Anastasia Original Broadway Cast Recording Review

Anastasia Original Broadway Cast Recording Review

With nostalgic songs like “Journey to the Past” and “Once Upon a December,” how do the new songs hold up in comparison?  Click the title to read more!

In this review:

  • Summary
  • Advice for the Uncultured
  • Track by Track Review

SUMMARY

Journey to the Past.  Songs make its listeners time travelers, and for me, the Anastasia Original Broadway Cast Recording (OBCR) allows me to go back in time to the end of May. Back to the front row where I was so fortunate to see Anastasia come to life on stage.  In the following paragraphs, I perform an in-depth analysis of each song and highlight my favorite lyrics.

ADVICE FOR THE UNCULTURED

If you have never bought or listened to a cast recording before, I would liken it to a classic animated movie soundtrack.  I specifically say animated movies because for other types of movies like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, the CD simply includes songs that are featured in the movie.  These songs are either popular songs with lyrics or scores that help set the tone for each scene by playing in the background at the appropriate time.

Contrastingly, animated movies like Beauty and the Beast have songs that the characters themselves sing and that play an integral part in helping tell the story.  It’s also worth noting that most if not all of your favorite animated movie scores were written by esteemed Broadway composers:

  • Alan Menken-Little Shop of Horrors, The Little Mermaid (and a bunch of other Disney movies)
  • Lin-Manuel Miranda-Hamilton, Moana
  • Stephen Schwartz-Wicked, The Hunchback of Notre Dame

JUST TO NAME A FEW!

Because of the involvement from Broadway composers, these films lend themselves well to becoming stage adaptations.  Therefore, if you’ve listened to the Frozen soundtrack, you’re likely getting a fairly clear idea of what the Frozen OBCR will sound like when the show premiers on Broadway next year.

The main difference is that Broadway adaptations almost always have additional songs so that the musical can stand on its own as a separate piece from its respective movie.  Lynn Ahrens and Stephen Flaherty who wrote the music for the 1997 Anastasia film composed more than a dozen additional songs for the musical, which will be discussed in the next section.

If you’re thinking of purchasing the Anastasia OBCR, here are a few pros and cons that I’ve compiled to help with your decision:

  1. Pros

    1. Relive the show- The little booklet that comes with the CD includes lyrics, pictures, and descriptions of what’s happening that will help you recall every moment. If you haven’t seen the show yet, listening to the CD is a great way to get an idea of the experience that the original Broadway cast creates in Anastasia.
    2. Listen wherever you go-With a CD, you can play the physical copy in your car or upload it on iTunes if you want the album on your phone. Buying the CD from Amazon Prime is slightly cheaper than buying it directly from iTunes, and it’s nice to have a physical copy of the production photos.  Also, the album is currently not available for streaming, so buying the CD is the most affordable way to listen to the songs on-the-go.
  2. Cons

    1. Beware of spoilers-It may be obvious, but by listening to the album you are guaranteed to spoil what happens in the show. Arguably, it’s nice to be surprised by the new songs and having your first time listening to a song be live.
    2. Spending money-Although there aren’t any plans to make the album available on platforms like Spotify and Apple Music, it still may be a little painful to fork out the money to buy the CD. This is especially true if you’re already paying a fee for streaming.  All I can say is that I’m personally happy with my purchase, and it’s totally up to you to determine if the Anastasia OBCR fits into your budget.

SPOILER WARNING.  In the track by track review, I’ll be referencing the Broadway production (costumes, sets, plot points, etc.)  Even if you have seen the 1997 movie, as I discussed in my review of the musical, the storyline is fairly different.  Ergo, I would strongly recommend watching the musical if you get the chance.  Afterwards, come back to read the rest of the review.  However, if you want to relive the musical and see my thoughts, please feel free to continue to the next section.

TRACK BY TRACK REVIEW

For each song, I will describe the scene (relying on both the CD booklet as well as my memory), share my opinion of the song, and end with my favorite lyrics.  Hope you enjoy!

