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'Anastasia': Why the film is becoming a Broadway musical

A stage adaptation of 'Anastasia,' which starred voice talents of Meg Ryan, John Cusack, and Christopher Lloyd, will arrive on Broadway next spring.

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Meg Ryan starred in the 1997 animated film 'Anastasia.'

Dario Cantatore/Invision/AP/File

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A stage musical adaptation of the 1997 animated movie “Anastasia” is coming to Broadway.

The production will open on the Great White Way next April at the Broadhurst Theatre, following its debut at the Hartford Stage earlier this year. 

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The movie, which is co-directed by Gary Goldman and Don Bluth of “The Land Before Time” and “Thumbelina,” imagines a story in which Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, daughter of Tsar Nicholas II, escaped her family’s fate and is now, years later, attempting to find her relatives. Meg Ryan, John Cusack, Christopher Lloyd, Angela Lansbury, and Kelsey Grammer lent their voice talents to the film. 

Why are those behind the stage show sure enough of its success that they are bringing it to Broadway? One reason may be that according to Monitor film critic David Sterritt, who gave the movie a positive review upon its release, the musical is adapted from a quality film. 

“A splendid specimen,” Mr. Sterritt wrote. “Many of the images are breathtakingly beautiful, and the music score (until the final credits) is based on sprightly show-tune conventions instead of the grating pop sounds that have marred some recent animations. Also interesting is the story's unusual historical setting. Some have complained that the plot distorts Russian and European history – but who ever looked to a Hollywood cartoon for undistorted historical lessons?”

And like other musical adaptations of animated films of that era such as “The Little Mermaid” and “The Lion King,” “Anastasia” comes ready-made with songs that are acclaimed and known to movie fans. (The stage musical features songs from the film as well as new works.)

“Tunes by Stephen Flaherty and Lynn Ahrens weren’t quite as indelible as some of [Disney]’s from the period, but the likes of ‘Once Upon a December’ and ‘Journey To The Past’ are worth another listen,” A.V. Club's Esther Zuckerman wrote of the movie’s soundtrack.