Review: ‘Anastasia’

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Anastasia by Broadway Grand Rapids

For those who know the story of “Anastasia,” they know it is bound to be riddled with tragedy.

Other than a short flashback of young Anastasia (Delilah Rose Pellow), the production begins with the overtaking of the Russian Tsar, the murder of his family and the rumor that one princess supposedly survived. That princess, Anastasia (Lila Coogan), initially is known as Anya, a courageous peasant girl struggling to survive in the streets of St. Petersburg.

Without any memory of her life before she woke up in a hospital, she was forced to fight for everything she had. Anya was not the only one in turmoil; the other people of Russia faced extreme poverty and hunger under the new rulers. To them, the fairytale of the princess’s survival was just a rumor, as depicted in the song “A Rumor in St. Petersburg.” Still, they held hope the rumor was true, and so did Anastasia’s grandmother, Dowager Empress (Joy Franz).

On the streets, Anya meets an unlikely pair, Dmitry (Stephen Brower) and Vlad (Edward Staudenmayer), who were after the reward offered by Anastasia’s grandmother for her granddaughter’s return. Dmitry and Vlad taught Anya the ways of a princess in the song “Learn to Do It,” and the two were surprised when Anya seems to know things they hadn’t yet taught her. They were determined to escape out of Russia to Paris, but the Soviet soldier, Gleb (Jason Michael Evans), refused to let them go without a fight.

Broadway Grand Rapids outdid itself with every aspect of this show. From the exquisite costuming, beautiful orchestra and elegant dancing, “Anastasia” was a joy from beginning to end. The captivating backdrop projected moving images behind the cast, and the characters brought the stage to life. With each snowflake falling outside the castle window or the ever-stretching Paris street, it was easy to forget you were even at the theater. The songs each had their own unique beauty, but Coogan’s performance of “In My Dreams” was the one that brought chills to the audience’s arms. Her voice filled the crowded theater and was followed by a roaring applause. Other notable performances were that of Vlad and Countess Lily (Tari Kelly). Together, they offered a fun, upbeat, comic relief to the production, and even their mannerisms were wordlessly hilarious.

Because of the heavy subject matter of this production, it could have easily been startling for younger guests. Although the theater was filled with mostly adults, it remained age appropriate for families, too. More than the tragedy, “Anastasia” followed Anya’s search for home, love and family in a way that filled everyone’s hearts with hope.

You can catch more productions of “Anastasia” by Broadway Grand Rapids at the DeVos Performance Hall from June 26-30.

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