The opening night of “Anastasia” at the Fox Theatre was a night I’ll never forget. I stood under the marquee illuminated by the glowing lights, watching fellow attendees flood the Fox dressed in ballroom gowns and faux furs as I waited for my ticket. There was a sense of magic in the night that would soon be enhanced by the show.
Even as someone who never watched the 1997 “Anastasia” animated movie, once I sat in my seat, I felt myself squealing with excitement, anticipating for the show to begin. As the theater dimmed its lights and the stage lit up, my attention was immediately grasped by the eloquence of the Romanov royal family. The opening dance sequence gracefully showed us who the Romanov family was. They were elegant, dignified and people of significance. This is an aspect of “Anastasia” that I loved throughout the show. The actors developed their characters and successfully let the audience know who these characters were the moment they stepped on to the stage.
The costumes throughout the show were true works of art that matched perfectly with the world we were being introduced to. As the opening dance sequence went on, I noticed myself in awe of the intricacies of the costumes. The more I observed them the more I noticed the effort and originality of the talented designer Linda Cho. Anastasia’s mother’s dress caught my eye the most. From the moment she appeared on stage, her costume was visually striking. While it sparkled and twinkled from the stage, her costume truly established her as royalty of Russia and all I could do was appreciate the beauty.
From the moment the show began, the show’s scenic design by Alexander Dodge, light design by Donald Holder, projection design by Aaron Rhyne and sound design by Peter Hylenski were all beautifully immersive and compelling. I was captivated in the world of “Anastasia” without a moment of being released from it. Every character, every emotion and every experience was amazingly captured by the visuals, lighting, colors and sound effects. As an audience member, I could sense the careful calculation behind each theatrical visual element in a sequence. I was successfully able to feel who the characters were, the experiences they had and the state that Russia was in at the time. All through the success of using impressive visual elements to create a believable world and story.
An example of this is when Anastasia (played by Victoria Stern) is having a nightmare about her faint memories of her passed on relatives. Instead of only having us watch Anastasia toss and turn on stage, we were brought into the nightmare with her. We experienced and saw the unsettling feelings and imagery of the living dead along with her and how her lack of memory haunted her.
Additionally, in the ending scene, Victoria Stern and Willem Butler (who plays Dmitri), walk towards the back of the stage signifying their happily ever after. As they walk, the graphic on the screen turns into a beautiful set of colors. Dmitri, with Anastasia on his arm, stands frozen in place with the graphic freezing along with them. It was as if these real people blended together with the colors of the screen achieving the look of an oil painting. This scene left me in awe and feeling astonished by its trailblazing artistry. That moment proved that there are so many beautiful and creative ways to make a lasting and impactful happily ever after in a theater performance.
As someone who didn’t watch many princess films growing up because of the absence of BIPOC representation, the scene that impacted me, as a person of color individual watching this show, was the near the show’s end. Anastasia stepped on stage in a beautiful shimmering red ballroom dress and she held her head high like royalty. It touched my heart, seeing Veronica Stern as a woman of color playing a beautiful and strong princess such as Anastasia. It awakened a childlike yearn within myself to be a princess. I was reminded of the importance of BIPOC representation with characters portraying royalty and the impact it can have on younger BIPOC audiences.
“Anastasia” went far beyond my expectations of what a Broadway production can be. Experiencing this musical at the Fox was a moment that has impacted me tremendously. It reminded me about the importance of BIPOC representation, showed me a refreshing approach to theater production and performance and has single-handedly awakened my fascination for princesses. I enjoyed every aspect of this show from the storyline, musical numbers, and dance performances. I give my applause to every one of the talented performers and production artists for bringing the breathtakingly creative work of art that is “Anastasia” to the Fox Theatre and to Atlanta.
VOX ATL is grateful to our community partners at Most Valuable Kids of Greater Atlanta, Broadway in Atlanta and Brave PR for providing these opening night tickets for our teen reviewers.