The Lion


I can be problematic.

These words aren’t easy to get out. They’re a string of words I have to drag out slowly past my teeth, but it’s true: I can be problematic.

I often excuse my emotions with the misogynistic idea that my emotions are just a result of that time of the month during which I’m shark bait. 

I’m talking about during my period, if that wasn’t clear. 

Ever since I was young, I’ve been a fairly emotional being, and it’s not something I’m proud of. I’m sensitive to people’s tone of voice and the way they phrase their words. While it’s something I understand about myself, it’s not something I ever like people to witness. 

I prefer, like any mature adult, to cry in the shower.

It’s inevitable, though, that sometimes the waterworks come at inconvenient and public moments, and this is when my problematic behavior arises.

The first time I can recall it happening was in seventh grade. I was at a leadership seminar for middle school students working on a group project when one student and I got into a heated argument and exchanged not-so-kind words. Me, with my sensitive nature, immediately began to feel tears forming. I tried to contain them, but the girl next to me noticed how tense I was and asked the fatal question: “Are you okay?”

The dams opened wide, and I sat against the wall and cried. People tried to ask me what exactly made me cry, but I didn’t want to tell them. I was ashamed of myself and my reaction. I thought that I should’ve been more reasonable and that I was just overreacting. Embarrassed, I didn’t want to have to explain myself, so I dug through my mind for an excuse and grasped at the first one I found: my period.

Not a single person questioned me. They simply let me be, which was exactly what I wanted. And so, it became a habit. When my eighth-grade math teacher reprimanded me in class for talking to a friend about a question, I was on my period. When my mother yelled at me for not answering my phone, I was on my period. When I got back less-than-ideal test grades in pre-calculus, I was on my period. 

I perpetuated the stereotype that women are emotional and irrational, especially when they’re shark bait. 

Granted if we were actually shark bait and were constantly threatened with being devoured, perhaps it would be understandable if we were a bit irrational. 

But we’re not. We’re just on our menstrual cycles.

The problem with blaming women’s emotions on periods is that it is a harmful generalization that’s used as a way to deem women irrational and unfit for certain professions. It’s used as a way for people to dismiss the thoughts and actions of women they disagree with, and it’s used as a way to invalidate what a woman is feeling as a real emotion, no matter what time of the month it is.

Hillary Clinton had to face this in her campaign, and I’m ashamed to say it’s a generalization I’ve taken advantage of, especially as someone who identifies as a feminist. 

All of this shame over a stereotype I took advantage of made me wonder where the shame that lead to me perpetuating this stereotype came from.

The answer I arrived at, surprisingly, was misogyny.

As a child, I can remember numerous occasions where adults told me to stop crying, to stop trying to attract attention, to stop freaking out over nothing.

There was this expectation, even when I was young, to always be happy. To be flexible and let problems roll off my back. To not be hysterical, because that’s what unintelligent girls are, and I was to be intelligent and reasonable, happy and accommodating.

These are the words society want and expect us, as women, to be. These are the traits of the ideal woman of today: she is always smiling, never lets gender inequality make her angry or upset, and goes with the flow because she is reasonable and charming.

I was taught to smile because it is only with a smile people will truly hear me out. I was taught to keep my voice level and be prepared to concede because it is the only way to even partially get what I want. I was taught how to be a woman in a world where men can yell and react viscerally without being labeled as delusional. I was told how to be a woman in a world where men can be firm and commended for standing for what they believe in, but a woman is just being stubborn when she does the same. I was taught how to be a woman in the context of patriarchal gender roles.

For too long I’ve followed these rules, buying into the myth that my period made me weaker due to the emotions that came with it, believing I needed to behave in a certain way to make up for it, and using this myth as an excuse for myself when I failed to live up to the pleasant standard of behavior expected of me as a woman.

Well, no more.

My feelings and reactions, whether they happen when I am on my period or not, are valid. I’m not being over sensitive; I am just reacting like any other human does, like the men in our society are allowed to do to a certain extent. I am not crazy, and my voice does count, even when it’s heard through tears. 

