Broadway Across Canada at the NAC continues to wow with Anastasia

Broadway Across Canada at the National Arts Centre has impressed me three times in two months. When Hamilton finally touched down, after a two-year delay, it wowed audiences in Ottawa as it has in every other market. Dear Evan Hansen was up next to remind people that musical theatre is for everyone. While I was catching my breath from those two performances, in strolls Anastasia.

Now a little history, I was familiar with the music from Hamilton and Dear Evan Hansen; I listened to it regularly, so when I finally saw the shows, I knew the songs and pretty much their exact order in the performance.

Not so with Anastasia; I didn’t know what the show was about; I didn’t know the songs, the characters, anything. ‘I’m in the dark here!’, as Al Pacino's Academy Award-winning Lt. Col Frank Slade said in Scent of a Woman.  

The musical Anastasia is based on a movie from the 90s by the same name, with music and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty and a book by Terrence McNally. 

Set in the early 1900s, it tells the story of the Grand Duchess Anastasia. We meet her as a child and see the very strong bond she has with her grandmother, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna. The relationship is very sweet, but it’s a sad occasion as the grandmother is leaving Russia for Paris.

Anastasia’s family home is attacked, forcing her to flee Russia. On her flight to freedom, she meets Dmitri and his mate, who help her get to Paris. But do they know who she is?

This is a beautiful show. I am extremely impressed by the set design and the seamless transitions between scenes. The crew deserves much recognition for the amazing sets and how truly immersed I felt whether the stage was set in Russia, Paris, or any of the other locations.

Veronica Stern portrays Anya (Anastasia), and she is fantastic in the lead role. Her powerful voice shook the National Arts Centre. I am very impressed with her portrayal of the Duchess.

This is very much an ensemble piece. Willem Butler, who plays Dmitri, is also compelling in his role, as are the other supporting cast members. Madeline Raube, who plays Countess Lily, inserts some great comedic moments into the show.

The show even includes a ballet moment which left the audience delivering extended applause. The performance is very well choreographed, and the dance numbers are delivered flawlessly.

Normally, you wouldn’t want to follow such Broadway heavyweights as Hamilton or Dear Evan Hansen, but it’s as if the cast and company of Anastasia collectively said, ‘Don’t worry, we’ve got this,’ and they did — You shouldn’t miss this show!

I felt most fortunate to see this visually stunning and very entertaining Broadway Across Canada performance.

Grade: B+

Anastasia is at the NAC through September 4th.

Photo: Evan Zimmerman for Murphymade