Back in 1997, 20th Century Fox through their short-lived Fox Animation Studios posed one of the greatest challenges to Walt Disney and its long-running Animated Canon, by adapting a stage Musical-turned 1956 film into an animated feature about the (now sadly debunked) rumor of Anastasia, Grand Duchess of Imperial Russia who supposedly survived the execution of her family in the Bolshevik Revolution. Despite aping some of Disney’s own conventions (since former Disney animation director Don Bluth was in charge), “Anastasia” proved so popular that it spawned its own little corner of media adaptation in books, videogames, and as late as 2016 a stage musical that played on Connecticut’s Hartford Stage.

That run was successful enough to green-light a move onto the major leagues of sorts, New York City’s Broadway. For those looking for something new after "Hamilton", this could be it.

Recursive ‘journey to the past’

If you’re just tuning in to the fact that the 1997 Fox animated film with the voices of Meg Ryan and John Cusack has had a stage adaptation just last year, then let’s shed a little light on the basics of the “Anastasiamusical. For one, while it is built somewhat on the general storyline of the animation, it also adds elements from the 1956 film starring Yul Brynner and Ingrid Bergman that it takes inspiration from (and that movie was itself adapted from a play by Marcelle Maurette).

Anyway, the fusion of media versions led to the supernatural antagonist of the animation – Christopher Lloyd as a lich Rasputin – with a more human adversary, a Bolshevik General named Gleb Vaganov who pursues the supposed Grand Duchess, an amnesiac street sweeper accompanied by two former royal functionaries turned conmen.

And the narrative itself is expanded and extended in scope from the cartoon’s one-year average span to the musical’s couple decades or so. The amazing songs from the Fox soundtrack are also bolstered with brand new compositions as a result.

Veteran musical casting

The Broadway run of “Anastasia” stars “Mamma Mia!” alumna Christy Altomare in the title role, and she definitely impresses with her rendition of the original animation song “Journey to the Past” (sung by Liz Callaway in the film and covered in pop by the late Aaliyah).

She will be joined by her leading man Derek Klena from “Dogfight” as Dmitry, “A Christmas Story’s” John Bolton as Dmitry’s pal Vlad Popov, Caroline O’Connor of “Chicago” as Countess Lily Malevitch (originally Sophie Smirnov from the cartoon), Mary Beth Piel from “Nine” as Anastasia’s grandma Dowager Empress Marie, and Ramin Karimloo from “Les Mis” as the new baddie Gleb. Directed by Tony Awardee Darko Tresnjak, “Anastasia” on Broadway opens at the Broadhurst Theatre, with previews on March 23 for an April 24 opening. Disney's own Broadway efforts better be wary.