I am a woman, and when I cry it’s not just because of my period. I’m attuned to the way people speak and phrase their words, leading me to sometimes see meanings the speaker may or may not intend to convey. But that’s okay because I’m no longer shark bait whenever my tears fall. Instead I’m a girl who does not fear expressing her emotions. 

This year marked the 30th Anniversary of the arrival of Columbia College’s first class of women. It was celebrated in an event called CCW30, which brought together graduates and undergraduates from all years and walks of life; there were even outsiders, including a young woman from NYU, who registered to join the celebration.

As a woman in Columbia College, I find this hard to contemplate (not referencing that NYU students would want to cross the line to join Columbia, of course; that’s endearing, not surprising). I arrived in a time when 47% of the incoming class to CC and SEAS identified as female (according to the incoming class statistics provided by Columbia University). I arrived in a time when we were represented.

The women who surrounded me during CCW30 came into a Columbia College that was structured and indoctrinated under the ideology of women being different, not belonging, and thirty years ago Columbia College took its first steps to completely reimagine what it means to be a Columbia College student— paving the way for myself and others.

What I hear most often on campus about the transition is “SEAS did it first.” Indeed, SEAS had its first woman undergraduate in 1943.

The truth is, that Yale is going on 48 years of allowing women in as undergrads, and Princeton’s first class containing women graduated in 1973.

We were a bit late on the uptake.

Should I be ashamed that Columbia College took as long as it did, as some statements seem to imply?

Listening to the CCW30 stories from other Ivy League women who graduated in the early days of the co-ed movement, I hear about slut-shaming in the streets, Deans suggesting instead of dorms, schools build brothels for the incoming women; I hear about the pain and abuse suffered by women in the incoming classes of colleges and universities that I have long respected.

When I ask the first class of CC women what the worst struggle they faced was, I hear about a dozen variations of “getting the boys to shower.” It sounds like living with teenage brothers, and it makes me laugh.

A part of me is incredibly pleased that these women can say that.

And yes, they still had to fight. Sports teams, amenities, all of the things we share now didn’t come easily to them, but I’m glad that jumping in a bit later in the game seems to have meant our women didn’t face the same degree of malice others faced in the rights movement.

It’s a bitter-sweet realization, especially for a campus that identifies so strongly with activism.

And it doesn’t change how proud we should be of these women, who showed us that a couple hundred years of tradition is still a breakable wall.

Raucous singing took over Low Library’s entrance hall at one point during CCW30 as 30 years of CC women began to belt Columbia’s anthems as one (though not all in one key).

The thing is, these women are not just remarkable for taking their place as the first class of women in CC history. These women are remarkable because they have created a lasting community. They still reach out with open arms to support the Columbia College sisters that came after them.

Within a day after the event, I was receiving emails about grabbing coffee and getting feedback (“How can we continue to support the women of Columbia College?”), and suddenly it was like I stepped into the alley behind the Leaky Cauldron and pressed the right brick.

This is the point where the lesson of the day comes into play:

Honestly, until CCW30 opened my eyes, the place I felt most comfortable as myself, as a woman, was sitting with my friends in Diana, adopting Barnard culture. I didn’t actively seek out “fuckboy” free CC or try to build a place for the women around me; why would I need to? There was one next door.

The 30th anniversary of women in Columbia College has changed that for me. I recognize that I can’t continue to step away from the spot these women opened up for me in Columbia’s halls. I can love the safety of having a haven of strong, independent women down the street (SO: Jennifer Kaplan), but I can also work to maintain the same thing here in CC. More than maintaining that space, I can work to improve it.

The first class of women in Columbia College didn’t stop their efforts just because the doors opened or because there was a precedence that allowed them basic human rights. Deans not slut-shaming them from podiums didn’t mean they would stop before making themselves Deans as well— they kept reaching: they appealed to have time on the sports fields, getting up for 5 a.m. practices when Baker was always already booked, they set up an alumni network that remains active in our lives with events like CCW30, and they brought us to the point where we could fight for things like free tampons and pads (though to be quite honest, I’m still crossing my fingers for Always Infinity to appear [with the wings]).

