Firstly, while I am known to become quite impassioned by acts that impress me and give rise to my most emotional edges, I say without overestimation that seeing the Broadway Musical production of “Anastasia” this past Saturday changed my life in a way that began by impressing my young self when I first saw it on television. My sister and I would know all the songs and sang them theatrically every time we were reminded of the movie. I used to call my own dog Sugar, “Pooka,” and didn’t realize where I had come up with the pet name for a while.  I swayed to the music, watched it during Christmas break in my lonely dorm room in college, playing the sound as loud as my television would permit, and crying along the way. The beauty of the movie was transformed into something other-worldy in this Broadway show… I think my 5 or 6 year old self wouldn’t have stopped talking about this show if she’d seen it now. I’m lucky at my almost-doctoral age (haha) I can attempt to process through these words on this blog. I am a storm of passion when trying to frame these moments and understand where my perspective falls among all these feelings.

********The broadway musical “Anastasia” stars Christy Altomare as Anya, Derek Klena as Dmitry, John Bolton as Vlad, Ramin Karimloo as Gleb, Caroline O’Connor as Lucy and Mary Beth Peil as Nona/the Dowager Empress. I more than highly recommend that you see this musical at the Broadhurst theatre in NYC if you have the means to. It may be one of the best decisions you’ll have made.*******

When I was 5 or 6, I understandably did not realize the full impact of what it means to know who oneself was, and further than even that existential question, to know where one belongs. Before seeing this show now, as a 24 year old college almost-graduate-student of pharmacy, I knew it would be something spectacular because it held the brilliant songs that I’ve loved so dearly and brought them new life. And the new songs… my goodness, this is the only soundtrack I’ve ever heard in which I adore every single song and the movement of these pieces.. literally and within its emotional meaning, I was moved (without pause) throughout this experience.

I fell in love with the entire cast and their envelopment of the heart of the story.. they also have enough talent to drown the streets of New York with emotions for years to come in one show. I can’t even describe it properly, I was so blown away haha this poor metaphor will have to do for the moment.

The show takes you everywhere on the journey and the effects and sets create breathtaking moments of awe. The overlooking peaks and trees along with the well known from the movie swirling fantasy of dancers from once upon a December… the design from St. Petersburg to Paris is something fantastical and gives me the feeling of wanderlust & the ability to move towards my future; exploring the world and exploring myself. The characters are illustrated so completely by the dress and fashions. Everything is so on point from my childhood memories when my jaw dropped whenever characters were re-introduced somewhere new and new fashions. The music styles and visions captured within the production took me along with the characters.. it was exhilarating.

-I want to point out some of the incredible, quotable, moments whence I was brought to tears and knew it because the stage started to become blurry and I had to blink hahaha:

“But I still have this faith in the truth of my dreams..”

“How do you become the person you’ve forgotten you ever were?”

“Far away, long ago, glowing dim as an ember, things my heart used to know, things it yearns to remember.”

“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.”

“Years of dreams just can’t be wrong.”

“My heart and mind at war. The times must change, the world must change, and love is not what revolution’s for.”

First of all, on their own, this writing is so much deeper than the surface of a lost princess and an immense class division between royalty and the people.

The idea that the key to fate is finding where one belongs and using each step to put more and more trust into the path you are walking.. Anya was terrified and moving forward all along with her belief that she knows that there is someone and something out there for her that she will be able to find. Her motivation was not of success or career or monetary gain, it was of filling her life with the presence of being wanted by someone else and knowing she is wanted back. Her strength lies in her fortitude and unwillingness to relent despite her lack of knowledge of her own self and her trust in the world. She continues to imagine forward and for me, that is something truly spectacular to see someone living their life. Every step was about moving toward a goal and the recoil was only a temporary setback and of fear. The idea of keeping the potentials for achieving your dreams, even if you don’t know that your dreams are real, it is the same sort of mentality you would imagine innovators of the world and of those whom accomplish things never accomplished. Through all conflict and through all struggles of the mind, they did not falter in their end goal of getting somewhere that they didn’t see quite clearly, but believed they could get to. It is illogical and necessary. It is inspiring and unrealistic. It is the most brave way you can live your life and reach your dreams, in my perspective, what a force you must be to live in a way that holds faith to your decisions and who you trust.

