REVIEW: ANASTACIA at the Denver Center
by Taylor Jo Oxley
Dancing bears, painted wings, things I definitely remember from my childhood love of Anastasia. I knew coming into the Buell Theater that this story would not be the same as what I knew from the animated version I grew up with. I had my reservations, but those were quickly put to rest.
The visuals in this show are absolutely amazing. The costumes are delicate and beautiful, tailored to each performer flawlessly. It was a treat to see costumes that captured both Paris and Russia in the early 20th century. The scenery was thoughtfully planned, however with the maps to show the journey of the story were too busy at times. I did notice some issues with the spotlights throughout the performance, but was unable to tell if this was diffusion or an operator error. The visuals distracted from the terrible sound mixing in the first act; however this issue was resolved after intermission.
Speaking of improvements from the first act to the second, much can be said for the character development of Anya, played by Lila Coogan. In the first act I found her voice control and enunciation while singing to be incredibly irritating. It was obvious that Coogan has a
capable voice and range but was misusing it. With the growing confidence of Anya, Coogan’s voice became strong, clear, and incredibly moving. While the character growth was appreciated, it would have been to the audience’s benefit to see her flourish in a way that
would not have sacrificed the beauty of her voice. Not enough praise can be given for a scene towards the end of the performance featuring Coogan and the Dowager Empress played by Joy Franz. Anya and the Empress are coming to terms with their relationship, and by the end there was not a dry eye in the house.
While the choreography in Anastasia was not intricate, it was performed well and fit the needs of the show. “Once Upon a December” and the several renditions of it showcased simple yet elegant choreography appropriate for the time period. The absolute scene-stealing number was “The Countess and the Common Man”, performed by Tari Kelly and Edward Staudenmayer. Kelly and Staudenmayer have an unparalleled chemistry on stage, bringing romance and physical comedy to the number.
There are so many other aspects of this show that made it a phenomenal experience. Just a few more to mention; children asking their parents about the history of the story, the incredible dramaturgy, the handsomely talented Dmitry (Stephen Brower), the timeless music.
This show blew almost every expectation that I had and would highly recommend making it to the Buell before Anastasia leaves for Paris.
ANASTACIA is enchanting audiences now through August 18th at the Buell Theatre in the Denver Center Complex. For tickets or more information, contact the Denver Center Box Office by calling 303-893-4100 or online at www.denvercenter.org.