  1. “Prologue: Once Upon a December” by Nicole Scimeca & Mary Beth Peil

    1. Scene: Before every performance, the audience anxiously waits for the musical to begin while staring at the snow projections on the curtain. Suddenly, the title “Anastasia” is projected on the curtain and Little Anastasia and the Dowager Empress (affectionately called, “Nana”) are revealed to be sitting on a bed.  Fans will instantly recognize this moment as the one where Anastasia receives her beloved music box.
    2. This moment is iconic and important in setting up the close relationship between Anastasia and the Dowager Empress. Nicole Scimeca’s voice is adorable and Mary Beth Peil comes through as the regal grandmother figure.
    3. Favorite lyric: ♪♫♪ And a song someone sings/Once upon a December ♪♫♪
      1. “Once Upon a December” is an overarching theme in the musical. Therefore, I’ll try my best to pick a different favorite lyric each time the song is highlighted in the album.
  1. “A Rumor in St. Petersburg” by John Bolton, Derek Klena, Ramin Karimloo, Christy Altomare & Anastasia Company

    1. Scene: The year is 1927 and Saint Petersburg is now Leningrad. The song establishes a few things: the rumor that Anastasia may still be alive, Dmitry and Vlad as partners in crime, and the meeting of General Gleb Vaganov and Anya, a young street sweeper.
    2. There aren’t too many noticeable changes in this song from the 1997 film other than giving more lines to Dmitry. It is part of an effort to give more of a voice to Dmitry who didn’t do much singing as the animated character “Dimitri.”  I particularly enjoy the entire cast’s commitment to whispering, “Have you heard?  There’s a rumor in St. Petersburg!”
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ It’s the rumor,/The legend,/The mystery! ♪♫♪
      1. Honorable mentions: ♪♫♪ You and I, friend,/Will go down/In history.♪♫♪ (I also like Derek Klena’s emphasis on, “Now everyone is EQUAL.”)
  1. “In My Dreams” by Christy Altomare

    1. Scene: Dmitry and Vlad have been auditioning girls to be the Princess Anastasia when Anya walks in looking for papers out of Russia.
    2. I remember this song being a “wow” moment for me when watching the musical. It was the first time I heard the song, and it’s a perfect way to explain Anya’s past and struggle with amnesia.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ Keeping up my courage,/Foolish as it seems ♪♫♪
      1. Honorable mention: ♪♫♪ Don’t be afraid to go on/Don’t give up hope, come what may ♪♫♪
  1. “Learn to Do It” by John Bolton, Derek Klena & Christy Altomare

    1. Scene: Unlike the animated movie where this song is featured when the trio is well on their way to Paris, “Learn to Do It” is sung in Yusopov Palace when Vlad and Dmitry are teaching Anya how to be Anastasia.
    2. I like how this song features the spunky side of Anya and establishes the tension between her and Dmitry.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ I’m hungry and/I’m frightened/And I’m/only human,/Don’t forget! ♪♫♪
      1. Honorable mentions: There are a number of lyric gems in this song, such as when Dmitry and Vlad sing, “Charming child!/Wrote the book.” I also like when Anya says, “Dessert/And then goodnight?”
  1. “The Neva Flows” by Ramin Karimloo

    1. Scene: The rumor that someone may have found the real Anastasia has made its way to Gleb. This song serves as a warning to Anya about the past and provides insight as to why Gleb is the man he is today.
    2. Ramin Karimloo brings an intensity to his character. This song is a great set-up to one of the most heated scenes towards the end of the musical.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ The Neva flows/A new wind blows,/And soon it will be spring. ♪♫♪
  1. “My Petersburg” by Derek Klena

