A reading was held in 2012, featuring Kelli Barret as Anya (Anastasia), Patrick Page as Vladimir, Angela Lansbury as the Empress Maria and Aaron Tveit as Dimitri. A workshop was held on June 12, 2015 in New York City workshop, and included Elena Shaddow as Anna, Ramin Karimloo as Gleb Vaganov, a new role, and Douglas Sills as Vlad.
The original stage production of Anastasia premiered at Hartford Stage in Hartford, Connecticut on May 13, 2016 (previews), with direction by Darko Tresnjak and choreography by Peggy Hickey, and starring Christy Altomare and Derek Klena as Anya and Dmitry, respectively.
The musical will open on Broadway at the Broadhurst Theatre on March 23, 2017 in previews, officially on April 24, 2017, featuring most of the original Hartford principal cast.
Director Tresnjak explained: "We’ve kept, I think, six songs from the movie, but there are 16 new numbers. We’ve kept the best parts of the animated movie, but it really is a new musical." The musical also adds characters not in the film. Additionally, Act 1 is set in Russia and Act 2 in Paris, “which was everything modern Soviet Russia was not: free, expressive, creative, no barriers,” according to McNally.
Note: This synopsis is from the 2016 pre-Broadway run and is subject to change when the show opens on Broadway.
Saint Petersburg: 1907-1917
In 1907 St. Petersburg, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorvna is preparing to move to Paris. Her youngest granddaughter, Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna Romanov, is saddened that her “nana” is moving and begs Maria to take her to Paris with her. The Dowager Empress comforts her by promising her that she’ll live in Paris with her when she’s older, going to the ballet every night and walking on Pont Alexandre III, a bridge named after Anastasia’s deceased grandfather. Before she leaves, the Dowager Empress gives Anastasia a special music box that plays their lullaby (“Once Upon a December-Prologue”). Anastasia chases after her nana as she departs, but her father, Nicholas, the Tsar of Russia, distracts her by dancing and pretending to hold a ball. Ten years later, Anastasia is now a beautiful teenager, who is celebrating an annual ball with her parents, her three older sisters, Olga, Maria, & Tatiana, and her little brother, Alexei. But, the royal family's happy lives come to an end when the Bolsheviks invade their palace. The Romanovs attempt to escape, but end up being captured off-stage. As they escape, Anastasia leaves them behind to retrieve her music box, but gets caught by a bomb. The Romanov family is confirmed to be dead and the Dowager Empress mourns her loss (“Dance of the Romanovs”).
Leningrad (Saint Petersburg): 1927
Gleb Vaganov, a general for the Bolsheviks who now control Russia, announces to the gloomy Russians that the now-poor Saint Petersburg has been renamed Leningrad, and he promises a bright and peaceful future. The Russians protest this change, but are uplifted by a rumor that Anastasia may have survived the Bolshevik attacks. Two wanted con men, the handsome young Dmitry and an ex-member of the Royal Court named Vlad Popov, hear the rumors and brainstorm “the biggest con in history”, in which they will groom a naive girl to become Anastasia in order to extract money from the Dowager Empress (“A Rumor in St. Petersburg"). Behind Gleb’s back, Dmitry and Vlad hold unsuccessful auditions for the scheme at the theater in the abandoned Yusupov Palace. Just as they are about to give up hope of finding a suitable imposter, a young street sweeper named Anya walks in to ask Dmitri about paperwork to get tickets for Paris. Vlad and Dmitry dismiss her, but Anya vaguely remembers that she was at the theater long ago and talks of a time when she saw a play there. Dmitry and Vlad become fascinated as Anya explains that she doesn’t remember who she is and has very little memories of her past (“In My Dreams”). Amazed by her memory loss and resemblance to Anastasia, they select Anya as their impostor.