Right now they’re out in the world fighting for women as well. Lilly Burns (CC’09) of Jax Media produces “Broad City,” revolutionizing the portrayal of women in the media. When was the last time you heard someone on a male-dominated network break the period-talk taboo to do anything but suggest that women are incapable of handling emotions during “their time of the month,” after all? Instead, Lilly Burn’s work is fresh and honest, breaking those unspoken barriers.

 

She is not the only one.

I am including a link below to the Alumni Association’s list of speakers from the CCW30 event in the hope that they help you think about who you want to be, understand what CCW30 was, and understand why this 30th Anniversary is so important.

https://www.college.columbia.edu/alumni/events/ccw30/speakers

Take this summer to think about who you want to be in the coming year, and what doors you want to be remembered for opening.

 

womens movement history

Starting today, July 24, NYC enters its 2017 Summer Restaurant Week. Despite the name, this popular event actually takes place over the course of three weeks, as the event goes until August 18. For lunch/brunch, restaurants are offering a $29 pre-fixe menu, and for dinner, they’re offering a $42 pre-fixe menu. While some restaurants offer different dishes for each meal, for others, these menus are exactly the same, so try and score a lunch reservation if you can. Or a brunch reservation if it’s the weekend!

Keep in mind, though, that certain restaurants only offer their pre-fixe menus at certain times. Many only have Monday-Friday lunch menus this year, so save yourself the disappointment and use the filters on the Restaurant Week website. You can choose whether you want a Sunday Brunch restaurant, a Monday – Friday lunch, a Monday- Friday dinner, etc. You can also select filters for neighborhood, type of cuisine, and more, and you can even check out the menu on the same site!

When booking these reservations, it’s also important to note what time the restaurants serve these meals, especially when it comes to brunch because times for brunch tend to vary the most. This might take a little sleuthing (aka going to the restaurant’s website), but it’s better than showing up to a restaurant planning on paying $29 and ending up with a $60 bill.

Here are some of the restaurants our staff at The Lion is most excited for:

  • Ai Fiori: Our managing Editor, Veronica Roach, ate here during winter restaurant week and wouldn’t stop talking about their delicious soup and dessert.
  • Nobu: It’s some of the best sushi you’ll ever have, according to Tech Team member Will Essilfie, and you get to dine somewhere Drake once rapped about. What’s not to love?
  • Gaonnuri: What makes this restaurant special isn’t the food, but the views, which are breathtaking. If you’re looking for an upscale place with amazing ambience and views, this is the place to go.
  • Red Rooster: A fantastic restaurant with an amazing vibe and menu. Great place to visit Uptown, hear some good music, and talk with friends.
  • Tao Downtown: The atmosphere at this restaurant is quite hip and resembles a bar or nightclub. The Asian food served is also quite good, but it is not one of our Directors of Campus Outreach, Yi Jun, calls authentic Chinese food.
  • Cafe Boulud: This is a good French restaurant on the Upper East Side and has a very clean and classic decor. The food is pretty good, and the restaurant has a very classy atmosphere. It is a perfect place to go to after an outing to the Metropolitan Museum or after shopping on the Upper East Side.
  • Root and Bone: Our Editor in Chief, Arlena McClenton, is eager to try Root and Bone’s shrimp and grits. She’s always searching for authentic Southern food in NYC.
  • Indochine: This restaurant is great as it was a ‘young and hip’ atmosphere and ambience. However, while the food tastes pretty good, keep in mind that it is not traditional Vietnamese cuisine but instead a French fusion.
  • Aureole: Delicious modern western cuisine that is totally worth every dollar. It is quite fancy, so be prepared to spend once you get there if you don’t go during Restaurant Week.
  • Tuome: This restaurant serves a delicious fusion of Asian and western cuisine for a reasonable price. Yi Jun, one of our Directors of Campus Outreach, would recommend it for dinner if you find yourself in the East Village.
Christine Ebersole and Patti LuPone. Photo Courtesy of Joan Marcus.

“There are no ugly women, only lazy ones.”

