So, our latest musical this year was Anastasia.  The story revolves around a couple of cons trying to pass off a young girl as the rumored possible survivor of the massacre of the Romanov family in the hopes of getting a reward for delivering her to the Dowager Empress in Paris (with the added benefit that it would get them out of St. Petersburg/Leningrad).  And oh, of course, the girl they ultimately decide to train as Anastasia has amnesia, doesn’t remember her past, and indeed, might actually be the real Anastasia that they’re trying to pass her off.  And naturally there’s some element of danger involved, because the Bolsheviks have heard the rumor, and needless to say aren’t happy with the idea that Anastasia might have survived.

The whole musical is fairly formulaic, and by the time the second act starts most people can probably make a pretty reasonable guess on how events are going to play out.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but there is something of a feel that someone putting this together had a checklist of “Things That Must Be In a Musical” that they were working from.  

I kinda feel that for this performance, a number of the supporting cast really helped prop up the show.  I didn’t personally find either of the two main leads (either Anya/Anastasia or Dmitry) to be all that strong, although I’ll waffle on that somewhat with Anya.  I thought the Bolshevik Gleb and the Countess Lily were high points in the cast.  The ensemble cast was pretty decent, and shined during a section where Swan Lake is performed.

The set design I thought was very good.  It made extensive use of projection for background images but framed things in a way that it wasn’t necessarily being thrown in your face as projection.  Many of the background images had a fair amount of depth to them, making it even less obvious that it was projection.  It’s worth noting that the Broadway production won a couple of awards for Outstanding Projection Design.

There’s also a memorable scene (really one of the few memorable scenes in my opinion) shortly before the end of the first act that takes place on a train car, and involves a set piece that’s made from a frame of the train car that reorients itself as the action takes place (with the background projection taking on an appropriate viewpoint too). 

Overall it’s an ok musical.  It’s not likely to stand out as anyone’s favorite, but it’s probably not going to be the worst one you ever see either (I’ve certainly got a few candidates that I’d put in that category).  It’s a bit uneven in places, and at times the plot seems to have problems making up its mind where it’s really going and probably rambles on a little longer than it really should.  Having seen it once, I doubt I’d go out of my way to see it again, but if the right situation came up I wouldn’t be opposed to seeing it again either.

Wharton Center show reviews

Ok, the last year or two my wife and I have been subscribing to the Broadway series at the Wharton Center on campus to go to some of the shows.  This year I’ve decided that I’d post my thoughts on what we see, in the unlikely event that anyone out there cares what I think about the shows.

For this year, we have the following shows on slate:

  • School of Rock
  • Love Never Dies
  • Fiddler on the Roof
  • Anastasia
  • Miss Saigon
  • Hamilton

On top of that, we picked up the following other shows for this season:

  • Dustbowl Revival
  • Broadways Next Hit Musical
  • Soweto Gospel Choir
  • Ukelele Orchestra of Great Britain

Of those, a couple are shows I won’t attend, my wife is going with other people – Hamilton and Soweto Gospel Choir.  Neither of them particular interested me (I know, I’m probably the only person on the planet that doesn’t want to see Hamilton, but I have a couple of reasons why, not the least of which is that I’m not particularly a fan of spoken word as an art form, and what little I’ve seen makes me think I’d go nuts listening to a whole show of it).

None of these are shows that I’ve seen before, with the somewhat exception of Fiddler on the Roof.  For that, I’ve seen the movie version of it, sorta.  I’m pretty convinced that I’ve never seen more than the first two thirds of it.  So, it’ll be interesting to see how these turn out.