At the capitol, government workers sort through rumors and reports for any that require further action (“The Rumors Never End”). Three bitter actresses report Anya, Dmitry, and Vlad's plot to Gleb, but he dismisses them. One of the actresses declares to a doubtful employee that the scheme is real. Gleb warns them to never claim the truth, for only he knows whether Anastasia is dead or alive. As a boy, he lived across from Ipatiev House, where the Romanovs were killed, and he heard the execution from his house. His father, who participated in the execution, died from shame afterwards. Despite his guilt, Gleb insists that he did something honorable and he must live out his legacy (“A Simple Thing”).
Back at the palace, Vlad and Dmitry groom a feisty Anya to become Anastasia through history, dining, and dancing lessons. Months later, Anya is poised to meet the Dowager Empress (“Learn to Do It”) when she is arrested in the streets and turned over to Gleb. While flirting with Anya, he observes that she has “the Romanov eyes” and might be Anastasia after all. He lets her go with a warning that her eyes could give her away (“Anya”).
Anya reunites with Dmitry and they are attacked by his old con partners, whom they must fight off (“The Neva Flows”). Dmitry is impressed by her fighting skills and she naively questions his toughness. Dmitry shows Anya his favorite spot in St. Petersburg and tells her how he survived the streets as a kid (“My Petersburg”). He also explains that his father revolted against the Bolsheviks and was killed in one of their camps. He begins to trust her enough to show her a broken music box, unaware it is the memento that was given to Anastasia by the Dowager Empress. Anya winds the box and begins to vaguely remember her past, including a royal family ball many years ago (“Once Upon a December”). In return, Anya gives Dmitry her most prized possession, a diamond that was found sewn to her dress when she was discovered as a girl (“In My Dreams-Reprise”). They reunite with Vlad and Anya gives them the diamond to obtain tickets to Paris.
At the train station, Count Ipolitov recognizes Anya as Anastasia and kisses her hand. As they board the train to Paris, Count Ipolitov leads everyone in a prayer of farewell to Russia (“Stay, I Pray You”). During the train ride, Anya, Dmitry, and Vlad reflect on what they hope to accomplish in Paris: Anya hoping to discover that she is actually Anastasia, Dmitry’s desire for the money, and Vlad hoping to win back Countess Lily Malevsky-Malevitch ("Sophie" in the 1997 animated film), the Dowager Empress’s lady-in-waiting with whom he had an affair (“We’ll Go From There”). Count Ipolitov is fatally shot by the police for illegally boarding the train. Triggered by the gunfire, Anya experiences an emotional breakdown. The police then go after everyone on the train, prompting Anya, Vlad, and Dmitry to jump off.
As they travel across Russia by foot, the head general of the Bolsheviks, Gorlinsky, orders Gleb to follow Anya and kill her (“Traveling Sequence”). Anya, Vlad, and Dmitry finally arrive in France, and as they travel to Paris, Anya summons the courage to continue on and hopes that she will finally discover who she is (“Journey to the Past”).
Anya, Vlad, and Dmitry arrive in Paris and are swept up by the sounds, sights, and celebrities of the city, including Josephine Baker, Pablo Picasso, Gertrude Stein, and Coco Chanel (“Paris Holds the Key (to Your Heart)”). When Vlad and Dmitry go off on their own, Anya visits the Pont Alexandre III bridge and feels a strong connection to it (“Crossing a Bridge”).
Now a bitter, elderly woman, the Dowager Empress reads the letters of various Anastasia impersonators and, heartbroken, gives up hope of finding Anastasia (“Closing the Door”). As Gleb arrives in Paris, Lily parties at the Neva Club, where rich and noble Russians reminisce about the old Russia (“Land of Yesterday”). Lily is reunited with Vlad, with whom she is angry for stealing her jewelry. The two rekindle their scandalous romance and Vlad convinces her to let Anya meet the Dowager Empress at the ballet the next night (“The Countess and the Common Man”).
At the hotel, Anya has a nightmare about her family and the execution (“A Nightmare”). Dmitry comforts her and recounts a story of how he bowed to Anastasia at a parade as a young boy. Anya vividly remembers this, and the two realize that Anya is indeed the Grand Duchess Anastasia (“In a Crowd of Thousands”).
