Once Upon This December

By Sarah and Myah Schultz

Anastasia, direct from Broadway, is a decadent treat for the eyes and the ears. This production’s lush score, fabulous costumes, striking lighting, and brilliant scenic design blend seamlessly into a spectacle that won’t be soon forgotten.

The visual aspects of this production are truly stunning. The moment the show begins, the scenic and lighting design, (done by Alexander Dodge and Donald Holder, respectively) transport the audience to imperial Russia with a backdrop of falling snow lifelike enough to stand up to a Minnesotan’s scrutiny.

Soon after, the fiery explosions that follow “The Last Dance of the Romanovs” inspire palpable terror, and leave an aftertaste of devastation on the tongue.

Later, as Anya (Kyla Stone) sings “Once Upon a December” ghostly dancers glide over the walls in a display that is breathtaking and haunting in equal measure. Dodge and Holder must be commended for their extremely affecting design work.

Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Choreography by Bill Burns works in concert with the scenic, lighting, and costume design to create a particularly jubilant moment at the top of act two. As the company sings the final strains of “Paris Holds the Key (To Your Heart),” projected fireworks explode above them. With each colorful burst, a different woman is thrown into the air, limbs outstretched. Each flying actor’s dress matches her corresponding firework, to completely dazzling effect.

Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Several scenes later, Bryan Seastrom as Vlad and Madeline Raube as Countess Lily captivate with their electric chemistry and impeccable comedic instincts. In “The Countess and the Common Man,” the characters come alive, they are rollicking and compelling. Seastrom and Raube play off of each other perfectly. Their exaggerated antics could easily read as phony and forced, but they don’t. Vlad and Lily shudder with excitement, fan themselves desperately, cling to each other feverishly, and collapse in exhaustion, and it feels completely authentic.

Another standout performer, Ceron Jones, steals the few scenes in which he features. Count Leopold is an exiled aristocrat obsessed with wealth and status. He is a trifling villain, and impossible not to love. He shamelessly self promotes, resents Anya fervently, and exercises no restraint. He is a hilarious breath of fresh air.

Nearing the finale, “Quartet at the Ballet” is visually and aurally stunning. Up center stage, Lauren Teyke, Taylor Stanger, and Dakota Hoar dance the principal roles of Swan Lake against a dreamy backdrop. Opulent red velvet box seats frame the ballet downstage. The dancers demand visual focus while Anya, Demitri (Sam McLellan), the Dowager Empress (Gerri Weagraff), and Gleb (Brandon Delgado) sing a gorgeous quartet. Stephen Flaherty’s melodic lines weave tightly and intricately around each other, mirroring the lyrical choreography.

Overflowing with exquisite detail, Anastasia is truly a treat for all ages. Experience the magic now at the Orpheum Theatre.

Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Show dates are Tuesday, Dec. 7 to Sunday, Dec. 19, 2021 at the historic Orpheum Theatre. Performance times are Tuesday through Thursday at 7:30pm, Friday at 8pm, Saturday at 2pm & 8pm, and Sunday at 1pm & 6:30pm.

For tickets visit the State Theatre Box Office (805 Hennepin Ave., Minneapolis), call (800) 982-2787, or visit HennepinTheatreTrust.org. 

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