After a brief appearance on CD in 1992, The Anastasia Affaire, a revision of the 1965 Broadway musical, Anya, reappears Nov. 24 as Anastasia, the Musical in an enhanced re-release from Original Cast Records.
Based on themes of Rachmaninoff, the musical by songwriters Robert Wright and George "Chet" Forrest (Kismet) has been known under the titles Anya (1965), A Song for Anastasia (1967), The Anastasia Game (1989 in Lowell, MA and 1990 at the University of Michigan) and was recorded in 1992 with members of the 1989 Lowell troupe using the title The Anastasia Affaire.
The Lowell cast included Judy Kaye (Ragtime, Phantom of the Opera), Steve Barton (Phantom of the Opera), Len Cariou (Sweeney Todd), Willi Burke and David Green (OB's Luv). In addition to those cast members, the 1992 recording used George Lee Andrews (A Little Night Music), Marcy DeGonge Manfredi (Cats), re-release producer Walter Willison (Two by Two) and opera star Regina Resnick.
According to Wright and Forrest adviser Willison, the show was licensed as The Anastasia Affaire by Music Theatre International. With some slight revisions since 1992 (and many since 1965), the script, score and CD are now known as Anastasia, the Musical.
The original disc was recorded for release on the Bay Cities label in 1992, but when that company dissolved, the disc had been out only several months and the supply dried up. In 1998, certain tracks of the 1992 recording were sweetened using Sean Lough, Donna Lee Marshall and Rob Sutton in choral parts. The chamber musical accompaniment is on two pianos.
The new CD also offers "premiere recording" bonus tracks of Wright and Forrest songs from At the Grand (1958) and its later version, Grand Hotel (1989), Kean (1961) and the P.G. Wodehouse inspired, Betting on Bertie, with lyrics by the 90-year-old Wodehouse. That show has only been seen in workshop stagings.
Willison, who was in the original cast of Grand Hotel and intimately knew the backstage story of Tommy Tune bringing Maury Yeston in to inject songs into the Wright-Forrest score, told Playbill On-Line (Nov. 24) that Grand Hotel fans will likely be especially interested in the CD.
Performing the bonus tracks are Marcia Lewis (Chicago), Donna Lee Marshall (Big, Footloose), Douglas Holmes, Eric Riley (Once on This Island), Simon Jones (You Never Can Tell), pianist Fred Barton and violinist Kathleen Thompson.
Willison said the release of the animated film, "Anastasia," made him encourage Wright and Forrest to rethink their own property, which is based on the same Guy Bolton play drawing from the true story of the amnesiac who claimed to be the lost, last surviving daughter of the assassinated Romanoff family of Russia.
Concurrent with Willison's talks with Wright and Forrest, producer Bruce Yeko of Original Cast called Willison and asked, "Whatever became of the Anastasia Affaire recording from a few years ago?"
The result of their talk, Willison said, is the new recording.
Wright, 84, and Forrest, 83, split their time between New York and Florida and are actively involved in several projects, said Willison.
The writers met when they were 14 and 15 in Miami, FL, and began penning songs (they share music and lyric credits). They played and wrote for nightclub performers, went to Hollywood and wrote for MGM and penned classically-tinged scores for Broadway's Song of Norway (based on Grieg themes, 1944), Kismet (based on Borodin, 1953), Magdalena (written with Villa-Lobos, 1948) and an African-American version of Kismet called Timbuktu! (1978).
A biography of the pair is in the works.
-- By Kenneth Jones