laid out, the audience is then invited to turn its attention to beautiful young Anya (Lila Coogan), a street-sweeper who suffers from amnesia. When Anya is tasked, thanks to a chance meeting, by two con-artists Dmitry (Matt Rosell) and Vlad (Edward Staudenmayer) to take on the role of Anastasia, Anya soon finds that she has more of a connection to this historical figure than she may have realized…that she might even be the real Anastasia.
What unfolds from there is nothing short of a lovely, engrossing fairytale, and Coogan is every bit of the princess-y lead one could hope for. With her haunting, powerhouse voice and a subtle, gentle air, Coogan easily and believably carries the story through all its magical elements.
Aside from Coogan’s performance, sparkling costumes, incredible choreography; gorgeous, realistic backdrops that actually move, and practically-perfect production values all combine to make this production nothing short of a living, breathing fairytale.
And, as the case with any good fairytale, there are humorous moments along the way. Countless Lily (Tari Kelly) and Staudenmayer’s Vlad provide some of the show’s funniest, most winking moments, especially in their rendition of “The Countess and the Common Man.” In fact, the performances all-around are stellar, including that of understudy Rosell, who filled in for the Dmitry role at Tuesday’s opening night performance.
Of course, revealing the ending of this story would be to spoil its magic. But, suffice it to say, that this story is ultimately one of not just connecting with one’s past but of finding triumph in the person one chooses to be. A pretty, perfect, and thoroughly magical escape, Anastasia is a must-see for viewers of all ages.
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