At the ballet, Vlad suspects that Anya and Dmitry are falling in love and is heartbroken that they can never be together (“I Never Should Have Let Them Dance”). During the performance of Swan Lake, Anya sees the Dowager Empress and remembers her. The Dowager Empress also sees Anya and recognizes her, but clings to denial. Dmitry and Gleb (who is about to shoot Anya) reflect on their romantic feelings for Anya. As Gleb is about to pull the trigger, the applause from the audience disturbs him and he flees (“Quartet at the Ballet”).
After the ballet, Lily also recognizes Anya as Anastasia and immediately takes her to the Dowager Empress. Dmitry is anxious about the meeting and realizes that he is in love with Anya, but knows he must let her go to her family (“Everything to Win”). Anya leaves the meeting enraged, having learned from the Dowager Empress that Vlad and Dmitry intended to use her in their scheme. As she storms off, Dmitry waits for the Dowager Empress. Marie coldly dismisses him off, but Dmitry disrespectfully stops her. He begs her to see Anya and when she refuses again, he damns her and Russia. Impressed by Dmitry’s courage to stand up to her, she agrees to see Anya.
At their hotel, Anya stops her packing to speak with Marie. She is shocked by the Dowager Empress’s cruelty, asserting that she isn’t the nana that Anya remembered. The Dowager Empress angrily questions Anya about her past and the Romanov Family, but Anya compels her to reflect on the person she has become over last twenty years. Anya suddenly remembers the night that the Dowager Empress left her for Paris. When Anya produces the music box and sings the lullaby, the Dowager Empress finally realizes that Anya is Anastasia and the two embrace, now reunited after twenty years (“Once Upon a December-Reprise”).
A press conference is held the next morning, where Vlad and Lily try to fend off the hungry reporters (“The Press Conference”). Before appearing in public, Anya expresses misgivings about her future life as a princess. The Dowager Empress notices her anxiety and insists that no matter what she chooses, they’ll be together. Anya runs off to think and realizes that she is in love with Dmitry, and decides that she must go after him (“Everything to Win-Reprise”). As she turns to leave, Anya sees that Gleb has slipped in and locked them in the room. She realizes why he is there and Gleb says that he must kill her to complete his father’s mission. Anya now clearly remembers the day her family was killed and, without fear, taunts him to kill her so that she can be with her family. Overcome with emotion and not willing to bear the shame of his father, Gleb is unable to kill Anya (“A Simple Thing-Reprise”). He decides to tell the Bolsheviks that the rumor of Anastasia having survived was a hoax, and Anya and Gleb call a truce.
Vlad, Lily, and the palace staff search for Anya and begin to question whether she was really Anastasia. The Dowager Empress is joyful, knowing that Anya is now where she belongs, and announces that the rumors of Anastasia will now cease. Anya finds Dmitry at Pont Alexandre III, where they declare their love for one other. The couple leave Paris together as the spirits of the Romanovs celebrate the life that Anya and Dmitry will have together (“In A Crowd of Thousands-Reprise/Finale”).
In adapting the film into a live stage musical, the following significant changes are made:The film's antagonist, the evil sorcerer Grigori Rasputin and his side Bartok the Bat have been cut and replaced with General Officer Gleb Vaganov for the stage musical.
Anya's companion pet dog Pooka has been removed.
Vlad's love interest / countess has had a name change. In the 1997 film, she was named Sophie and in the stage musical, she was renamed Lily.
In the film, Anya is 17 the whole time. In the stage musical, Anya is only 17 in the prologue. For the rest of the show, she's 27.
In the film, Anya was given necklace by the Dowager Empress as a young girl that says "Together In Paris". It's excluded from the stage musical, but the music box remains.
In the film, the lullaby is "Once Upon a December", but with different lyrics. In the stage musical, the lullaby is the complete version of "Once Upon a December". However, in a early draft of the movie, the lullaby was going to be the complete version of "Once Upon a December".
The Prologue telling the story about how the Romanovs got executed is told differently. In the film, Rasputin returns to the Palace for revenge after being banished by Nicholas II for treason. Feeling betrayed, Rasputin sells his soul in exchange for an unholy reliquary, which he uses to place a curse on the Romanov family, sparking the Russian Revolution. In the stage musical, the Bolsheviks break into the Palace during a ball tearing everything down and killing the Romanovs.