Helena Rubinstein, cosmetics entrepreneur and rival of Elizabeth Arden, repeated that over the course of her career. Beauty was revolutionized by Rubinstein and Arden, but more importantly, they were powerful entrepreneurs in a male-dominated workforce. War Paint, a new musical at the Nederlander Theatre, gives us a glimpse of the day-to-day of the lives of these women and their rivalry.

The set design was beautiful, the costumes were magnificent, and, of course, the two-time Tony Award-winners Patti LuPone (Helena Rubinstein) and Christine Ebersole (Elizabeth Arden) were fantastic, as expected. The musical progresses from the advertised topic, the rivalry of these two beauty entrepreneurs, to a broader reflection on their internal struggles as powerful women. By the end of the musical, drugstore cosmetics lines have devalued the image of timeless beauty, and the two women are forced to reflect on the value and impact of their lives’ work.

While a compelling and moving narrative put to incredible music, the flow of the lyrics was sometimes stilted. Elizabeth Arden, despite her humble upbringing and incredible corporate empire, was portrayed as a brainless blonde in contrast to Helena Rubinstein. She was ‘obsessed’ with her packaging, as opposed to obsessed with how good her porcelain containers were for business. In wartime, the outfits of her sales representatives were exaggerated by ‘military women’ in short skirts, contrasted sharply by Rubenstein’s clinical containers and women in military-inspired uniforms. The rivalry between the two women was written with a strong hand and exaggerated dialogue, while their hesitant coming together seemed much more natural. And at the end of the performance, a question about the unresolved impact of cosmetics on women’s freedom seemed to be misplaced. The narrative of two successful women strong enough to create a lasting industry was diluted by the question of their lasting impact, not on professional women but on beauty standards.

Overall, War Paint brought this narrative into the 21st century with grace and respect for the immense task that both Rubinstein and Arden faced in building companies named after and run by women.

Photo courtesy of BBB.

Rousing applause closed the night at Bandstand, the latest of Broadway’s American musicals. Bandstand boasts an all-original storyline and an all-American plot, addressing the inaction of American government and society in addressing the needs of our veterans in a post-World War II, swing-era context. A tantalizing portrayal of the not-so-glorious aftermath of World War II, Bandstand catalogues the story of Donny Novitski (Corey Cott), a swing pianist from Cleveland with a desire to make it big in the city that never sleeps, and Julia Trojan (Laura Osnes), a recently widowed choir singer who decides to pursue the dream of being a jazz vocalist in order to cope with the unfortunate demise of her husband in the war.

The musical tells the story of a group of veterans gathered by Donny (in a wonderful scene in which each character has a chance to declare “I know a guy”) who form a band to compete in a national radio contest in New York City while struggling to fit into their old lives and deal with the lingering effects of the war. The prize could guarantee celebrity status to its winners, but dealing with complicated interpersonal relationships and the challenges of finding jobs in post-war America, provides obstacles to the band that confront not only the dismal treatment of veterans, but also the essential flaws haunting any pursuit of the American Dream.

Throughout the musical’s opening, Donny is tormented by his role in Julia’s late husband’s death, and is not alone in his burden. Every character bares the marks of the war on their minds, in their music, and in their hearts. Physical ailments are paired with post-traumatic stress and beautifully choreographed scenes wherein the actors physically struggle under the weight of men in military uniform— dragging their ghosts with them. Even Julia, as she joins the band of veterans, struggles with her own loss in the aftereffects of the war.

In addition to survivor’s guilt, Donny has to overcome his pride and fear. His failure to save Julia’s husband presents a very cutting scene on stage in part because Donny is the epitome of the trope of the overconfident male with complete faith in his ability to achieve the American Dream. In fact, in a beautifully belted solo, Danny even quite forcefully inserts himself among the era’s greats, denigrating Sinatra’s skills in comparison to his own.

Altogether, Bandstand hits on a sensitive and relevant topic in today’s society in a way reminiscent of White Christmas’ classic “What Can you Do with a General,” an early commentary on the aftereffects of war; however, with Bandstand modern theater brings us a portrayal more unapologetically gritty and honest…

And, as the musical clearly elucidates, contentious.

