How Ghosts Come Alive In 'Anastasia'

Near the end of the first act of the Broadway musical Anastasia, three characters, filled with hope and excitement, take a train out of Russia heading for Paris. 

It's quite a ride for them – and for the audience – in a production that highlights the latest in projection design. 

The musical, based on the 1997 animated film and the live-action 1956 picture starring Ingrid Bergman and Yul Brynner, centers on Anya, a mysterious amnesiac who is enlisted by con men who wish to present her as the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia. As legend has it, Anastasia is the only member of the Russian royal family who escaped murder by revolutionaries, so producing her could reap considerable rewards for shady characters. 

Like the films, the stage show, which is now at the Broadhurst Theatre after appearing last year at Hartford Stage, tell a propulsive, emotional story. Aaron Rhyne's dynamic 3-D projections have proven vital to maintaining that energy. In the train scene, for instance, his work reflects the speed of the locomotive, the ever-changing countryside, and even the various perspectives of the characters as they flee Russia and try to reach Anastasia's grandmother in France. 

At the beginning of the scene, Rhyne creates period maps, which act as guideposts for the journey. As the train leaves Russia, the projections gradually change as color and elements of springtime are introduced into the fast-moving surrounding scenery. 

"The train sequence is built in a 3-D computer world," says Rhyne. "We took trees and plants and other visual elements that would literally be in the landscape of that ride to make the audience feel what it would be like if they were on that trip."