Friday, October 4, 2019

“Anastasia”: Another Darko Stunner


Long before there was a Darko Tresnjak former artistic director of the Old Globe back in the day, the Romanovs were the ruling family of Russia. They were rich, glamorous, lethal to the core and very impressed with their own importance, elegance and grace…until the Bolshevik Revolution in 1918.

It was during the revolutionary take over that the family was rounded up, put into a room (as seen in the 1956 movie version with Ingrid Bergman) and executed. All seven members of the family were shot.

It was rumored that one, Anastasia, survived. As history or the musical would have it Anastasia’s beloved grandmother, the Dowager Empress (Joy Franz) after visiting her family in Russia in 1906, where she gifted her a music box (now a reasonable facsimile is on sale in the lobby of the Civic Theatre) to her favorite grandchild the young Anastasia, she left for the summer to Paris. (“Once Upon A December”).
Delilah Rose Pellow and Joy Franz
“Anastasia with book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens was inspired by the myth surrounding the life and death of the Grand Duchess based on the 1997 film of the same name.

The musical version premiered on Broadway in April 2017. It was nominated for the Drama Desk award for best musical. Now the Broadway touring show is here at the Civic Theatre through Oct. 6th. It’s a first for San Diego. It’s very well worth a try. 

It’s visibly eye popping.

The story spans over twenty years starting in 1906 in St. Petersburg, later to be called Leningrad, and then segues to Paris on a rocky and mountainous train ride that one could lose their breakfast over if one had just eaten, it was that realistic. It is now 1927 where the rumored to have survived the family execution, a young Anya believes she is the lost Romanov daughter, Anastasia.

The plot is driven by deception, some comic shticks, romance, great dancing (David Chase, dance arranger) and a vivid imagination. It takes us on journey with a couple of con men schooling innocent girls to learn all about Anastasia and then introducing them to the now bitter Duchess. All characters on board are an innocent amnesiac, a bitter man on a quest to find and kill this young waif and more.


Lila Coogan as Anya
With the word out that the Dowager Empress will offer a generous reward for the person or persons who can deliver her Anastasia to her alive, two con men, Vlad (Edward Staudenmayer “The Countess and The Common Man with Alison Ewing as the Countess Lily) and Dmitry (Steven Brower) find Anya, now living in poverty and working as a street sweeper find her and begin to school her. Watch for a love angle here.

She can’t remember her past but while trying to remember the stats on Anastasia, bits and pieces of her memory come back. Both men are convinced that she is the real McCoy. All the while Comrade Gleb (Jason Michael Evans) wants Anya back under Russian control. He has some long lost family grudge and we see him lurking, in the background a la Inspector Javier as she travels from Leningrad to Paris. It’s all so “Les Miz”.

Edward Staudenmayer, Lila Coogan and Stephen Brower
By the time they get to introduce Anya (Lila Coogan, a stunning look a like with a beautiful voice), the duchess has had it. One thing leads to another and they meet at the ballet where the Duchess is now considering that this young woman might just be her heir.

Musical Director/Conductor Lawrence Goldberg’s orchestra sounds lush handling

It’s yours for the asking in this gorgeously visual production with projections (Aaron Rhyme) of the changing seasons, interiors of royal palaces and a scene of and from the Eiffel Tower with winter snows and cherry blossoms.
Stephen Brower, Edward Staudenmayer and Lila Coogan with cast.

Heavy hitters and Tresnjak’s buds, Alexander Dodge (“Hunchback of Notre Dame”) designed the sets, Linda Cho the regal costumes, Donald Holder, the lighting, Peggy Hickey’ choreography from Swan Lake ballet to the physical comedy in the Paris club is on target. Musical Director/Conductor Lawrence Goldberg’s orchestra sounds are lush in the huge Civic.

Finally, circling back to one of my favorite directors. Serbian born, Tony award winner (“A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder”) and artistic director who ran the Shakespeare summer program for six seasons and 14 productions at the Old Globe, Darko Tresnjak.


Darko Tresnjack
He has been with this show since 2016 and his finger prints are all over it as he and his creative team take us back to a time when riches and power ruled, revolutions were in the air and Anastasia was but a child whose fate as the possible survivor of a mass killing might or might not have been found.

It’s romantic to speculate but better yet, just see the show~.

See you at the theatre.

Dates: Through Oct. 6th
Organization: Broadway San Diego
Phone: 619-570-1100
Production Type: Musical
Where: 1103 3er Ave. Downtown San Diego
Ticket Prices: Start at $30.00
Web: broadwaysd.com
Venue: Civic Theatre
Photo: Evan Zimmerman

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