If you were a little person in the late 90s and early 2000s, chances are you grew up with Anastasia, the classic Don Bluth cartoon that puts a slightly less dark spin on the story of the Russian princess. My obsession with Anastasia went beyond the norm; I named my stuffed moose after her and read countless books about her true story, even the scary ones that talked about how she and her family were shot to death by guards.
So, I was pretty excited about the Anastasia musical reboot, and believe me, I wasn’t disappointed. It has all the classic songs, as well as a few new ones in the mix, and the scenery is absolutely beautiful. Everyone’s voice is on-point, as you’d expect from a Broadway show.
It’s also fitting as a modern fairytale, because it doesn’t sugar-coat the story as much as the cartoon does. It feels like a revamp of the cartoon for 90s kids hungry for nostalgia but also more ready to face the ugly realities of millennial life. Without giving away too many spoilers, the play doesn’t gloss over the fact that the family was shot, and even leaves room for disbelief. Was the beautiful woman really Anastasia, or did she just do a good job of convincing herself that she was?
Of course, for diehard lovers of the animated film, there has to be some criticism. The new songs interrupt the flow of the classic songs, and while some are just out-of-this-world, I wasn’t a fan of every single one. Also, while the choice to write out Rasputin feels timely and also like a way to avoid having a negative racial stereotype, it’s still a bit odd to see that essential component missing.
Anastasia is running through this weekend, August 18, at the Buell Theater. Get tickets here.