Friday, October 27, 2017

Journey to the Past: a Reaction to the Cast Recording of 'Anastasia'

Anastasia_Broadway_Production_Photos_2017_[0185]_Ramin Karimloo, Christy Altomare in ANASTASIA on Broadway, Photo by Matthew Murphy, 2017_HR.jpg
I have already discussed the musical Anastasia, based on the classic '90s animated film, but the original Broadway cast recording was only recently released. Today, I'll tell you all about it!

"Prologue/Once Upon a December"

The first track opens with an overture, starting with instrumental music reminiscent of the next song, "A Rumor in Saint Petersburg," before transitioning to a more solemn tone. This version of "Once Upon a December" is just a tad bit different from the movie's version, but still reminiscent of the original.

"A Rumor in Saint Petersburg"

Unlike the film version, this song opens with communist soldier Gleb announcing that Saint Petersburg's name will be changed to Leningrad, an announcement that Dmitry, the narrator of this song, scoffs at. I like how this song blends the version from the movie into new material, making it different but still similar. It is scarier and more realistic than the film, though there are also some comedic bits thrown in.

"In My Dreams"

This is one of my favorites of the new additions to the musical. It is a ballad where the main character sings of her mysterious past and the future she dreams of. It is gorgeous and Christy Altomare's voice is lovely.

"Learn to Do It"

A fun song that is also in the film. I love the hints at Anya's true past and the lighthearted tone of this piece. Fun line: "And I recall his yellow cat!" "I don't believe we told her that . . ."

"The Neva Flows"

I love this new song. It isn't huge and blaring; instead, it has a quiet sense of menace to it. Unlike the movie, which uses the dead Rasputin as the villain, the musical attempted to take a more realistic tone, with the villain of the show being the communist regime, personified in the character of Gleb. This song serves as both a warning to Anya and a reminder of the stark reality of life's harshness as Gleb recalls the day the Romanov family was murdered. 

"My Petersburg"

A much more up-tempo number after the solemn tone of "The Neva Flows." In this number, also new for the musical. Dmitry (played by the talented Derek Klena) describes Petersburg, his home since childhood. This song is important for Dmitry's backstory since there is a change in his character from the film: instead of being a boy from the palace, Dmitry has always been more of a street urchin struggling to survive, so the city is his home both literally and emotionally. 

"Once Upon a December"

This classic number is mostly unchanged from the film in lyrics and feel, though there may be some minute differences. Christy Altomare's voice is slightly different than the original singer's, of course, but it is still a nice rendition.

"Stay, I Pray You"

This new number is gorgeous. Because Anya, Dmitry, Vlad, and the count all love Russia so much, it's a bittersweet song too. Like other songs about homelands--"Edelweiss" from The Sound of Music and "Anatevka" from Fiddler on the Roof, for example--the song provokes whimsical, melancholy feelings about the home and has some lovely group sections.

"We'll Go from There"

Anya, Dmitri, and Vlad sing about their hopes for life in Paris as they ride the train from Russia. A very lovely number with all the characters singing different words at some moments, but everything still coming together. 


This is another Gleb song. I like the music a tad less, especially in the beginning of the song, since I feel it doesn't lend itself well to the performer's voice, whoever that may be (in this case, Ramin Karimloo). Overall, it works well as a pensive decision song for Gleb, as he thinks about letting Anya go. In the end, though, he knows he has to follow her and kill her, or else the new regime is in danger. The end has some really nice belt notes, too.

"Journey to the Past"

Another nice rendition of a classic song from the film.

"Paris Holds the Key (to Your Heart)"

Yet another song from the film. The characters have arrived in Paris and sing about its importance to their mission. Lovely and fun. 

"Crossing a Bridge"

This is a pretty, new number for Anya, but I like "In My Dreams" better. Still, it is a nice song and a good addition to the show.

