Critical Review – Anastasia

Critical+Review+-+Anastasia

Milo Thul, Media Staff

Walking into the theater, I knew nothing about Anastasia. I was aware there was an animated film of it but had never seen it. After seeing the performance at the Orpheum in Minneapolis, I realized I’ve been missing out on a very unique story.

 

The way the plot developed was intriguing. It was very easy to understand because of how straightforward it is. The story is constantly moving to the next part which makes it feel fast paced. This comes into the storys advantage to keep the audience entertained by constantly throwing new scenarios.

 

However, this is also a disadvantage that makes the storyline suffer a bit. In the first act there were three separate times where it appeared it was going to end. While the story moves fast into each scene, those parts start to add up and can be very overwhelming and long. In fact the first act feels twice as long as the second act despite only having one more song. The story could have been written tighter.

 

But the thing that this story does very well is characterization. They have wants, they have needs and do evolve through the story. Highlights for me were Dmitry (played by Sam McLellan) and Dowager Empress (Gerri Weagraff) because of their amazing facial expressions and mannerisms, like the scene where Dowager was heart-broken. Gerri Weagraff was able to show pain just with her eyes and mouth. Additionally, the part where Dmitry feels a moment of pride which McLellan portrays by standing still and silently contemplating.

 

Another aspect was how the sets and visual backgrounds made the characters stand out. This was unexpected. These backgrounds aren’t just still images but animations and moving objects that make the world feel lively. While most of them are great, some of them are a bit weird. For example, the train scene.

 

This scene took place inside a train, but the way they combined the set with visual background was odd. The background point-of-view wasn’t inside the train, as it was just a red 3d frame of a train. They did this to make interesting perspectives like changing the point of view as the ensemble would alter the set on stage. It was definitely unique but just came out as odd and unfitting; it felt impressive but excessive. On the other hand, the sets using traditional methods with furniture and props were near perfect; nothing was underwhelming. Just the right amount of stuff on stage to make this work.

 

The people who do the best job making this world beautiful are the ensemble cast! This is the best ensemble I have seen in a Broadway tour so far. Everyone looked like they had something to say and had things to do. It felt like they actually lived in this world. A big highlight was Christian McQueen, specifically his part as Count Ipolitov during the train station scene. Just seeing him walk around was a joy. The way he twisted and turned while looking like a man with respect and power as he sang beautifully in “Stay, I Pray You”.

 

Speaking of singing, the entire cast definitely sang wonderfully and it sounded great, but there were many times where the words were unclear. They sang too loud and didn’t have enough diction, and at some points it just sounded like a mesh of noise. The person with the best diction was Brandon Delgado who played as Gleb. He was astounding with his words, singing very clearly, no matter how high or low he had to go.

 

Overall Anastasia was a fun time, despite the lack of diction during songs. This is a show everyone should experience because of its unique and interesting story, amazing sets, and polished acting from the entire cast.