Anastasia, a Musical by Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Terrence McNally, Gets NYC Reading

By Kenneth Jones
July 30, 2012

Anastasia, a new stage adaptation of the 1997 animated musical film, got a private industry reading in Manhattan the week of July 23, a spokesperson for Stage Entertainment confirmed.



The 29-hour reading featured Kelli Barrett (The Royal Family, Baby It's You!) in the title role of the lost Russian princess who — at least in the kid-friendly film that fictionalizes history — apparently survived the 1918 assassination of the royal Romanov family, which included Czar Nicholas II, his wife and five children.

The royals' advisor, the mystic Rasputin, was a super-villain in the cartoon rethinking, which featured an Oscar-nominated score by Tony Award winners Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty (Ragtime, Once On This Island, My Favorite Year, Lucky Stiff).

Without a memory and now a young woman, Anastasia takes a "Journey to the Past" to seek her identity — her sense of "home, love, family," as Ahrens' lyric goes in movie. Ahrens and Flaherty have returned to the tale to expand their score for the stage version, which has a book by four-time Tony Award winner Terrence McNally (Ragtime, Kiss of the Spider Woman, Master Class, Love! Valour! Compassion!).

According to Stage Entertainment, "The work is currently in development for a future European premiere."

In the Fox film, Hollywood's Meg Ryan played Anastasia when she wasn't singing, and Broadway's Liz Callaway (Baby, Miss Saigon) sang the songs. "Journey to the Past" was Oscar-nominated for Best Original Song. The song was also Golden Globe Award-nominated, as was "Once Upon a December."

The stage score is a mix of songs from the film and new numbers. The film songs have been extensively revised and rewritten for the stage, Playbill.com learned.

In addition to the Best Song Academy Award nomination, the picture was Oscar-nommed for Best Music — Original Musical or Comedy Score (naming Ahrens, Flaherty and David Newman).

Tony winners Bernadette Peters and Angela Lansbury voiced the characters of Sophie and Dowager Empress Marie, respectively, in the movie. Lansbury also participated in the staged reading, Stage Entertainment confirmed July 30.

Stage Entertainment is also behind the new stage musical Rocky (with a score by Ahrens and Flaherty), getting its premiere in Hamburg, Germany, in 2012-13.

There had long been speculation that the youngest daughter of Czar Nicholas II survived the murder of her family in the Russian Revolution. Imposters claiming to be the emperor's heirs surfaced over the years. The family's remains, buried not far from the murder scene, have since been unearthed and identified.