‘Anastasia The Musical’ brings a classic princess story to life


Matthew Murphy

The long lost princess Anastasia (Christy Altomare) makes her grand re-entrance into royal life on the Broadway stage.

For many children, princess movies like “Beauty and The Beast” and “The Little Mermaid” were the best kind of entertainment. Joyful songs, beautiful dresses, and magical kingdoms in faraway lands never failed to enchant.

However, little kids aren’t the only ones who enjoy a good princess story. The 1997 movie “Anastasia” has entertained both children and adults with its engaging plot and classic songs for years and, in 2016, inspired a musical adaptation on Broadway. Although the musical closed in New York after a couple of years, it will be coming to San Jose following the pandemic.

“Anastasia” is a magical princess story that has appeal for audiences of all ages. The elegant music, engaging characters, and beautiful costumes make it feel like the viewers are experiencing a fairytale on stage, right before their eyes. 

It follows the legend of the Russian princess, Anastasia, whose family was killed by communist revolutionaries in 1918, when she was still young. In the story, Anastasia escaped her family’s murder but hit her head while running away, causing her to lose all her memories of being a princess.

When she is grown up, she goes by Anya. Meanwhile, two clever conmen, Dmitry and Vlad, set out on a quest, looking for a girl that is willing to pretend to be the lost princess. When they see Anya, they notice her resemblance to Anastasia and believe they can convince her to take the role. They offer to take her to Paris to meet her grandmother, where they would receive a substantial reward for recovering a long-lost member of the royal family.

Along the way, Anya must learn how to be a princess while avoiding Russia’s new leader who wants to prevent any kind of royalty from coming back into power. Through the journey, Anya slowly starts to regain her memory and discover that she is, in fact, Princess Anastasia. 

Music is a critical part of bringing a fairy tale to life, and “Anastasia” does that with ease through its joyful and elegant songs.

It includes beloved melodies from the film, like “Journey to the Past” and “Once Upon a December,” and as well as other songs that further the audience’s connection with the characters. The song “In My Dreams” goes into depth about Anya’s struggle to remember her past, helping the audience sympathize with her as the main character. Later on, the song “In a Crowd of Thousands” deepens the chemistry between Anya and Dmitry. Most of the music sounds similar to Disney princess movies, which makes for a delightful listening experience for those who enjoy the studio’s classical songs.

Although it is expected that a musical about royalty should have beautiful ball gowns, Anastasia’s costumes still manage to exceed expectations. Every dress that Anya wears is gorgeous and unique. Each side character and ensemble member also has an exquisite costume. All in all, the stunning wardrobes add to the vibrant magic of Anastasia. 

Nonetheless, much of the plot in the musical has changed from the movie. For example, Rasputin, the original villain in the film – who historically was not even alive at the same time – has been replaced with Gleb Vaganov, a general for the Bolsheviks, the group that killed Anya’s family. In the absence of Rasputin, the musical does away with all supernatural elements in the movie, such as crystal balls and the often irritating hairless bat. This provides a more grounded and realistic villain subplot. Other changes from the film create a more historically-accurate and cohesive plot as well. 

“Anastasia The Musical” is not only a step up from the beloved movie in almost every way, but it is a magical show that is worth buying tickets for or even simply listening to the cast album. It shows that the magic of a great princess story never fails to warm hearts, no matter how old you are.