It is often hard to like Donny as he gives in to his pride and aggression, losing himself at times to his own mind, but as Julia comes around to see him in a different light, audience members cannot ignore his charm— nor the damage unfairly done to him by the lack of support and representation for returning veterans, veterans living in a society that does not want to acknowledge the scars inflicted on their brothers, fathers, and sons.

Occasionally the complexity of projecting multiple perspectives onto the stage (i.e. the first scene, which is both set at home with Julia and simultaneously abroad in the trenches) and pairing them with interpretive demonstrations of the characters’ mentalities manifests in Bandstand as strange staging and slightly confusing choreography. But, considering the massive scope of the undertaking, Bandstand does an impressive job of playing out its various plotlines.

The only real criticism that came to me in the mutterings of the audience and my own hesitations while watching Bandstand was the distinctly awkward inadmission of the concurrent issue of racial segregation during the 1940s and early 1950s. After all, Brown v. Board of Education didn’t even occur until 1954. As a result, it was a little disconcerting to see the token black character come to life in their use of Kevyn Morrow, the only POC cast member, as blanket ensemble in ambiguous roles with minimal speaking, the musical’s realism marred by its refusal to acknowledge its historical context in this regard. At one point, he is a preacher (for an all-white church), and, at another, he works as a radio executive (for an otherwise all-white station). To leave this unacknowledged is to pretend the harsh reality of the segregated social climate did not exist.

That being said, the musical dealt and dealt well with the issues it did confront, and it is understandable (though unfortunate and perhaps uncomfortable) that, in the stress of dealing with such a hugely important and controversial subject as the mistreatment of veterans, certain aspects of the play became “unreal” and certain unpalatable realities went unacknowledged.

Still, we can learn from Bandstand, in its message and its omitted lines, a great deal about the change that our society calls for, that America needs. So I would still call Bandstand a great American musical, and, with its hard-hitting message on veterans’ needs and its equally stunning choreography, certainly worth watching.

Photo Courtesy of Columbia Mail

 

For the convenience of students and in order to free up more space for students to use in Lerner, Columbia has decided to move the Student Mail operations in Lerner to the Wien Hall Package Center. Starting on July 10, 2017, students will be able to pick up their mail the same way they pick up packages–by heading over to what will be renamed the Wien Hall Mail Center, going to the lower level, swiping their ID cards at a kiosk, and then proceeding to the service counter to pick up their packages and mail from staff members.

This process comes with many benefits for students, such as:

· Students will receive an email notification when they receive mail or packages
· Students will no longer need to check their mailboxes, saving unnecessary walks to Lerner
· There will be only one location for package and mail pickup and other services (shipping, mailing supplies, etc.)
· Per student feedback, the Student Mail Center will feature extended hours of operation during Academic and Rush periods
· No more mailbox keys or lost key fees, but students will retain their mailbox number

(Kristina M. Hernandez, Executive Director, Marketing and Communications at Columbia University)

Starting in the fall semester, students will also have access to a new, small collection of 24/7 lockers in Wien. These lockers can be reserved by students who cannot make it to the Mail Center’s regular hours so that they can pick up emergency mail or packages after hours and during the weekend. More details will be announced on the Columbia Mail site for the new academic year.

If you’re worried you may forget about these changes over the break, don’t fret.

Undergraduate residential students with mailboxes will receive an email when the location change goes into effect, along with other important operational information.

(Kristina M. Hernandez, Executive Director, Marketing and Communications at Columbia University)

A cohort of Columbia students have reached the semifinals for the The CommonBond Social Impact Award. The award, along with its financial components, is to help foster a new generation of social entrepreneurs.

Photo Courtesy of StreetMate team

Photo Courtesy of StreetMate team

The idea behind StreetMate is to help offer connections to ensure every homeless person can access a bed to stay in at night. From their team description:

StreetMate: Recognizing that 70% of homeless individuals have smartphones, and that with the creation of LinkNYC all will soon have easy access to the internet, we’ve created a webapp that allows anyone to find and access a shelter that’s guaranteed to accept them after just four simple questions. We ensure that NYC’s homeless are only a few taps away from a warm bed.

If the team is in the top 3 teams in terms of the number of votes, they could receive $10,000 in funding to develop the app and deploy it to people throughout the city.

