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“Once Upon A December” evening

The Hippodrome, a local theatre in Baltimore, was filled to the brim with people of all ages ready to view the marvelous rendition of Broadway’s very own “Anastasia.” While some of the older folks who had not grown up in the era of animation wondered what exactly the hype was all about, the younger people chatted about how excited they were for the show to begin. The entire audience hushed in mere seconds once the music swelled.

“Anastasia” began as an animated movie in 1997, produced by 20th Century Fox. It follows the story of Anastasia, the youngest daughter of the Czar of Russia. She is separated from her family after an attack on the palace and grows up without knowing where she came from.

Two con artists hope to use the amnesiac girl to reap the reward promised by the only living member of the Romanov family, her grandmother who resides in Paris. They have her pretend to be Anastasia. However, along the way, they discover that there is more to her past than begging and starving and that, maybe, she is the actual heir of the royal family.

From start to finish, “Anastasia” captured everyone’s attention. The very first scene showed Anastasia’s grandmother leaving for Paris, then featured a flawless transition from her growth into adulthood and ended with the death of her entire family by communist revolutionists. It contained enough emotion to seize the hearts of all that were present.

Each scene following had a similar punch, making it extremely difficult to look away. There was a short standing ovation right as intermission began, almost as if people were begging for it to continue.

Not only was the music and acting beautiful, but most of the scenes also provided some sort of comic relief. The show dealt with some fairly depressing topics and, thus, it was enjoyable to have some light-hearted moments throughout it.

The visuals also added to the luster of the entire show. One of the most prominent uses of these was when Anastasia began to remember her past while listening to a song from her childhood, “Once Upon A December.” In 20th Century Fox’s version, ghosts dance around the ballroom and created the same nostalgic yet eerie effect devised in this live-action performance.

The biggest difference between the original version of “Anastasia” and Broadway’s would be the absence of the demonic villain trying to destroy Anastasia and the Romanovs. This villain is characterized in its true form: communists and their lust for vengeance on the royal family.

For what the show lacked in magical abilities, it made up for in the real connections between people and portrayal of 1900s Russia. The communist official chasing after Anastasia all throughout the musical struggled with his past and his responsibilities, eventually succumbing to the guilt he felt for his father’s shooting of the Romanov family.

When the show was over, it felt like waking up from a dream. Almost three hours had gone by, yet it was as if it had been only a few minutes. The audience rose from their seats and cheered even before the actors had come to take their bows. Afterward, while everyone exited, satisfied murmurs could be heard all throughout the crowd.

It is not often that an animated movie can be pulled off in a live performance so elegantly. Sometimes it becomes difficult to provide viewers with the entire experience. Fortunately, the writers and directors of the musical “Anastasia” created a wonderful rendition, capturing the entire essence of the original film.