Thursday, August 8, 2019

The Buell Theatre: August 7 -August 18

                  Lila Coogan and Stephen Brower (Photo credit:Evan Zimmerman)

             ANASTASIA is "a journey to the past" well worth the taking!"
     Terrence McNally, the playwright who just received a Life Achievement Award at the last Tony Awards celebration, is a master of the craft of writing the book for a musical. Anyone having seen RAGTIME knows that. However... although McNally's adaptation of the script for the 1997 animated film is a good one, it never quite rises to the brilliance of his work on the aforementioned Tony Award winning musical.  (It is to be noted that this critic did not see the animated film on which this musical is based.)
     Eschewing most of the disturbing events and individuals of the era (Rasputin isn't mentioned.) the book presents us with a mostly upbeat fairy tale about the myth that Anastasia survived the slaughter of the Tsar and his family.
     It's no surprise that the tuneful score and lyrics by the artistic team of Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens intoxicate us when one considers their other successes: "Ragtime,"" Seussical" and "Once on This Island."
     As Anya, Lila Coogan does a superb job in the acting and singing of the title role.
     Both Jason Michael Evans (Gleb) and Stephen Brower (Dimitry) present us with dynamic stage presence and powerful vocals.
     Edward Staudenmayer as Vlad leads the ensemble in "Paris Holds the Key (to your Heart)" at the top of Act Two. It's a rousing and uplifting number that leaves the audience cheering. Mr. Staudenmayer anchors the show with a commanding stage presence  of the triple threat variety. 
     Tari Kelly, whom you may remember for her brilliant work as Judy Garland in Arvada Center's "End of the Rainbow," is  hilarious as Countess Lily.  Her Carol Burnett-like schtick in the number "The Countess and the Common Man," is indelible.
     Just a couple of the successful offerings in Aaron Rhyne's breathtaking projection design  are: dizzying ascents through such Parisian landmarks as the Eiffel Tower and thrilling train rides through northern European landscapes. Rhyne has gossamer spirits of the dead Romanoffs haunt the proceedings like steam and smoke.
     The costumes are eye-popping indeed! From the magnificent white gowns of the Romanoff family to the frocks of Ms. Coogan as Anya, Linda Cho's costume design shimmers and sparkles in such a way as to delight.
        The orchestra sounds great under the baton of conductor Lawrence Goldberg.
     The flashes of vermillion in Donald Holder's lighting design accompanied by the approaching explosions in Peter Hylenski's sound design give us as audience all we need to know about the oncoming Bolshevik revolution.  Alexander Dodge's scenic design is flawless.
        Peggy Hickey's choreography charms. Nevertheless ... one might wish for a bit more realism in the execution of the stage combat in the scene in which Anya and her Dimitry fight off the street thieves.
        ANASTASIA is a crowd-pleaser that is not to be missed!Marlowe's Musings
      For tickets call: 303-893-4100 or go online at