In a Russian royal palace in 1906, the TSAR, TSARINA, and RUSSIAN COURT dance the night away (“Opening Fanfare” and “Opening Scene”). A PHOTOGRAPHER snaps a photo of the Tsar and his family. YOUNG ANASTASIA is being tucked in by her grandmother, THE DOWAGER EMPRESS, who gifts her a music box (“Prologue: Once Upon a December”). Young Anastasia is upset that her nana must leave, but the Tsar calms her down by asking her to dance (“The Last Dance of the Romanovs”).
Time skips ahead to 1917. ANASTASIA is now 17, dancing elegantly with the rest of the guests. Suddenly, the palace is attacked, and the Romanov family—the Tsar and his wife and children—do not survive Only Anastasia’s music box is left onstage. The Dowager Empress is devastated at the loss of her family.
It is now 1927 in St. Petersburg, renamed Leningrad by revolutionaries like GLEB. Though they claim that Russia is better off without the royals, not everyone is so sure, and rumors continue to fly (“A Rumor in St. Petersburg”). Conmen VLAD POPOV and DMITRY want to get out of Russia, and they plan to use the rumor that the Grand Duchess Anastasia is still alive as their ticket. ANYA, a street sweeper, is startled by a car backfiring, but Gleb comforts her, clearly smitten. Dmitry purchases a music box from a MARKETEER, who claims it’s a genuine Romanov item.
Dmitry and Vlad hold auditions for their Anastasia imposter in an abandoned theater. Auditionees MARFA, PAULINA, and DUNYA don’t exactly fit the bill, and Dmitry laments the difficulty of finding someone appropriate – until Anya arrives, looking for exit papers. She explains that she has amnesia and remembers nothing about her past life but knows she must go to Paris (“In My Dreams”).
In a drab government office, Marfa, Paulina, and Dunya inform Gleb of Dmitry and Vlad’s plot (“The Rumors Never End”).
Meanwhile, in hopes of discovering her true identity, Anya has agreed to become Anastasia. Dmitry and Vlad teach her everything (“Learn to Do It”). However, the scheme has caught Gleb’s attention, and he calls Anya into his office to warn her away. Gleb reveals that his father was one of the soldiers who attacked the Romanovs, and, though he personally likes Anya, his loyalties lie with the Soviets.
Later, Dmitry takes Anya to his favorite spot in St. Petersburg. He reveals that he grew up mostly on the streets and gives her the music box, which Anya easily opens (“Once Upon A December”). Dmitry reveals that they do not have enough money to get out before the borders close, and Anya gives him her only possession: a diamond that was sewn into her clothes when she was found.
Vlad, Dmitry and Anya meet at the train station, where there are many others hoping to get out of Russia too, like COUNTESS IPOLITOV (“Stay, I Pray You”). Though Vlad, Dmitry and Anya board the train, the police are looking for them, and they decide they must make the rest of the journey on foot. Officer GORLINSKY, back in Russia, demands that Gleb go after Anya in person (“Traveling Sequence/Still”).
Finally, Vlad, Dmitry and Anya have Paris in sight. Anya gathers her courage (“Journey to the Past”). The trio rejoice in the joys of this new city with the PEOPLE OF PARIS (“Paris Holds the Key—To Your Heart”). Vlad heads to the Neva Club in hopes of finding LILY, the Dowager Empress’s lady-in-waiting, and Anya hopes that Paris holds some answers (“Paris Holds the Key – Reprise”).
In the Dowager Empress’s Parisian town house, Lily is firmly showing COUNT LEOPOLD to the door. He wants the Dowager Empress to name him as her heir, but she has held out hope that Anastasia is out there somewhere – though it seems less and less likely. Lily leaves her to her thoughts and heads to the Neva Club (“Land of Yesterday”). Vlad finds Lily at the club, ready to convince her that Anya is the lost Anastasia – but Gleb is waiting in the shadows, following Vlad.
In her hotel room, Anya is dreaming of the Tsar and his family (“A Nightmare”) when Dmitry wakes her up. She is distressed, and Dmitry comforts her, explaining that he wants her to be the girl he saw in a crowd many years ago (“In a Crowd of Thousands”). Suddenly, Anya remembers seeing Dmitry in the crowd as well. Dmitry is convinced that Anya is the real Anastasia.
The next evening at the ballet, Lily introduces Anya to the Dowager Empress. Vlad and Dmitry wait nervously (“Everything to Win”), and when Anya returns, she is angry that Dmitry has used her as a pawn. She leaves for the hotel, and Dmitry confronts the Dowager Empress: he doesn’t want her money and believes he’s found the true Anastasia.
Surprisingly, the Dowager Empress arrives at the hotel as Anya is packing. Anya shows her the music box, and they each realize the truth: she is Anastasia (“Once Upon a December – Reprise”). Dmitry leaves, knowing he’s lost Anya forever.