    1. Scene: Anya and Dmitry have just escaped from a group of bad people. Dmitry takes the opportunity to share his upbringing in the city where he’s lived for his entire life.
    2. This is easily one of my favorite songs in the musical. It’s so catchy.  The upbeat melody coupled with the spinning stage is truly exciting to watch live.  The purple and blue sky with the beautiful Church of the Savior on Spilled Blood is the perfect backdrop.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ Some give up./Some give in./Me, I won’t!/Black and blue-/Welcome to/My Petersburg ♪♫♪
  1. “Once Upon a December” by Christy Altomare

    1. Scene: Anya is able to play the music box that Dmitry wasn’t able to get to work and is haunted by the ghosts of her past.
    2. It’s the second time that the song is featured, and the scene itself is a wonderful interpretation of the ballroom scene in the 1997 movie. I was amazed at the projections all around the Broadhurst.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ Dancing bears,/Painted wings,/Things I almost remember ♪♫♪
  1. “Stay, I Pray You” by Constantine Germanacos, Derek Klena, John Bolton, Christy Altomare & Anastasia Company

    1. Scene: Vlad, Dmitry, and Anya with their fellow Russians are getting ready to leave their homeland and are saying a permanent goodbye to the land that they’ve always known.
    2. When Constantine Germanacos started the song, I was pleasantly surprised. It’s a poignant and unexpected moment in the show.  The audience comes to understand that while those boarding the train are moving on to a better life, it’s still sad because they are leaving their country.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ Harsh and sweet/And bitter to leave it all./ I’ll bless my homeland till I die ♪♫♪
  1. “We’ll Go from There” by Christy Altomare, Derek Klena, John Bolton & Anastasia Company

    1. Scene: Vlad, Dmitry, and Anya have all boarded the train. They sing about their thoughts and concerns about going to Paris.
    2. If I had to describe this song in one word, it would be, “fun.” The song is so peppy especially after the somber “Stay, I Pray You.”  I like how the lyrics overlap but are still comprehensible.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ Keep a grip and/Take a deep breath and ♪♫♪
      1. Honorable mention: ♪♫♪ Oh what a lovely ride/And what a lovely day/For a totally illegal/Lovely getaway… ♪♫♪
  1. “Still” by Ramin Karimloo

    1. Scene: Gleb is getting ready to pursue Anya, but he is torn between duty and compassion.
    2. I came to appreciate this song more after listening to it on the album. The lyrics portray Gleb’s confusion as to how he feels about Anya.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ “I’m innocent,” she cries./But then you see her eyes,/And something in them tells you/That she absolutely lies! ♪♫♪
  1. “Journey to the Past” by Christy Altomare

    1. Scene: Having arrived in Paris, Anya takes a moment to reflect about what awaits her. She’s cautious but hopeful for the future.
    2. This song is one of the most well-known songs from Anastasia. Its placement as the Act I closer is epic and the close-up of the Eiffel Tower is awe-inspiring.  Christy Altomare does an excellent job in giving this song new life and completely owns the stage.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ Home, love, family. ♪♫♪
  1. “Paris Holds the Key (To Your Heart)” by John Bolton, Derek Klena, Christy Altomare & Anastasia Company

    1. Scene: The trio has officially arrived in Paris, and they are dressed to the nines.
    2. Another song from the movie, I would say that “Paris Holds the Key” is the quintessential 1920s song. The dance moves from the entire company is a delight to watch.  However, I find myself missing some of my favorite lyrics from the movie version that were revised for the stage.  Since Dmitry has not yet found out that Anya is Anastasia, the line was changed from “Paris holds the key to her past./Yes, Princess, I’ve found you at last,” to “Paris holds the key to her fate./We won’t have much longer to wait.”   The change is seamless and not that noticeable unless you’re like me and really like this part for Dimitri in the movie.  I will say though that I really like how there’s a connection to “In My Dreams” when Anya sings, “I dreamed of a city/Beyond all compare./It’s hard to believe/That I’m finally there…”
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ Everyone’s a writer!/Painter! Poet!♪♫♪
  1. “Crossing a Bridge” by Christy Altomare

