In 1997, Anastasia, an animated movie about a Russian mystery, was released. The storyline is based on a brutal and violent real-life event, which can be a difficult thing to turn into an animated movie. However, the film was a success, creating a generation of fans. In fact, it had such a devoted following that it was made into a Broadway play decades later. The movie shows the titular character as a young girl and later as an adult. To portray her at both ages, two A-list actors voiced her character: Kirsten Dunst and Meg Ryan.
The real Anastasia of Russia
In 1918, a revolution had just happened in Russia. According to Russia Beyond, a tragic event in July of that year created a legend that would live on for over a century.
The Bolsheviks had taken over the country from the rule of Tsar Nicholas II a year and a half before, but they decided that the royal family was still a threat that needed to be eliminated. The entire family was ruthlessly executed in the cellar of their home.
Despite reports that none of the family members survived, rumors quickly circulated that the youngest daughter, Grand Duchess Anastasia, was still alive. These persistent claims led to several women coming forward over the years, each claiming to be the long-lost Anastasia.
The dramatic story also led to the creation of many fictional takes on the material. One of them, an animated movie, became an enduring favorite.
‘Anastasia’ starring Kirsten Dunst and Meg Ryan
One of the creative takes on Anastasia’s story was the 1997 animated version from 20th Century Fox. According to Popsugar, it was Fox’s first try at an animated movie and was a huge success. It grossed nearly $140,000,000 worldwide.
The part of Anastasia was played by two actors to reflect the change in her voice as she aged. Young Anastasia was played by Kirsten Dunst, who was only 15 years old at the time. Superstar Meg Ryan played the adult Anastasia. Neither of these women did the singing for the role, however.
Young Anastasia’s songs were sung by Lacey Chabert, who played Gretchen Wieners in Mean Girls. Grown Anastasia’s singing voice was performed by Liz Callaway, who also voiced Jasmine in Aladdin: The Return of Jafar, Odette in Swan Princess, and many more big animated roles.
Anastasia was a big hit, and even after two decades, audiences were excited to see it again, but this time on a different stage.
The Broadway version of ‘Anastasia’
In 2017, 20 years after the movie debuted, Anastasia came to Broadway. The play added to what was shown in the film. The work added more detail about the plight of the people living in Russia during that time and made the characters more complex and compelling.
However, as the New York Times reports, the play wasn’t able to stay afloat for very long. The reviews were uneven, and not everyone loved the Broadway version. The show went on an extensive tour but couldn’t earn enough to continue. After two years and a total of 842 performances, it closed in March 2019.
The Broadway version of Anastasia didn’t continue very long, but the legend of the poor young royal girl still hangs on. Even though there is now scientific evidence to prove that Anastasia didn’t survive that night in the cellar, people still like to imagine that she escaped. As the play says in the closing scene, “There never was an Anastasia. She was a dream–a beautiful dream.”