Voting ends at midnight on Friday, June 29th.

To support the StreetMate team, simply fill out the voting form here.

If you would like share information about the competition, team member Michael Pusic (CC ’19) shared the following blurb with our team:

A friend of mine created an app to make information about homelessness services easily accessible, and we just made it into the semi-finals of a national competition for social start ups. To get to the final (and to get funded), he needs to have the top 3 amount of votes, so lets help out by going on the link below and voting for StreetMate. It just takes a second (only name & email) and it’d make a big difference. Thanks so much!

http://woobox.com/3bgoz9/gallery/4Ghy7AyMTgY

Photo Courtesy  of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

Roald Dahl’s classic tale imagined in two drastically different film interpretations makes its sweet debut on the Broadway stage at the Lunt-Fontanne Theatre on 46th Street. “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” can make the sun rise and sprinkle it with dew with the playful, child fantasy it creates, but some of the wonders that “must be believed to be seen,” as Grandpa Joe exclaims, do not live up to their hype and leave the audience disappointed with what they actually witness.

Back in my hometown, we have a small children’s theatre where new and old productions alike are performed. I distinctly remember that we had a small production of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.” Even though these productions were completely different and the songs in the Broadway version are much better, I was almost shocked when I saw the Broadway set as the set for my small children’s theatre all those years ago seemed to be of the same quality as the Broadway version, if not more profound. The magical world that is Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory is hyped by every single character in the musical, including by actors who do ostentatious jazz hands and sing a repetitive shout of “Willy Wonka!” in order to signal the wonder and whimsy of the titular character. However, when it came time in the second act to witness the chocolate factory for the first time, the result was pretty underwhelming. This was not something I expected from the magic and grandiosity of Broadway.
As for the show itself, Willy Wonka, played by Christian Borle, was the clear star. His hilarious interpretation of the chocolate connoisseur kept me engaged throughout the entire show as Borle combined the different character interpretations from the films while also putting in some of his own flavor. My attention was glued to him for the majority of the time as he would infect the audience with hilarity such as the variety of different impressions he utilized including but not limited to Harry Caray. Even through the cringeworthy moments, such as the ear-piercing yodeling of Augustus Gloop and his mother, Violet Beauregarde’s lackluster explosion, the unique (for lack of a nicer word) Oompa Loompa musical numbers, and even the shocking morbidity to the show, Borle was able to ground the show with his maniacal yet heartwarming interpretation of the epitomal candyman. Through the unique (for lack of a nicer word) Oompa Loompa costuming and the  It’s a shame that the set behind him did not match his world of pure imagination.

Getting ready to graduate from Columbia soon? Want to know about what happens to your library access privileges? Here’s what you need to know courtesy of Nana-Kwabena Adjapong Abrefah (CC ’16):

1. As policy stands, Columbia alumni have lifetime access to all libraries and Lerner Hall.
2. Your student ID card will be active for around 120 days after graduation. If you come in before that, the library staff will recommend that you wait because your student ID card still has borrowing privileges on it whereas alums must pay for borrowing.
3. You can only have 1 active ID at a time; hence, if you try to get your alum ID before you graduate, you will be turned away. The system won’t let them print it, and if they did, you would lose all building access.
4. When you do come in, the library staff have to take a photo of you.
5. The Alumni card printed will be good for 10 years from the day it’s printed and can be renewed. The card and access are free.
6. Borrowing as an alum is $30/month. This is setup in the library office.
6a. Barnard alumni get free borrowing to the Barnard collection, but borrowing from other collections will still be $30/month.
7. You’ll have limited remote access to e-resources as an alum. If you come into the libraries and use a public terminal, you’ll have full access to the databases (you won’t be able to log into computers anymore, but you will still keep your UNI/password). You can find a list of these resources here.
8. Butler’s hours are 9am-11pm for alums. You will not be forced out if you stay past 11pm, but you will not be able to swipe in before 9am or after 11pm. All other library hours are the same. However, in cases like IAB and Noco, there are times when the building is locked but the library is open. Your card will not get you building access, so you would have to wait for someone else to enter or go elsewhere.

