“Anastasia” Invokes a “Journey to the Past”

Back to Article
Back to Article

“Anastasia” Invokes a “Journey to the Past”

Hang on for a minute...we're trying to find some more stories you might like.

Email This Story

The beloved animated film Anastasia comes to Broadway with more of a historical context, new songs and ornate costumes. (Courtesy of Elizabeth Smislova)

A classic question adults ask children is “Who’s your favorite Disney princess?” It is a loaded question that requires extensive research and soul-searching. While I did like Belle and Ariel, I always went back to Anastasia from the 1997 animated film produced by 20th Century Fox. Sometimes I got weird looks from people who obviously did not place the Russian princess from Fox in the same league as the typical Disney princesses, but I did not care. She was Russian, wanted to go to Paris more than anything and had a mind of her own—all qualities I also had, and still have. For a little girl, there is nothing more exciting than seeing yourself reflected on screen in an animated princess you admire. That is, until you are 21 years old and see her in person and on stage.

Ever since I found out “Anastasia” was coming to Broadway (and premiered on by birthday no less), I constantly checked ticket prices online to see when they would drop. My mom visited me last week, and at 6:30 p.m. asked if I would want to see an evening show—which we did not have tickets to—that would start at 7:30 p.m. We had to get to the hotel, check in, buy tickets and get to the theater in an hour, and somehow it happened. It was one of those perfect New York City nights when spontaneity worked in our favor, culminating in the TKTS booth in Times Square having half price orchestra tickets to “Anastasia.”

When the curtain opened and I saw young princess Anastasia Romanov and her grandmother on stage with a music box, and its lullaby began to play, I immediately started crying. Nostalgia swept over me and I felt like I was five years old again. If you did not watch the animated version as a kid, your childhood might have been lacking in cultural enrichment from Mother Russia, but do not let that stop you from seeing the Broadway rendition.

It is a truly beautiful musical, and if you do have childhood memories attached to the music, characters and story, I think you will definitely enjoy it on another level as well. If you are a senior and the approaching graduation and reality of becoming a functioning adult are looming over your lives, even better! I was so emotional watching “Anastasia,” especially during the classic songs like “Journey to the Past” and “Once Upon a December” that took on completely new meanings for me as an adult.

The Broadway version is also refreshingly realistic in its portrayal of the Bolshevik Revolution and murder of the royal Romanov family in St. Petersburg in 1917. Instead of a comical Rasputin with his bat side-kick, the antagonist is Gleb Vaganov, a Bolshevik general. There are also many new songs, and some are as light-hearted as those in the film, while others like “Stay, I Pray You” convey the hardships the Russian people felt while escaping their homes—something the children’s movie glazed over. As the Russian Revolution was a pivotal part in my personal family history, I appreciated the emphasis on history in the Broadway version, even though it was more painful to watch.

The costumes and set were also gorgeous and made me desperately want to visit St. Petersburg. I just went to Paris for the first time this past summer, so the scenes in the gorgeous French city and song “Paris Holds the Key (To Your Heart)” were particularly special to me, and invoked a whole new set of waterworks (I apologize to the person sitting next to me, as I was an emotional wreck at this point).

I absolutely loved “Anastasia” for personal reasons, but also because it truly was a phenomenal production with superb actors, music, sets, costumes and story. The changes made were well done, and are true enough to the original version to satisfy every little girl or boy who wished he or she was a Russian princess as a child, but it was also more historical and sensitive to the pain of a destroyed country and family.

The musical ultimately reaffirms the fact that home, love and family always find a way to persist through hard political times, something all too relevant to us not living in revolutionary Russia. It also reminded me that adulthood should not be so bad so long as I remind myself to stay young at heart and make time to take journeys to the past.