And that’s when I came upon it: Anastasia.
Don’t act like you don’t remember this 1997 classic or deny that you at 16 and your friends “accidentally” bought tickets to see it in theaters:
The story of the mysterious last princess of Russia complete with animation and the ever so historically accurate talking bat found itself being lost over the years among bigger budget Disney productions of talking toys, talking insects, talking cars, and even talking snowmen.
But that all changed this week when it was announced that Anastasia is coming to the Great White Way this Spring. Heart, and my bank account, don’t fail me now.
So, while everyone else is still trying to sell their organs to see Hamilton or risk going bankrupt for even a third balcony aisle seat for any Broadway production, get ready to channel your inner
teenager child for Anastasia on Broadway.
You know what best complements the sadness and despair of the Russian people at the turn of the twentieth century?
By decree of Putin, they must do this on the hour, every hour.
A catchy pop tune. Especially if that pop tune is sung by Richard Marx and Donna Lewis. Because whenever I think about Richard Marx, Communist Russia is the first thing that comes to mind. Obviously.
But if we have learned anything from musical cartoon features is that each one has that one “song.” The showstopper that sparks a pop singer remake, plays incessantly no matter where you go, weasels its way into your brain, and you find yourself unconsciously humming along during the most inopportune times – like a staff meeting. If you have no idea what I mean, start signing “Let It Go” and see what happens.
You wish this would happen.
For Anastasia, it was “Journey to the Past,” a song that was destined to be performed on stage or at least at talent recitals across America.
The song lyrics read like an self affirmation approved by Oprah and placed on $20 mugs from her official store:
Heart, don’t fail me now!
Courage, don’t desert me!
Don’t turn back now that we’re here.
People always say
Life is full of choices.
No one ever mentions fear!
Or how the world can seem so vast
On a journey … to the past.
And who could forget the Aaliyah version complete with green screen graphics you now find in your iMovie app? Answer: pretty much anyone who doesn’t have a pop culture sponge of a mind.
Is there anyone else hoping that they have someone wearing coveralls and a fur coat for the Broadway production? No? Just me?
History Be Damned
Since the popularity of Hamilton, it only makes sense for there to be a rush to bring the life and times of historical figures to musical theater. But since no one liked my idea of Carrie Nation: A Wasted Nation, I guess Anastasia is fine.
But a few college world history classes later, I find that the real life version and the cartoon version of the last Romanov princess are just a tad bit off. Okay, make that so far off that if they were to show this in public school history classes, our students would be royally screwed.
Sorry to say that Rasputin, the film’s antagonist, wasn’t a decaying corpse living in purgatory trying to claim the Russian throne with the aid of a bat. I know. I’m disheartened by that, too. Also, the real Anastasia’s body was discovered, riddled by bullet holes and bayonet strikes. However, that doesn’t really translate well to a G rated movie or toy manufacturers unless your goal is to put your child through therapy until their 30s.
But the point of Anastasia isn’t to develop your knowledge of Russian history and wow your comrades at your next themed party: White Russians and Stroganoff. It was about finding who you really are and getting your happily ever after.
A dancing bat is just a bonus.