Hartford Stage 'Anastasia' Premiere: Splendid, But Needs Work
DNA may have ended the romantic mystery of the Anastasia legend, but fairytale princesses are forever. Making a story of a little girl lost more than child’s play is a challenge largely fulfilled in Hartford Stage’s stunningly staged, emotionally rich and expertly crafted premiere of “Anastasia,” the new musical slated for the 2016-17 Broadway season. But its occasional drifts into “Beauty and the Beast” territory underscore the fact that there’s still some work to do if creatives want the show to enrapture adults as well as kiddies.
In his first new musical since earning a Tony for “A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder” (which also bowed at Hartford, where he is artistic director), director Darko Tresnjak and librettist Terrence McNally have crafted a show that embraces the power of myth, celebrates the resilience of survivors and touches on the meaning of identity and home, all manna for the musical stage. Source material includes the 1956 film (screenplay by Arthur Laurents, based on a Marcelle Maurette play adapted by Guy Bolton) and the 1997 animated film with a tuneful score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens.
Six songs remain from the animated film, including the Oscar-nominated “Journey to the Past,” here serving as an uplifting first-act capper. New tunes flesh out the story, harkening back to sturdy and satisfying musical comedy tropes.
In a breakout performance, Christy Altomare is captivating as Anya, the feisty Russian orphan with amnesia who isn’t sure if she is the youngest daughter of Czar Nicholas II. Derek Klena is boyishly handsome, charming and strong-voiced as Dmitry, the con man who plots to present Anya as the perhaps-alive princess — until he wonders about the what-if, too.