“Anastasia,” showing this week at The Hippodrome, is the re-imagining of a well-known story.
While some might remember the 1997 family-friendly film, positioned as a warm fairytale about a young woman who sets out to discover the mystery of her past, the show’s choreographer Peggy Hickey, says Broadway’s “Anastasia” is more deeply rooted in the darker Russian history.
In real life, Anastasia Romanova was the youngest daughter of Nicholas II, the last Russian tsar. In 1918, he and his family were executed, but rumors persisted for decades that Anastasia has somehow escaped the killing and was living abroad.
To draw inspiration for her choreography, Hickey says she watched both the animated version and 1956 Ingrid Bergman film, as well as conducting her own research on the historical and very colorful Romanov family.
“The animated movie glosses over some things,” she says. “So, we don’t depart hugely in the end, of you know, love winning. But, that is not the historical story. Our story is based more on the historical facts of this very tragic story of the Romanov family.”
Hickey added that she believes “Anastasia” can resonate with audiences of today.
“I think the most basic things that resonate now are the revolution and people being displaced. The immigrant story is a story we play in ‘Anastasia,’ people being forced to leave their homes because of war and political change,” she says. “It’s really about people losing their whole lives and family because of war. They are searching desperately to be reunited with home, love and family, and that is the core of our show.”
One choreographed scene she can’t wait for the audiences to experience is the iconic music box scene.
“One of my favorite moments is when Anastasia opens the music box that she hasn’t seen since she was a child,” Hickey says. “It was found in a palace and out of that music box, as in the movie, comes all of these memories. There are these beautiful court scenes and this gorgeous dancing that happens all around her. She’s lifted and projections are splashing around her. It’s a thrill to watch.”
She also is eager for audiences to see the hard work put in from both the actors and crew.
“I’m excited for people to see every element of it, the costumes and the lights, especially the projections, because there the technology is amazing,” she says. “The entire ensemble is extremely talented and the entire set is a wraparound of beautiful projections that are seamless with the scenery. It’s huge, the amount of work and prep that goes into the show. We’re very lucky that it has been responded to so universally and that that it’s just thrilling to me that so many languages and people are enjoying it all over the world.”
The play also features a new score by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens, and is directed by Tony Award-winning director Darko Tresnjak.
“Anastasia,” Hippodrome Theatre, through Dec. 9. Tickets start at $99. france-merrickpac.com