REVIEW: Anastasia brings new life to a childhood favorite

click to enlarge Kyla Stone is the first Black actor to play the lead in Anastasia in a worldwide tour.

Kyla Stone is the first Black actor to play the lead in Anastasia in a worldwide tour.

As a young girl I dreamed of a life that would take me to faraway places. I dreamt that I would step off of a train and start my life anew in an unfamiliar place — reinventing myself, and everyone would remain none the wiser. This may have had something to do with my love for the animated classic Anastasia and Anya’s dreams of a life she never knew she lived.

The tale of Anastasia starts off in the early 1900s in Russia. The young Grand Duchess Anastasia is saddened by her grandmother fleeing to Paris, where she dreams of walking the Alexandre du Pont and going to the ballet. After giving her granddaughter a music box to remember her by, Empress Marie Romanov heads to Paris not knowing that her entire family will be executed in her absence. Sparking the Russian Revolution, this execution leaves Anastasia alone, confused and searching for a home and a family that she can’t remember having.

The Broadway adaptation of Anastasia now running at First Interstate Center for the Arts is not the most faithful version of the tale. Dmitry and Anya’s background was diminished into a single glance during a parade rather than their palace escapades from the original film. There were some noticeable changes to the plot and some majorly rewritten lyrics, but with the classic songs like “Journey to the Past” and “Once Upon a December” remaining untouched, I could forgive the nixing of Rasputin and his fiercely loyal winged sidekick, Bartok. (Bartok is, let’s face it, the best part of the original animated movie.)

There were multiple times throughout the show that one specific harmony would make me clutch my heart and close my eyes. I was genuinely taken aback by the sheer amount of sound and harmony that such a small ensemble could produce. With Kyla Stone leading as Anya/Anastasia, she became the first Black actress to perform the role worldwide and, boy, did she crush it. Her powerhouse vocals made the production that much more enjoyable. Dmitry’s new-for-the-stage song, “My Petersburg”, was fresh and made me dream of visiting the city one day. The haunting harmonies and call backs from the cut “In The Dark of Night” in “Stay, I Pray You” were some of the best I’ve ever heard from a touring cast. Though the music wasn’t as poignant as the film’s score, I left mumbling multiple songs under my breath, which definitely counts for something.

Moving behind the scenes, I can’t even begin to fathom the work that the set and costume designers put into this intricate show. From the get go the set was astonishing — multiple digital screens were aligned with the curtains to mimic windows, an opera house, cities, and even a moving train car. It was minimal and completely immersive; all good things when you’re a traveling production. The costumes were another story, almost the opposite of minimal. Most of the iconic gowns that Anastasia dons in the latter half of the movie were still recognizable as the classic outfits that we know and love.

Though it’s not exactly the Anastasia many of us grew up loving, the stage adaptation of Anastasia, minus loveable firecracker Bartok, was riddled with humor, love and classic songs that truly bring you on a journey to the past while in your seat.

Anastasia runs in Spokane through Sunday,  Jan. 2.

Article Source: Inlander