This young woman, Anya, with nothing but some faint memories pushing so forward with the strength of will and attitude that the richest people and people who want for nothing in family and career and safety may not ever understand and have.. The Dowager Empress in her dreams is pained by the lack of result and resolve that she has not been able to achieve in waiting for Anastasia yet she allows herself once more to be open to her own hope. Hope is the defining motivator of all of the characters in this production and it is so strongly pushed forward with use of memories adding to the weight of choosing hope over settling in a life ruled by fear. Opening up to others and showing true vulnerability (even if just to yourself), holds the largest reward.

Hope, vulnerability, and pressing on with your dreams in life, those sentiments of the musical hit me every single moment. There was not an ingenuous moment the entire time. Even during the curtain call, it was so blatantly apparent of the emotions behind the amazing actors. Christy got emotional at her call and my family and I cried at her earnestness and show of being touched. To see willfully shared feelings given by the cast through their characters and afterwards, it was an honor. The facades within our daily relationships make those moments of truth and vulnerability shine brighter than most memories we have and hold onto. Our memory works to retain the most impressions and forget the moments that lack the evocation of strong emotions and thoughts. I remember this entire play and the night afterwards, could picture almost every bit in my mind. I didn’t even know if I had slept much that night because cycling through the musical and everything else confused my clock. I felt so well rested and revitalized that next morning nonetheless, and absolutely attributable to the production. Every word was so carefully written and every note with meaning, to live with such purpose even in the ideology of how this production was created… nothing short of remarkable.

Maybe others could think these messages are too subtle or outdated, or that because the lack of Tony nods, this production is less worthy than others. While art is so hard to compare by definition of art as an expression interpretable in countless ways, I must express on my own honor and from my own experiences, that I have never been quite as affected by one show as Anastasia. I hope to live my own life, as I start to look for my own path into a pharmaceutical career and with the weighty title of being a doctor of pharmacy, learning what my role is and where I belong, choosing to learn fast and allow myself the vulnerability to fail, knowing that through my own form of fortitude, I can be closest to my dreams in allowing the faith to continue on and be open to others. I am no daughter predestined to make any specific decisions, as Gleb was burdened and felt was fated to do, money status does not have to have part in my life choices and position. I have my own journey that I can be brave to take, not knowing where it may end up taking me. My goals may be achieved by means of which I did not foresee, even in my dreams, and to allow those steps to be taken someday.. it is an honorable way I hope to live my life and conduct myself professionally. The decisions that seem so black and white, I will continue to smear into greys and make my choices based upon my heart and if the motivations stay in line with my values.

I have to talk once more about these passionate actors, specifically Christy Altomare. When seeing these actors, you fall in love with all of the characters. They put everything out there for you, both in talent and in expressing the writing of the show, and you feel with and for them. They allowed vulnerability, once again, as performing artists and as their characters did too. Let me say that Christy Altomare is the biggest talent I have seen in my theatre lifetime and to not have known about her baffles me to the largest extent and I am just so glad that she ended up here as Anastasia because of selfish reasons of me getting to witness her unbelievable talent. It was literally unbelievable in a way that you believe no one has as true emotions as Christy does. I almost fell off my seat when she sneezed twice during the musical and I remembered that she was a person. The talent is that big. If you see her smile, her talent and ability to give the most honest performance of your life is even BIGGER than that. I will say forever, what a joy, what an honor. I would follow any production Christy would be in knowing her prowess now. (My biggest regret from Saturday is being unable to meet her at the stage door). She seems to be so in the moment and inspires me to do the same with my career. What life she exudes. I feel younger having been around her, even those 7 or so rows back. People change lives by living their lives to the fullest, this is such a clear example of that. So thank you to Christy for doing what the whole Anastasia musical sings to and being an example for all who are lucky enough to witness you. I hope she is gaining so much from this experience and from fans like me who allowed ourselves to be affected by this experience.

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I am honored beyond even these words, to have seen this production. It was more than my dreams and more than I remembered as a child watching Liz Calloway’s Anastasia open her arms up to the world around her. I will journey and dream further, continually taking one step at a time, one road then another.. who knows where this road may go?

—Amanda Mercadante

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