THE LUSH ST PETERSBURG RUSSIAN BALLROOMS CLOSE SHN’S SEASON WITH AN ELEGANT FAMILY MUSICAL
The SHN fall production of ANASTASIA is a perfect fairy tale: A beautiful lost girl can’t remember anything about her past until she discovers that she is a princess. The National tour production of ANASTASIA, opened this week at the GOLDEN GATE Theatre and is only here through September 29, 2019. This fairy tale is slightly darker and rooted in history during the brutal execution of the Russian Imperial Romanov family. This musical has been in the works for years and attempted to launch on Broadway a few times. The award winning Terrence McNally has re written this new script and this version is spectacular live musical theatre.
Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens provide new music and lyrics for the show, with book by McNally and direction by Darko Tresnjak. Musical director Lawrence Goldberg presents a gorgeous score with over 40 songs in the two and half hour production. Moments from the 1956 film appear in the musical, which takes the story of a few adaptations including the 1997 animated film. Songs, such as “Once Upon a December,” make an appearance in the show but the evil villain, Rasputin, is instead replaced with a Bolshevik general. Even with these changes, the musical captures the story’s family journey with a focus on home, love and tradition.
The production is visually stunning with dazzling tiaras created by Tony winner costume designer Linda Cho who captures the greed of the Russian Empire. The story is the legend of the Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov, daughter of Imperial Russia’s doomed Tsar Nicholas II. After the Bolshevik revolution of 1917, in which the Tsar was overthrown and murdered with his family, a rumor floats around the foggy streets of Russia that the royal daughter Anastasia has survived. Her grandmother Dowager Empress played by the elegant Joy Franz offers a reward for her return. Fakes and imposters invade the old woman’s Paris home, The handsome Dmitry played by Stephen Brower and Vlad played by the ideal Edward Staudenmayer attempt to pull off “the biggest con in history.”
They find their player in Anya played by the marvelous Lila Coogan, a young lost misplaced woman with strong Romanov resemblance. In a taste of MY FAIR LADY the two men proceed to coach her for the role, as they all escape Paris. “Once Upon December” features the whole cast as they take the train filled with obstacles to see her maybe Grandmother. Lila Coogan as Anastasia is superb and her vocals are powerful especially “Journey to the Past” and “In My Dreams.” Coogan is elegant as the princess yet still feisty and ready to defend herself as needed - she has a few moments spinning some of the men like small boys.
The musical numbers include “Rumor in St. Petersburg,” “Journey to the Past,” and “Paris Holds the Key,” with choreography by Peggy Hickey. The sets and clever direction invite you into the show that spans a couple of decades that gives you that LESMIZ feel. The projection backdrops transport you from the streets of St. Petersburg to a palace ballroom to a train station, and give the performance a film effect that at times I found distracting. Yet the show is eye candy for the eyes, the talented cast and orchestra take you in deep into this fairy tale ride. From the well executed vocal talent in the number “Stay, I Pray You” to the dance skills displayed in the stirring ballet performance of “Swan Lake,” the entire ensemble is gifted.
The playful Tari Kelly as Countess Lily is camp and hilarious, especially during her show stopping duet with Staudenmayer in “The Countess and the Common Man.” both have delightful comedic timing and brought the opening night audience to cheers. Jason Michael Evans is bold as the Bolshevik general Gleb as he sings “Still” and his solo “Land of Yesterday”. Brower as Dmitry is riveting during his solo “Everything to Win” and won the affection of the sold out audience as he sings “My Petersburg”.
ANASTASIA is jewel and at two hours and forty minutes holds strong as we get to the final song “Everything to Win” performed by the priceless Coogan. This is the perfect family musical to open your fall season of theatre. SHN closes their successful 2018/19 season with this stunning musical. The new season opens with THE SIMON & GARFUNKEL STORY October 19th, and for the Holidays SUMMER the Donna Summer Musical opens December 3rd. But in the meantime join Anya and her childhood music box as she finds her family.
Book by Terrence McNally, Music by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens
Directed by Darko Tresnjak
Must close, September 28th
SHN Golden Gate Theatre
1 Taylor St., San Francisco
Running Time 2 hours 40 minutes one intermission
Tickets: 888-746-1799, www.shnsf.com
PHOTO BY: EVAN ZIMMERMAN, MURPHYMADE
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Anastasia,, at SHN's Golden Gate Theatre, 1 Taylor Street, San Francisco CA. Tickets range from $56 to $256, and are available by calling the box office at 888-746-1799 or by visiting SHNSF.com. For more information on the tour, visit anastasiathemusical.com.