Austin-linked ‘Anastasia’ opens on Broadway, while ‘Fun Home’ heads to Austin

If you haven’t been following the Facebook threads of Marc and Carolyn Seriff, you’re missing this Austin duo’s take on producing a Broadway musical. Marc, co-founder of America Online and for a short time, head of the Long Center for the Performing Arts, is, along with his wife Carolyn, a longtime backer of local arts groups. They are in New York for three months because they are co-producers of a lavish production of Lynn Ahrens, Stephen Flaherty and Terrence McNally‘s “Anastasia,” originally an animated movie, which opened last night on Broadway.

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Ramin Karimloo and Christy Altomare. Contributed by Matthew Murphy

There are other Austin connections that we’ll flesh out later, including Texas-born McNally’s papers at the Ransom Center and previous versions of his works at Zach Theatre. We urged the Austin couple to keep a journal of their Broadway adventures. Here’s a snippet from Marc’s post today:

“Have to be really honest here and say that tonight was full of mixed emotions.

“First the good (and most important) — from where I sat, ‘Anastasia’ is one of the best musicals to come along in a while. It was Broadway with a capital ‘B’ with no attempt to be a ‘small’ show.

The sets and costumes were magnificent. The talent was stellar. Everybody seems to be deservedly nuts for Christy Altomare playing Anya, but I was mesmerized by all of them — especially John Bolton and Mary Beth Peil.

Loved the choreography and, while theater purists may disagree, the use of technology in the show — especially the huge HD screen — really enhanced the production without being the least gimmicky. As a co-producer, I’m proud to be associated with this show without reservation and I’m equally happy to recommend it to anybody also without reservation.

“Getting to know some of the other co-producers was a lot of fun. While they all hope to make a buck, they’re really using their checkbooks because they simply love the theater and want to be part of creating something beautiful.

“The not so good — for somebody with an ego like mine, there’s no question I was excited to meet some stars and completely struck out — we saw that Christian Borles and Tommy Tune were there but didn’t get to meet either. No harm — just disappointing.

“Second, the invitation called for everybody to come dressed in the Russian or Parisian fashions of the 20s. I was there in my really nice embroidered Cossack shirt and almost all the other men were in suits. Basically, the realization of a lifelong nightmare! At least my shirt was comfortable.

“The worrisome — the critics aren’t overwhelmed by the show and that’ll increase the marketing challenge. I was, frankly, stunned at the critical response. Hopefully, this is a show that audiences will make successful in spite of the critics.

“Bottom line: Would I co-produce again, especially assuming that Anastasia recoups? Absolutely. The journey so far has been tremendous fun. And having an excuse to spend three months in NYC — priceless!”

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Meanwhile, the Long Center announced that the critically acclaimed musical, “Fun Home,” is headed to Austin in a touring version Aug. 11-13.

This show, which won the 2015 Tony Award for Best Musical, is based on Alison Bechdel‘s 2006 graphic memoir by the same name and portrays the artist’s strangely disfunctional family. It’s got some adult content in case you were worried about bringing the kids.

Just a taste of the reviews:

“A rare beauty that pumps fresh air into Broadway” —  Ben Brantley, The New York Times

“An uplifting musical drama of rare intensity, honesty and beauty.’ Fun Home’ speak universally about big things that matter: life, love, family, surviving. It’s unconventional, to be sure, and musical theatre is better for it.” — New York Daily News

“Exquisite. An emotional powerhouse” — Chicago Tribune


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