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Anastasia ~ The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts

Jordan Wright
November 6, 2018 

In Terrence McNally’s lavish musical Anastasia the luxe life of the dynasty that was the Romanovs collides head on with reality.  The Russian Revolution of 1917 proved to be the downfall of the gilded empire ruled by the Romanov family.  Collateral damage included the brutal murders of Tsar Nicholas, his wife, Tsarina Alexandra, and their five children.  But according to myth, one child was purported to have secretly escaped.  Or did she?  There hangs the tale.

Victoria Bingham (Little Anastasia) and Joy Franz (Dowager Empress) in the National Tour of ANASTASIA. Photo by Evan Zimmerman

It’s a fascinating legend and one that has captivated both scholars and modern society for decades.  Until her death in 1984, the woman who called herself Anastasia regularly regaled the media and anyone who would listen about her charmed life as a royal and her perilous escape to Paris and into the arms of her ex-patriot grandmother the Dowager Empress.  Was this child an imposter or the real deal?  “Somewhere down this road ? I know someone’s waiting. / Years of dreams just can’t be wrong! / Arms will open wide / I’ll be safe and wanted / Finally home where I belong.” – from “Journey to the Past” – Anastasia.

Lila Coogan (Anya) and Stephen Brower (Dmitry) in the National Tour of ANASTASIA. Photo by Evan Zimmerman.

Two grifters, one a royal familiar with the Russian court, find the child starving and sweeping the streets of St. Petersburg, alone and adrift and suffering from amnesia.  Together they teach her everything they know about the real Anastasia – her parents, her relatives and life at court – with the endgame to reap a huge reward by delivering her into the arms of her aging grandmother.  “We’re going to create a fairy tale,” Vlad tells Dmitry.  As her memory appears to return, the young girl surprises them by knowing of events only the real Anastasia would have known.

Lila Coogan (Anya) and Stephen Brower (Dmitry) in the National Tour of ANASTASIA. Photo by Matthew Murphy

Evocative projections of the onion domes of St. Petersburg, snow swirling outside the grand palace, the bridges across the Neva River and the glory and glamour of Paris set the scene.  Most spectacular is a scene on a train as the trio, chased by Russian authorities, escape to Paris, a city where Russian émigrés struggle to maintain their dignity and former grandeur in the City of Lights.

Edward Staudenmayer (Vlad), Tari Kelly (Countless Lily) and the company of the National Tour of ANASTASIA. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

By now it is 1927 the height of the Roaring 20’s when they finally arrive in search of an audience with the Dowager Empress.  There they are stopped in their tracks by Countess Lily, a gatekeeper who attempts to keep the old woman from the stream of pretenders.  Look to enjoy grand waltzes and Cossack dances to the Charleston and snippets of ballet in Swan Lake from Choreographer Peggy Hickey to the accompaniment of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra conducted by Lawrence Goldberg.

Composer Stephen Flaherty and Lyricist Lynn Ahrens afford us a lush score that evokes the grandeur of the period with waltzes and folk ballads, comic ditties and heart-stopping solo numbers in a production that will wow the most jaded theatregoer.

Highly recommended.  This is a huge show with gorgeous, unforgettable production values and memorable casting.

Edward Staudenmayer (Vlad), Lila Coogan (Anya), Stephen Brower (Dmitry) and the company of the National Tour of ANASTASIA ~ Photo credit Mathew Murphy

In order of appearance – Victoria Bingham as Little Anastasia/Alexei Romanov, Joy Franz as Dowager Empress, Lucy Horton as Tsarina Alexandra, Michael McCorry Rose as Tsar Nicholas II/Count Ipolitov/Count Gregory, Fred Inkley as Count Leopold/Gorlinsky, Taylor Quick as Young Anastasia/Paulina, Brianna Abruzzo as Maria Romanov/Marfa, Claire Rathbun as Olga Romanov, Kourtney Keitt as Tatiana Romanov/Dunya, Tari Kelly as Countess Lily, Jason Michael Evans as Gleg, Stephen Brower as Dmitry, Edward Staudenmayer as Vlad, and Lila Coogan as Anya.

Directed by Darko Tresnjak with Scenic Design by Alexander Dodge, breathtaking Costume Design by Linda Cho, Lighting Design by Donald Holder, Projection Design by Aaron Rhyne, and Orchestrations by Doug Best.

Through November 25th at The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St., NW, Washington, DC.  For tickets and information for future shows call 202 467-4600 or visit The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

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