AMERICAN FORK — Over the last few years one of the most consistently underrated local theater companies is Timpanogos Community Theatre in American Fork. They perform at the Valentine Theatre and everything I have seen from them has been the highest level of community theater and their latest production of Anastasia: The Musical is no exception. Anastasia is adapted from the 1997 animated film of the same name by Stephen Flaherty (music), Lynn Ahrens (lyrics) and Terrence McNally (book) with many of the same songs and story points. However, in my opinion, the adaptation sapped much of the joy out of the story leaving it quite dull and lifeless.

Nevertheless, Timpanogos Community Theatre director Andrew Jeffries has taken the flawed book and music and birthed an entertaining night of theater out of it. What helps make it work most of all is the outstanding cast. Sierra Livermore has a whimsical energy to the role as Anya and she has terrific chemistry with Tanner Tate as Dimitry. Tate is always a treat to see on stage and one of the finest male singers working in Utah today. With just one solo Tate makes Dimitry a likable leading man selling even his more smarmy moments with a big smile and wink to the audience.

Timpanogos Community Theatre ; 2024 ; TCT ; Valentine Theatre ; Utah County ; Anastasia

Anastasia: The Musical plays at the Valentine Theatre through | Photo Credit: Jane Smith / Smithfield Photography.

The big surprise of the cast is Dylan Bradford as Gleb. I learned after the performance that he is a 2023 Jimmy Awards nominee and it does not shock me at all because he has an absolutely beautiful baritone voice. When they were adapting the movie to the stage they created the role of Gleb to be the story’s primary antagonist rather than Rasputin. Gleb is bland and boring but Bradford makes Gleb have a character’s journey worth caring about. He is under a lot of pressure by the communist regime and by the burden of his father’s looming reputation. Bradford’s performance brought pressures of work and family to life. We see this dynamic most in his song “The Rumors Never End.” He is singing the song to Anya and Bradford really made you care with his emotion and acting about in what usually is a one-note character and song.

Choreographer Stephanie Cole also deserves high praise for the complicated dance sequences throughout the show. Things actually start out with a full ballet with “The Last Dance of the Romanovs” and then features ensemble dancing in many songs like “A Rumor in St Petersburg” and “Paris Holds the Key.”

The costumes are also extremely impressive by Rebecca Fenton. Sometimes they mirror perfectly the costumes from the movie such as Anya’s iconic blue dress at the press conference and other times they are unique like her final ballgown and the incredible gowns worn by the Dowager Empress. The volume of 20’s-inspired looks they made for the Paris club sections “Land of Yesterday” and “The Countess and the Common Man” are outstanding. It’s a shame we don’t get to meet Serene Parker’s Lily until Act Two because Her dresses were some of the most stunning of the evening. Parker also has a wonderful singing voice and brought a lot to a supporting role. She had wonderful chemistry with William Gardner’s Vlad.

The sets by Sara J Payne are simple but effective with an arch with a painting of Anastasia in the background of all the scenes. I particularly liked how they created the train. It almost appeared they had a rotating stage but I don’t think they did. The benches were on rollers and everyone moved their feet making them move together in a coordinated way. The actors then swayed back and forth to make it look like a train. The scenic design also created train stations and multiple cities using simple set pieces and other signage. The stage utilized far stage left and stage right for Gleb’s office and the Dowager Empress’ apartment. These locations were simple but effective. The only disappointment to me was most of the arch remained draped for a lot of the performance and when they finally revealed what was under the drapes it was just some wallpaper. I was expecting it to be something more exciting like the painting in the backdrop.

I was fortunate to be able to attend on Friday June 28th which was their ASL Section night where they had a pair of American Sign Language interpreters signing the show. I love that TCT does this as we should be making theater as accessible to as many people as is humanly possible. As a hearing person, watching the interpreters is an enriching experience. I love watching the signers as they express the words being sung. It adds a layer to the entire experience.

If you haven’t been sold on Anastasia as a musical in the past I would encourage you to give Timpanogos Community Theatre’s production a try. They have taken bland material and given it magic and life and I cannot say enough good things about the cast. The entire family will have a great time in this “Journey to the Past”

 ANASTASIA plays at throug July 6 at the Valentine Theatre (839 E. 9th North , American Fork). Tickets are$10-20. For more information, please visit m75