"Close the Door"

The Dowager Empress and Anastasia's grandmother, Marie, gets her first number here. In it, she has become disillusioned because of all the women falsely claiming to be her beloved granddaughter. This song is sad because it shows this strong woman at a point of giving up, right when her true granddaughter Anya is right around the corner. It is so sad but beautiful.

"Land of Yesterday"

Parts of this song remind me of "Friend Like Me" from Aladdin. It's a bouncy song, not quite as lighthearted as some of the earlier songs, but not quite sad either. The former Russian citizens reflect on their former lives in their homeland, and a very Russian-sounding dance even ensues, sounding similar to Fiddler on the Roof's famous dance scene.

"The Countess and the Common Man"

This song concerns the reunion of former ill-fated lovers, Vlad (played by John Bolton) and Countess Lily (played by Caroline O'Connor), and Vlad's attempt to win Lily back. It's a fun song, with jabs from Lily and Vlad still attempting to woo her.

"In a Crowd of Thousands"

This new number has such a nice build and gorgeous melody. It's another one of my favorites from the new show. In it, Dmitry describes a day when he saw Princess Anastasia during a parade. Anya joins in on the memory, imagining what might have happened, but the moment reveals her true identity when she remembers something Dmitry didn't mention: him bowing to her. It's an important moment because it establishes Anya as the true daughter of the Romanovs. But it's also a nice little romantic song. 

"Meant to Be"

A very quick number, "Meant to Be" has Vlad reflecting on how much of a princess Anya looks, and then realizing that he forgot to factor love into the equation. He concludes that he shouldn't have let Anya and Dmitry dance. It's so short but so lovely. 

"Quartet at the Ballet"

This number starts off up-tempo and happy-sounding as Anya, the Dowager Empress, Dmitry, and Gleb all sing. Anya sings about her future and her grandmother, Dmitry sings about Anya and pushing himself to go through with giving her over to her grandmother. Meanwhile, the Dowager Empress sees Anya and wonders if it could be her granddaughter, but shakes herself out of it, determined to give up hope. Lastly, Gleb struggles with his warring heart and mind, as he has fallen for Anya but feels he must kill her for the sake of the revolution. 

"Everything to Win"

Another nice little number. Not especially noteworthy to me personally, but it's still a good song. Here, Dmitry waits outside while Anya has gone to meet her grandmother. He tries to make himself happy, but is struggling with the reality that he will lose Anya. 

"Once Upon a December (Reprise)"

Similar to the same emotional moment from the movie, this reunion between Anya/Anastasia and her grandmother is so beautiful and heartbreaking in a wonderful way. 

"The Press Conference"

In this fast-paced number, Countess Lily and Vlad hold off crowding reporters who want to know if Anastasia is the real princess. It's a fun, quick number that, I assume, gives the other characters time to change from their ballet outfits. 

"Everything to Win (Reprise)"

In this call back to Dmitry's song, Anya begins to think of him. Though she is happy to have finally found her grandmother, she knows that will lose Dmitry if she goes through with becoming a princess again. 

"Still/The Neva Flows (Reprise)"

I love this number. It is a confrontation between Gleb and Anya where he has come to kill her, trying to uphold his beliefs in the communist regime and honor his father, while Anya torments him with memories about her family's murder. It is extremely intense and has some gorgeous work from both characters. We especially get some nice work from Gleb as we see his intense internal struggle.


Anya decides not to reveal herself as Anastasia, choosing Dmitry instead. Her grandmother and Gleb dispel rumors of her, telling the world she is gone and does not exist anymore, brushing her off as a fairy tale so that she can live in peace with the one she loves. Her grandmother has another moment, though, still thinking about her. I really like how this ties into the historical rumors of Anastasia being alive, trying to make a plausible story of it. A very melancholy, bittersweet moment, but a lovely ending. 

There you go. Just a few simple thoughts on the cast recording. 

Have you listened to any of the songs from this album? What is your favorite?


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