“It was kind of a dream come true,” says Anastasia’s leading man, Derek Klena, at the July 25 screening of Paramount Pictures and 20th Century Fox’s Florence Foster Jenkins for the Broadway community.
Anastasia, which premiered earlier this spring at Harford Stage in Connecticut, will transfer to Broadway’s Broadhurst Theatre in April 2017, and the show’s stars spilled the details on what to expect when the musical gets here.
“The popular outcry from the fans is there is no more [villain] Rasputin, and there’s no more [bat] Bartok,” Klena continues. “There are whole different villains in the show, but it’s great. They’ve really focused on bringing the truth out within the Romanov story and the Romanov family…”
“And the communist revolution,” adds Christy Altomare, his co-star and the musical’s title character. The duo reunited after co-starring opposite each other in the 2012 Off-Broadway revival of Carrie, in which they played girlfriend and boyfriend Sue Snell and Tommy Ross.
“They’ve pushed the strong family values that are incorporated in the Romanov legacy and the Romanov story and still keep this magical fairytale element to it,” says Klena, “so it’s fun and exciting, and the audience really won’t know what to expect the whole time. Even at the end, you’re kind of left with questions in the best way. They don’t seal it off with a bow—you’ll just have to wait and see how—but it’s fun. It leaves it open to interpretation.”
Anastasia is based on the 1997 animated musical film as well as the 1956 historical drama about the true story of Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia, who is rumored to have escaped the execution of her family. The musical is told through a more historical lens.
“So far [audiences have] been so kind and gracious,” Altomare explains. “All that me and Derek really know is [the response] we get at the stage door, and we’ve heard a lot of people saying time and time again that they’ve grown up with the Fox movie [and are] obsessed with Meg Ryan’s rendition … Now watching it [onstage], they find that it pays homage to the show, but it also brings added elements that just enhance it. They come in saying, ‘I came in skeptical, but I left so pleasantly surprised.’”
Klena adds, “They keep everything that’s included in the animated film, but expand on it, which they don’t often do. Taking an already put-together movie and putting it onstage, the trap that you can fall into is putting it on the stage and letting it have its fame and its popularity, but they’re not really relying on that. It was a popular film, and it had these amazing songs, but [the creators, including songwriters Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty] weren’t really satisfied with that. Of course, when you put it onstage, you want to create this new thing, and you want to have it be purposeful, and I think they have in the best way.”
“That’s what’s pleasantly surprising—[the] response from the audience,” he continues. “We know that there are some Fanastasias out there who want to see the movie, and they want to see it done the way that they envisioned it when they were eight years old, but everybody—I’m not joking—unanimously [agree], ‘I came expecting a lot, you gave me what I wanted and more,’ which I feel like is the whole purpose of doing it and putting it onstage and translating it from the film.”
Altomare reminds theatregoers that it’s “important to know that it’s based off of two films. The [creators] have the rights to not only the animated film, but also the Ingrid Bergman movie from a long time ago, so if you watch both of those before you go see the show, you’ll notice there’s a lot of similarities in both films. [Material] you weren’t getting [from] the animated, you’re getting in the other one—along with new stuff.”
The two add that the production is visually “stunning.” In the middle of the show’s first act, Altomare sings in front of an image projected against the backdrop of the stage that took her breath away when she first saw it in tech rehearsal.
“I kind of freaked out,” she admits, without giving away too many of the musical’s surprises. “There’s an image that shows up, and Darko [Tresnjak], the director, just goes, ‘Turn around.’ I could not believe what I was seeing before me because I don’t see it; I look out to the audience. But he was like, ‘Turn around and see it.’ I jumped up, and I was like, ‘Ah!’ Everybody else started laughing because the rest of the cast was in the audience. But it’s not even just that. There were times during tech that we were sitting there watching them tech-ing elements of the show, and we would just start clapping just because it’s so beautiful and awe-inspiring. You can’t believe how beautiful it is visually.”
The musical will officially open on Broadway April 24, 2017.