Monday, May 30, 2016


                                           PHOTOS BY JOAN MARCUS
Is she the perfect and poised princess or the fanciful figment of a fruitful imagination?  Come meet Anastasia, the young girl whose family is assassinated in a revolt in czarist Russia at the turn of the twentieth century in a glorious world premiere musical at Hartford Stage until Sunday, June 19.  Trust me, you don’t want to miss this splendid spectacle of a show. It is magical and momentous and marvelous!

Christy Altomare’s Anastastia, better known as Anya, is the delightfully spunky and devoted daughter whose story book childhood is disturbed violently when the peasants revolt  and everyone in her family is killed, save for her grandmother, the Dowager Empress, played regally by Mary Beth Peil, who has fortuitively traveled to Paris in advance of the siege.  Altomare is wonderfully charming as the young girl thrust out of her aristocratic upbringing to find herself suddenly sweeping streets, penniless and alone.  Think Eliza Doolittle without the flowers. Nicole Scimeca plays Anastasia at 6, while Molly Rushing captures her at 17.

Two men, Derek Klena’s Dmitry, and John Bolton’s Vlad come upon Anya in her reduced state and determine she would be an excellent candidate to pose as the lost princess, to learn the appropriate facts and pass herself off as The Dowager Empress’s missing heir.  Think Professor Higgins and his mate  Pickering without the language lessons.  While the gentlemen are working to perfect their scheme, the ruthless Russians want to suppress any rumors that Anastasia survived the coup and procede to plot her death, led by Manoel Felciano’s Gleb.

The Dowager in Paris is protected by her guardian Lily, a vibrant Caroline O’Connor, who dismisses all the imposters who claim to be ready to assume the legacy.  Lily’s past relationship with Vlad helps to open the door for Anya to make her claim, and the renewing of that courtship is a delight to witness…one of millions in the musical.  One quickly runs out of superlatives to describe the elegant costuming by Linda Cho, the elaborate scenic design by Alexander Dodge, with amazing projections and video by Aaron Rhyne, the enchanting choreography by Peggy Hickey and the exceptional direction by Darko Tresnjak.  All the moving parts of this magical musical fit together in a masterful jigsaw puzzle of perfection.

This new musical boasts a book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and the result is joyful. Tunes like “Once Upon a December,” “We’ll Go From There,” “In  a Crowd of Thousands,” “Land of Yesterday” and “Everything to Win” swell with meaning, under the musical direction of Thomas Murray. There is even a scene from the ballet “Swan Lake “ to admire and applaud.

For tickets ($25 and up), call  the Hartford Stage, 50 Church Street, Hartford at 860-527-5151 or online at  Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Sunday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m., with matinees Saturday and Sunday at 2 p.m.

Hop aboard the Entertainment Express for the white gloved elegant hit of the season as Anastasia takes you on a journey of adventure and romance that bridges decades and destiny.

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