The introduction of Anastasia (as Anya the Orphan) is different between the film and the stage musical. In the film, Anya leaves a rural orphanage which is run by the inconsiderate owner "Comrade" Phlegmenkoff (who was also cut from the musical) where she grew up, still suffering from amnesia. Phlegmenkoff sends Anya away to work at local fish factory. In the stage musical, we first see Anya as an Orphan working as a street sweeper getting scared by the sound of a truck backfiring.
The Train escape scene is told differently in the film and the stage musical. In the film, Anya, Dimitry, and Vlad hide in the luggage car after finding out they got the wrong passports. While hiding there, Rasputin's green minions cause chaos keeping the train moving with no driver. The green minions destroy a bridge. Anya, Dmitry, and Vlad try to stop the train but end up jumping off just in time before the train falls into the icy river. In the stage musical, Anya, Dmitry, and Vlad jump off the train right as they find out they got the wrong passports and the police officers were coming on board throwing passengers with wrong passports off the train and shooting them.
The song "Journey to the Past" comes at a different point in the film and stage musical. In the film, the song introduces the character of Anya. In the stage musical, the song is performed in the end of the first act as Anya, Dmitry, and Vlad arrive in Paris.
The song "In the Dark of the Night" was removed from the stage musical.
The song "Learn to Do It" comes at a different point in the film and stage musical. In the 1997 film, the song is performed while Anya, Dmitry, and Vlad are traveling to Paris. In the stage musical, the song is performed while Anya, Dmitry, and Vlad are at the old Palace.
The song "Paris Hold the Key (To Your Heart)" comes at a different point in the film and the stage musical. In the film, it is sung by the character of Sophie (renamed Lily for the stage version) taking Anya, Dmitry, and Vlad on a sightseeing tour and shopping for the Ballet. In the stage musical, the song is the opening of Act 2 which Anya, Dmitry, and Vlad do sightseeing and shopping on their own.
The Ballet that Anya, Dmitry, and Vlad goes to see are different. In the film, they go see a ballet production of Cinderella. In the stage musical, they go see Swan Lake.
The revealing that Anya is really Anastasia is told differently in the film and stage musical. In the film, Anya remembers a boy working in the old Palace opened a secret passageway in her old bedroom to help her escape from the attack. In the stage musical, Anya remembers bowing down to a boy at a parade. The boy in both the stage musical and film happens to be Dmitry.
Anya's nightmare is told differently in the film and stage musical. In the film, the nightmare happens on a ship that Anya, Dmitry, and Vlad take en route to Paris. Dmitry's green minions cause Anya to nearly sleepwalk overboard and having visions of her family. Dmitry rescues her after Pooka the dog wakes his up. In the stage musical, the nightmare happens in Anya's hotel room in Paris. The ghosts of the Romanovs keep asking her if she knows who she is and has a flashback of the execution.
Dmitry begging for Marie to see Anya is told differently in the film and stage film. In the film, Dmitry tried to make an introduction in the Marie's box at the Opera house, however she refuses to listen thinking there's another "fake Anastasia". Anya overhears the conversation outside the door. Heartbroken, Anya slaps Dmitry in the face and storms off. To not give up, Dmitry kidnaps the Marie taking her to the hotel where Anya is staying in and reveals the music box. Surprised to see the old music box, Marie changes her mind and goes to see Anya. In the stage musical, Lily takes Anya to see Marie in her box seat at the opera house. However, Marie tells Anya that she has been used by Dmitry and Vlad. Anya storms off in tears. However to not give up. Dmitry waits for Marie leaving her box seat and disrespectfully stops her. The Dowager Empress refuses to see Anya causing Dmitry to damn her and Russia. Impressed by Dmitry's strong courage, Marie goes to see Anya.
2016 Hartford Stage Production
Titles of songs, which appeared in the 1997 animated film are in bold.