The Dowager Empress arranges a press conference (“The Press Conference”), but before she introduces Anastasia, she tells Anya that Dmitry refused the reward. She offers Anya the choice: become Anastasia or go to Dmitry. As Anya is deciding (“Everything to Win – Reprise”), she is interrupted by Gleb, who has come to finish her. They struggle, but ultimately Gleb cannot complete his task and lets her go. Anya finds Dmitry and expresses her feelings, choosing him over life as a Grand Duchess.
The Dowager Empress announces that she will no longer accept communications about any Anastasias, and the reward money will be given to charity. Gleb closes the case, and Anya and Dmitry begin their new life together (“Finale”).
(In order of appearance)
YOUNG ANASTASIA – A great role for a younger performer who is ready to take some responsibility onstage. She sings along with the Dowager Empress but doesn’t have a solo, so cast a confident actor who can portray a precocious royal princess!
THE DOWAGER EMPRESS – True royalty, and she knows it. Cast an actor who reads as older onstage, and can encompass both the Dowager Empress’s regal bearing but also her deep grief as losing her family. This character does not need to dance but should be an excellent actor and singer. The Dowager Empress sings “Once Upon a December.”
TSAR NICHOLAS II – Not quite as serious as his mother The Dowager Empress, especially with his young daughter Anastasia. Cast an actor who reads as older onstage and makes a good pair with Young Anastasia. This role requires ensemble singing and some acting, but cast an actor who is comfortable dancing and performing choreography.
TSARINA ALEXANDRA FYODORONVA – A good role for a dancer who may not be comfortable performing a larger role with solos and dialogue. Cast a dancer who can portray the Tsarina’s regal bearing, and excel during the Romanov family’s various appearances throughout the show in Anya’s memories.
The RUSSIAN COURT, including the PHOTOGRAPHER, Anastasia’s THREE SISTERS, her BROTHER, and other members of the COURT – appear throughout the show as figments of Anya’s lost memories. This is a good place for performers who are movers or dancers and excel with ensemble singing.
ANYA – The undisputed lead of the show. Anya’s journey is what the show is all about: her bravery, tenacity and perseverance make her the hero of the story, even though she’s also the princess. An innate likeability and natural sense of comedic timing are both helpful for this street-smart lost princess. This role requires your strongest singer and actor, as Anya has multiple solos and must portray a large emotional range throughout the show. Anya sings “Learn to Do It,” “Once Upon a December,” Journey to the Past” and “In a Crowd of Thousands.”
GLEB VAGANOV – The strait-laced Soviet officer with a softer side who is tasked with locating Anya. Though Gleb is the antagonist of the story, in his mind, he’s the hero – he truly believes in the Soviet cause and is doing his best to be a good soldier. Cast a strong actor and singer in this role who can understand the nuances of this character. Gleb sings “The Rumors Never End.”
DMITRY – A street urchin turned con artist. Though his career choices aren’t necessarily honest, Dmitry has a heart of gold and ultimately chooses what’s best for Anya, despite what he might want for himself. If Anya is the lead of the show, Dmitry is a close second – cast a mature, responsible performer with innate charm and comic timing. Dmitry must be an excellent actor/singer and a good dancer. Dmitry sings “Learn To Do It,” “My Petersburg” and “In a Crowd of Thousands.”
LUDA, GALINA, ALEXEI, SASHA, NIKOLA, MIRA, MIKHAIL and the MARKETEERS – Good roles for performers who may be new to the stage, or who aren’t ready to take on a larger role. These roles require featured lines and solos and are great spots to involve more young people.
VLAD POPOV – A charming, jovial, intelligent character who should be played by an actor with great comic timing. Vlad serves as friend to Dmitry, the trio’s “in” with Lily, and as the buffer between Dmitry and Anya’s budding romance. This is the role for your strongest comedic actor. Make sure he reads as older onstage, is a good singer and fine mover, and pairs well with Lily. Vlad Popov sings “Learn to Do It.”
The COUNTESS IPOLITOV – A featured acting and singing role with lines and a solo. Cast an actor who can read as older onstage and who can handle the dramatic subject matter of the scene. The Countess Ipolitov sings “Stay, I Pray You.”
COUNT LEOPOLD – A featured acting role. Cast an actor who can make a big impression from a few lines – though the Count isn’t onstage very long, he has to stand up to Lily, so cast someone with a good stage presence. Count Leopold sings “Land of Yesterday.”
LILY – The life of the party! She is the Dowager Empress’s lady-in-waiting, and former royalty herself. She loves everything 1920s Paris has to offer. Lily must be an excellent dancer and good actor and singer. Cast someone with a sense of comic timing who works well with Vlad. Lily sings “Land of Yesterday.”
The ensemble in this musical is a great place for anyone who would like to be involved in the show. The MARKETEERS have a few sung lines, and GORLINSKY, the EXILED RUSSIAN and ANNOUNCER have spoken lines. The PEOPLE OF PARIS and PEOPLE IN THE NEVA CLUB should be dancers or strong movers, but everyone else should simply have a willingness to put on a great show! POLICEMAN 1 and POLICEMAN 2, the RUSSIAN COURT and PEOPLE OF RUSSIA are great roles to fill with your ensemble.