After Act I of Broadway’s ANASTASIA, my eight-year-old niece clapped so hard that I could feel her excitement in my soul. I turned to her and asked, “Abbey, what do you think so far?” Her eyes smiled and her mouth followed. “I love it!” I teared up, my spirit soaring like those of the lost princess’s family.
I’m known in my immediate family as the Broadway one. I will burst out in song at a moment’s notice, play cast albums in my car until I know all the words, and talk about my favorite shows incessantly. The love I have for musical theatre is so firmly engrained within my soul that I’m certain I brought it with me upon birth.
When Abbey, my oldest niece, was about two or three, she showed interest in musicals. We’d watch animated fairy tales together – her attention captured and joy reflected across her face. She asked my sister non-stop to rewatch the same movie until she knew all the songs by heart and would put on performances for the family. Like this early one…
The animated film ANASTASIA, the story of the lost Romanov princess, is one of our favorites. I’d play the movie soundtrack for her, and she’d ask me to keep the song Once Upon a December on repeat. I promised to bring Abbey to NYC for her first Broadway show, and when she learned that ANASTASIA was going to be a stage musical, that became the must-see choice. Almost two years later we boarded a train for our journey to the present; one which inspired my niece’s future.
Though now out of my thirties I still feel joy and anticipatory excitement up until the curtain rises and the overture begins. However, on this day my heart filled with love and happiness every time my niece smiled, sang along, or clapped. She tapped my shoulder during Once Up on a December as the stunning visual effects danced across the stage. “Look, Kelly! Did you see that?” As her eyes beamed, so too did my heart – moved by her experience.
During intermission I walked her up to the souvenir kiosk, because I never go to a show without coming back with at least the program. She saw the collectible music box and though we both gravitated to it we looked at items closer to our price range. We returned to our orchestra seats with a glittery tote bag and a beautiful tiara/crown, which Abbey promptly put on and wore until our return train ride.
The magical experience continued even after the curtain call when Abbey met “Anastasia” (aka Christy Altomare). As we waited with a crowd of other excited theatre-goers at the stage door line, I asked the tired 8-year-old if she wanted to stay. “I want to see Anastasia,” she shyly replied. So we waited our turn, getting autographs from other talented cast members, until the moment arrived. Christy smiled brightly and Abbey mirrored the action. They talked about Abbey’s crown/tiara and whether Abbey enjoyed her first Broadway show. The youngster got quiet, and the grown-ups chatted about our shared hometown (Bucks County, PA). Before we waved goodbye, the two Bucks County musical theatre dreamers smiled for a picture – the younger standing next to a young woman who made her Broadway dreams come true.
“I forgot to tell her something,” Abbey burst out as we journeyed back to Penn Station. “I didn’t tell her that I’m taking musical theatre classes.” The frown pierced my heart and I pulled her in close. “It’s alright, sweet girl. Tell you what, I’ll send her a message on social media. We can write it together.” Her smile returned as she walked hand in hand with both her mother and I, our arms swinging and our heads filled with music.
Abbey’s declaration that one day she’ll be on Broadway warms my musical theatre heart, but I hope it fills her spirit with love, passion, and joy. I can’t wait to see what her journey to the future holds!
**ANASTASIA is currently playing at the Broadhurst Theatre. Visit the official website to learn more and purchase tickets.**