    1. Scene: Anya is on the Pont Alexandre III and feels a connection. She imagines that there is someone waiting for her.
    2. It’s a cute and simple song and a nice tribute to one of the most famous bridges in Paris. Even though this song is pleasant to listen to, I would say that it’s one of the more forgettable songs in Anastasia.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ Halfway between where I’ve been/And where I’m going. ♪♫♪
  1. “Close the Door” by Mary Beth Peil

    1. Scene: Imposter after imposter has come to the Dowager Empress pretending to be her granddaughter Anastasia. This song expresses her frustration and unwillingness to see any more “Anastasias.”
    2. I like how this song conveys how the death of her family members has made the Dowager Empress bitter and skeptical of the world. Mary Beth Peil’s performance is top-notch and the Dowager’s sadness comes through even on the cast recording.  It’s crystal clear as to why this role landed Mary Beth Peil a Tony nomination.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ Summer used to last endlessly ♪♫♪
      1. Honorable mention: ♪♫♪ In my heart, I know/You’re a lie that I’ve waited for ♪♫♪ I like how this line shows how even though the Dowager Empress wants to believe that it’s possible that Anastasia is alive she knows that it’s foolish to dream after so many years have passed.
  1. “Land of Yesterday” by Caroline O’Connor & Anastasia Company

    1. Scene: A group of Russians led by Countess Lily are hanging out at the Neva Club and reminiscing about the good old days in Russia.
    2. Caroline O’Connor commands this scene with such energy and professionalism. It’s a fun song, but I find it to be more impactful when watching the dancing live on stage.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ Let’s live in the land of yesterday,/Live in the grand Imperial heyday. ♪♫♪
      1. Honorable mention: ♪♫♪ The night’s young,/And Russians are mad! So… ♪♫♪
  1. “Meant to Be” by John Bolton

    1. Scene: Vlad appears at the Neva Club to convince Lily to play along with their plan.
    2. I like how the melody from “Meant to Be” is repurposed here to give insight to Vlad and Lily’s history. John Bolton and Caroline O’Connor have undeniable chemistry and are hilarious to watch.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ We tiptoed off to Peterhof/To have a royal fling ♪♫♪
  1. “In a Crowd of Thousands” by Derek Klena & Christy Altomare

    1. Scene: Anya has just had a nightmare and Dmitry rushes in to check on her. He tells her how he wants to believe that she’s the girl he saw in a parade years ago and shares that memory.
    2. This is hands down my favorite of the new songs in Anastasia. It’s one of those songs that I can listen to repeatedly without getting tired of it.  The storytelling in the lyrics are so clear that it’s easy to imagine the parade and “feel as if you were there too.”
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ The parade traveled on. With the sun in my eyes,/You were gone ♪♫♪
  1. “Meant to Be” by John Bolton

    1. Scene: Vlad and Dmitry are ready to attend the ballet when Anya walks in wearing a stunning blue gown.
    2. What I enjoy about this track is that just by listening to the music, you can tell the exact moment when Anya appears in the blue dress. It’s hard to describe, but it’s almost like the instruments make a shimmering noise that mimics how the dress appears as it’s hit by the lights.  The song pays homage to the scene in the animated movie where Dimitri and Anya are dancing on the boat.  The placement seems a little bit forced right between the reveal of the dress and before the ballet, but I’m glad that the song was included anyway.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ I never should have/Let them dance. ♪♫♪
  1. “Quartet at the Ballet” by Christy Altomare, Derek Klena, Mary Beth Peil & Ramin Karimloo