Christy Altomare and company of Anastasia. Photo Courtesy of Joan Marcus.

 

When the long-anticipated Broadway adaptation of the cartoon classic Anastasia (1997) debuted under the bright lights of the Broadhurst Theatre, the audience was tightly packed and diverse: thick Eastern European accents were offset by the squeals of American women in their teens and early 20s, eagerly anticipating their favorite story brought to life. Indeed, all of the audience members were likely intimately familiar with some form of the story behind Anastasia— whether the “true” history of the ill-fated Tsarevna Anastasia Nikolaevna, allegedly murdered by the Cheka (Bolshevik secret police) in 1918, or the whimsical tale of 20th Century Fox’s “Anastasia Romanov(a),” with its talking bat and mad villain Rasputin hunting the Romanov family to near-extinction, with its train crashes and hexes and wild run to the streets of Paris— but few could predict what would happen when the lights grew dim and these two stories intersected in a new translation of the classic tale.

With the introduction of Anastasia to the stage, Rasputin gave way to the Russian Revolution of 1917 (specifically the February Revolution and the fall of Winter Palace) and the rising Russian Communist movement; the new adaptation brought new “villains” to the story. But as Anastasia grew closer to real life, so did its conflict. Instead of employing the black and white morality shown in the movie, the Broadway play Anastasia thoroughly developed its villains and their drives. This idea of gray-moral conflict was embodied by the well-rounded character development of the main antagonist Gleb (Ramin Karimloo), who faced a moral dilemma threatening his identity even as Anastasia came to recognize her own.

Despite these major changes to the plot, the majority of the characters and music that made Anastasia the movie a success remained in the play. In fact, not only were iconic songs like “Learn to Do It,” “Journey to the Past,” and “Once Upon a December” beautifully rearticulated, but also the original songs like “My Petersburg” performed by Dmitry (Derek Klena) and “Stay, I Pray You,” which featured nearly the entire cast, were instrumental in exposing the raw nerve endings of a country torn apart by revolution and giving new depth to the characters.

“Stay, I Pray You” was a particularly timely addition for today’s audiences, given its thematic focus on the struggles of leaving a war-torn country to seek refuge away from one’s home. Dmitry and Anya (Anastasia) may have been full of hope, but they, along with the refugees they accompanied, still called:

Stay, I pray you.

Let me have a moment,

Let me say goodbye;

Harsh and sweet

And bitter to leave it all,

I’ll bless my homeland

Till I die.

The eyes of the cast at this point twinkled with tears in the bright stage lights. The audience was not immune from the sudden onset of emotions.

Anastasia is inherently self-aware: a nostalgic story centered around nostalgia; a story about respecting the past while growing to make new decisions respecting its past and growing into new decisions. And for the audience members not satisfied by this balance of whimsy and historical realism, a near-topless Derek Klena and a bejeweled Tsarina, stunning graphics that expanded the small stage into a platform crossing international boundaries and spectacular Russian choreography filling the stage in thrusting limbs and fluttering skirts— these seemed to have been enough of a distraction from defamiliarizing plot elements.

In the course of the night, very few technical or performative issues arose. The opening of the first scene, featuring a young Anastasia and her Grandmother the Grand Duchess as the Grand Duchess says goodbye before departing to Paris, was a bit choppy, seeming to be a near-direct quotation of the movie lacking the vivid character of the rest of the play, and Ramin Karimloo (Gleb) sounded slightly nervous at the play’s start; that is, Karimloo’s first two vocal performances were a bit more breathless than breathtaking. However, these minor issues were quickly eclipsed by the interactions between the young Anastasia and her family, the collapse of the Grand Duchess at the news of their deaths (a tear-jerking performance), and Karimloo’s heart-stopping second reprise of “A Simple Thing,” in which his voice persisted where many other actors would have failed.

Altogether, Anastasia overshot all expectations of success and managed a seemingly impossible feat with its reconciliation of history with fantasy. Its near-perfect opening performances can only improve as the actors and actresses continue to bring the streets of Leningrad (ne Saint Petersburg) to our very own West 44th Street, between 7th and 8th Aves.