Anastasia” Brings Fairy Tale Magic to Civic Theatre

Whether you are an avid fan of the animated Disney movie “Anastasia” or completely unfamiliar with the tale, you are likely to find yourself mesmerized and awed by the Civic Theatre’s latest production. “Anastasia: The Musical” shines with an extraordinary cast, gorgeous, opulent costumes and visual effects, and music that I can’t stop humming. 


The story takes us more than 100 years back in time to Russia, where we meet a determined young woman, Anya, and follow her as she tries to discover whether she is truly the Grand Duchess Anastasia Romanov – daughter of the last tsar of Russia. The production is beautifully directed by Anne Beck, creating a mysterious and magical world; one where you can dare to believe in “what ifs” and “maybes.”

Photo Credit: Joshua Hasty Photography
Photo Credit: Joshua Hasty Photography

As the title character, Isabella Agresta absolutely owns the stage. Her glorious voice is perfect for the role of Anya, floating between clear, sweet soprano and powerful, Broadway-caliber belting. The most famous song from the movie version of this story, “Journey to the Past,” is included unaltered in this stage version (with book by Terrence McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty and Lyrics by Lynn Ahrens). Agresta’s masterful performance of that glorious song at the end of Act I left me with chills and teary eyes! (I cannot stop singing and it; won’t even try.)

Another cast member whose vocal power soars from the stage is Nathanael Hein in a complex, dark role as Gleb Vaganov. This is the operatic tenor’s first production at Civic Theatre and I hope it will be the first of many. His voice elevated the already-impressive production to another level. Other standouts were the sincere and energetic Troy Bridges as Dmitry, a con artist whose heart is changed by romance as he falls for Anya, Jill O’Malia bringing regal power to the Dowager Empress, and Izzy Casciani, who delivers a gorgeous ballet performance during a “Swan Lake” scene. Steve Kruze and Nina Stilabower also showed off their physical comedy skills during their hilarious Act II number, “The Countess and the Common Man,” dropping hilariously to the floor in a wild moment as their characters Vlad and Lily tried unsuccessfully to resist their passionate connection. Like many audience members, I lost it during that scene!

Photo Credit: Joshua Hasty Photography
Photo Credit: Joshua Hasty Photography

The orchestra and ensemble created a rich tapestry of sound, from the haunting, minor key beauty of “Once Upon a December” and “Still, I Pray You,” to the upbeat glory of the Act II numbers such as “Paris Holds the Key” and “In a Crowd of Thousands.” (Kudos to music director Kayvon Emtiaz and Orchestra Manager Al French!) The visual effects in this show complemented the music and storytelling perfectly, deserving their own standing ovation. Scenic projections helped create a mesmerizing train sequence with a train car spinning into different positions in perfect timing with the moving landscape and train tracks – hard to describe, but what an effect! 

I saw quite a few little girls in princess dresses in the audience, as well as adults like me enjoying a kid-free night out. “Anastasia” is a beautiful experience for a theatre patron of any age, and a reminder of how fortunate we are that the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre provides our Indy community with such high-caliber productions. Somehow the shows  just keep getting better and better. 

As Anya asks in “Journey to the Past,” “Who knows where this road may go?”

“Anastasia: The Musical” is on stage at the Booth Tarkington Civic Theatre in Carmel through May 11. For ticket information visit or call 317.843.3800.

Trisha Lawless
Trisha Lawless
Trisha Lawless is an Indianapolis-based corporate communications advisor and freelance writer who began her career as a television news journalist. She enjoys performing in local theatre productions as her schedule permits, and has appeared in roles with Beef & Boards Dinner Theatre, Indianapolis Civic Theatre, and BobDirex. Trisha and her husband Ben are proud residents of Indy’s Historic Irvington neighborhood where they live with their children (middle school through college age) and Golden Retriever.

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