    1. Scene: The title explains it all. Anya is wondering if she’ll finally have a family.  Dmitry wants to ensure that Anya will get what she wants.  The Dowager Empress, spotting Anya from a distance, wonders if that girl could be her granddaughter.  Lastly, Gleb, gun in hand, ponders if he should take his shot.
    2. Seeing ballerinas in Anastasia was yet another one of those pleasant surprises. Their movements were so precise and amazing to watch.  I like how the song combines many of the songs that were heard in the musical: “In My Dreams,” “Once Upon a December,” “Close the Door,” and “The Neva Flows.”
    3. Favorite lyrics: Since it’s a quartet, I’ll give my favorite lyrics from each character in the song.
      1. Anya: ♪♫♪ Everything I’ve wanted/Suddenly so clear!/My past and my future so near ♪♫♪
      2. Dmitry: ♪♫♪ Next to me this frightened girl,/Holding tight as the dancers whirl. ♪♫♪
      3. The Dowager Empress: ♪♫♪ See that girl. Could it be…/Don’t be ridiculous! ♪♫♪
      4. Gleb: ♪♫♪ She’s near at hand,/Yet here I stand,/My heart and mind at war… ♪♫♪
  1. “Everything to Win” by Derek Klena

    1. Scene: Anya is meeting with the Dowager Empress. Meanwhile, Dmitry anxiously waits to see how the conversation went.
    2. This song is another one that grew on me while listening to the album. It’s short and sweet.   Dmitry is realizing that even though both he and Anya are getting what they’ve always wanted it means that they will likely never see each other again.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ I wonder/If our paths/Will ever cross again/The way they/Did when you were eight/And I was ten.” I like the way how these lyrics reference the parade discussed in the song “In a Crowd of Thousands.”
  1. “Once Upon a December (Reprise)” by Christy Altomare & Mary Beth Peil

    1. Scene: Dmitry has successfully convinced the Dowager Empress that she should take another look at Anya. Anya reminds the Dowager Empress of the music box that the Dowager Empress gave her when she was young girl.
    2. This song mirrors the prologue and is a great way to bookend the story.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ Far away,/Long ago,/Glowing dim as an ember ♪♫♪
  1. “The Press Conference” by Caroline O’Connor, John Bolton & Anastasia Company

    1. Scene: Word has gotten out that the real Anastasia has been found. Countess Lily and Vlad are talking to the reporters as they await the arrival of the Dowager Empress.
    2. I like how this song further utilizes and showcases Caroline O’Connor’s talents. I especially like how the words flow and the involvement of the ensemble.  It serves as a throwback to “A Rumor in St. Petersburg,” and like “Once Upon a December” helps in tying the musical into a neat, little bow.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ P-O-P-O-V ♪♫♪ I thoroughly enjoy singing along to this part of the song.
  1. “Everything to Win (Reprise)” by Christy Altomare

    1. Scene: Anya finally has “Home, Love, Family,” but like Dmitry she realizes that her heart is in a different place.
    2. I like how this scene connects the two love interests.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ Con man and princess/Get their wish and/Fairytale comes true! ♪♫♪
  1. “Still/ The Neva Flows (Reprise)” by Ramin Karimloo & Christy Altomare

    1. Scene: Gleb is forced to choose whether to kill or Anya or to let her live.
    2. The chemistry and intensity between Ramin and Christy are what make this track. I especially like the part where Anya and Gleb yell, “I am my father’s daughter,” and “I am my father’s son,” respectively.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ For Russia, my beauty,/What choice but simple duty?/We have the past to bury,/Anya… ♪♫♪
      1. Honorable mention: ♪♫♪ A REVOLUTION IS A SIMPLE THING ♪♫♪
  1. “Finale” by Mary Beth Peil, Ramin Karimloo & Anastasia Company

    1. Scene: The Dowager Empress and Gleb make their announcements to the public. They both say that Anastasia was just a dream in an attempt to put an end to the rumors.
    2. I like how “Once Upon a December” is repeated here once again to tie everything all together.
    3. Favorite lyrics: ♪♫♪ Things my heart used to know…/Once upon a December! ♪♫♪

There you have it!  If you’ve made it to the end of the review, I applaud you.  Until next time, best of luck on your journey.

Thanks for reading!

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