I Saw Myself in ‘Anastasia.’ And I Knew I Had to Leave Honduras.

When a Mexican magazine came up with a trivia contest to win an Anastasia doll, I answered all the questions but asked my mother to send the entry under her name. I was more worried about what bullies would think about me owning a doll than about not winning. What a thrill when a couple of months later we received a box from Mexico with a brand new doll that had a secret locket like the one in the movie.

Photo

The characters of Anastasia and Dimitri in the 1997 animated film.

Credit
20th Century Fox

Growing up I was the kind of kid who wanted dolls and plush animals, never toy cars and police kits — the kind of kid likelier to pretend to be Anastasia than to be her love interest Dimitri. On several occasions my mother sat me down to congratulate me for embracing female characters, but also to remind me that, as a boy, there were other heroes to value. “Give it a try, pretend you’re Aladdin next time,” she would say. I wish I could have pleased her.

Two decades passed, and I learned they were turning my beloved film into a Broadway musical. Would my affection for it feel the same? Could I have outgrown the tale of the Russian duchess?

I sat excitedly at the Broadhurst Theater this spring to see “Anastasia” onstage, and had my answer: The opening notes of the overture began, and I was 11 again. It didn’t matter that I had a full beard, some gray hairs in my head, and had survived a hate crime, heartbreak and more farewells than I’d like to count.

Christy Altomare stepped onstage and she was exactly the Anastasia I dreamed of as a kid, all spunk and heart, fierce and regal, with a voice to match. She was who I’d wanted to become.

Many of my fellow critics have pointed out flaws in the show (and the movie), but I find its charms outweigh its imperfections. Given the times we live in, I welcome any opportunity to dream and escape, and there are few…

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