Anastasia: The Musical opened in Toronto recently for the festive season, and I'm struggling a bit with how to write about it.
On the one hand, Anastasia: The Musical is an entertaining production brilliantly worth going to see with your favourite musical-theatre-fan niece named Lauren. My own niece Lauren and I enjoyed our night at the show (courtesy of Mirvish Productions), despite her hazy recollection of the animated film upon which it's based, and my never having seen it.
In fact, my reference is the often-on-TV 1956 film Anastasia, starring the incredibly beautiful Ingrid Bergman, austerely handsome Yul Brynner (I had such a crush on him when I was a kid), and the incomparable Helen Hayes. For her role as Anastasia, Bergman won an Academy Award, the second of three she'd win over the course of her career.
Aside: interesting to note how much younger the characters became for the Disney movie and musical, no? And how movie trailers have changed over the years! I marvel every time I see trailers from this era.
anastasia: the musical and eyebrows
On the other hand, the beautygeek in me wants very much to talk about BROWS. Yep, eyebrows, women's brows specifically, and how they're handled makeup-wise in Anastasia: The Musical to illustrate character.
As you likely know, actors in stage productions often play more than one role, especially if they're in the ensemble. I couldn't help but notice that when the ensemble played aristocrats, they all had nicely defined brows as per the era (1927). But when they played Russian peasants, the women had dramatically thin, dark, drawn-on brows to make them look more weathered and severe. 🧐😏 If that's not a beauty tip from the stage, I don't know what is.
I wish I had a photo of the scene – it features the number "A Rumour in St. Petersburg." But in the video below, at 0:45, you'll see brows similar to the thin, harsh brows I mean, and they make the character look... aged, wouldn't you say? You'll have to go see for yourself whenever Anastasia: The Musical hits your city. Bonus: along with beautiful sets and costumes, you'll enjoy a cheeky number starring two supporting characters, Countess Lily – the character at 0:45 in the video – and her former paramour, Vlad. (I'm not sure the scene was appropriate for my 14-year-old niece to see, but Lauren rolled her eyes and laughed at me when I mostly-jokingly said so.)
a few facts about anastasia: the musical
1) The story is based on rumours that the real Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna of Russia survived the execution of her entire family in 1918. (She did not. That there were Anastasia imposters, however, is true.)
2) Anastasia, the 1956 theatrical release, is one of three movies starring Yul Brynner that were made into animated films. The other two were The King & I and The Ten Commandments (that animated movie was instead called The Prince of Egypt)
3) The musical production is loosely based on the 1997 Disney animated movie starring the voices of Meg Ryan and John Cusak. The songs for the movie were written by Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty who also wrote the lyrics and music respectively for the musical. "Journey to the Past" was nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar that year. And, according to Wikipedia, Ahrens and Flaherty wrote "Once Upon a December" during a heatwave.
4) The musical opened on Broadway in 2017 and was nominated for two Tony Awards.
5) Four-time Tony Award-winning playwright Terrence McNally wrote the book for the musical. As did Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty, he won a Tony for Ragtime in 1998. (I worked for Livent Inc. when Ragtime, a Livent original, began production and opened on Broadway; we were gutted when it lost the Best Musical Tony Award to The Lion King.)
6) The character named Gleb, a general in the Bolshevik army, is a new character created for the musical as the key antagonist (instead of the Rasputin character in the animated film), but also to add romantic tension love-triangle-styles.
7) In Toronto, Anastasia: The Musical is playing at the Ed Mirvish Theatre, which used to be the Pantages Theatre back in the days it was owned by Livent Inc.
Anastasia: The Musical is at the Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto through to January 12, 2020. Rush tickets ($39 each; limit two per customer) are available as of 9 AM the day of each performance via www.mirvish.com/rush-tickets, by phone at 416-872-1212 or 1-800-461-3333, or in-person at the Ed Mirvish Theatre at 244 Victoria Street. Note: rush tickets to midweek matinees become available at 9 AM the day before the performances.
For more info, click through to mirvish.com.
over to you
Do you have thoughts on thin brows vs full brows and how they change a face?
Have you seen Anastasia: The Musical? Or the Disney animated movie? Or the film starring Ingrid Bergman and Yul Brynner?
Are you a fan of musical theatre? If you haven't seen it, is Anastasia: The Musical something that interests you?
Do you know who Isabella Rossellini is?
The Anastasia on Broadway Music Box in the opening image is about $140 CAD at the theatre and $125 USD via anastasiabroadwayshop.com.
*anastasiabroadwayshop.com is a non-affiliate link