Filmed in St. Petersburg, Russia; Paris; Montreal; and New York by the Cramer Co. and NBC Prods. Executive producer, Douglas S. Cramer; supervising producer, Dennis Hammer; producer, Kay Hoffman; director, Richard Colla; script, L. Virginia Browne, based on the novel “Zoya” by Danielle Steel; camera, Laszlo George; editor, Michael S. Murphy; art directors, Raymond Dupuis, Wing Lee; sound, Claude Hazanavicius, Jeff Pullman; production designers, Francesco Chianese, Peter Wooley; theme, Basil Poledouris; music, William Goldstein. TX:Cast: Melissa Gilbert, Bruce Boxleitner, Denise Alexander, Don Henderson, Zane Carney, Taryn Davis, David Warner, Diana Rigg, Philip Casnoff, Cameron Bancroft, Julian Stone, Susan Haskell, David Beron, Jennifer Garner, Peggy Cass, Jane How, Richard Durden, Sam West, Brian Williams, James Hanlon, Margaret Illmann, Gregory Hlady, Densil Pinnock, Burtt Harris, Caroline Neron, Henderson Forsythe, Johni Keyworth, Byron Johnson, Clare Sims, Margaret Hilton, Jessica Kardos, Catherine Colvey, Donna Sarrasin, Robert Vezina, Gabriel Gascon, Emma Stevens, Kristofer Batho, Pat McNamara, Jane Wheeler, Susie Almgren, Philip Pretten, Julie Cox, Jennifer Hilary, Yulian Zhulin, Alexei Nilin, Sebastien Joannette, Oleg Botin, Tiffany Amber Knight, Jacob Bloom, Maxim Roy, Gregory Perrelli, Sarabeth Sherbine, Frank Schorpion, Billy Kay, Derek Johnston, Stephanie Maillery, Erinn Simms, David Francis, David Raboy. Danielle Steel’s pen summons up even more opulence, romance, fantasy, suffering and courage than customary in “Zoya,” what with Russian nobility and American upper crust intermingling in an orgy of gloss and whimsies. The Cramer Co. and NBC Prods. go all out in ritzy production values, director Richard Colla gives much of the meller a sense of real earnestness, and scripter L. Virginia Browne’s adaptation plumbs depths; it also will cause some slackened jaws and giggles. That’s how she connects with Capt. Andrews (Bruce Boxleitner), a U.S. intelligence officer attached to Pershing’s staff. He spots her onstage and they have a standard romance before he heads for the trenches. Miniseries’ most absurd scene occurs one afternoon when Zoya wanders upstairs to Andrews’ bedroom in Pershing’s home and they make love on his bed — with the door wide open. Some intelligence officer!
Evgenia’s opposed to this American commoner (who makes himself comfy in her parlor without asking permission), favoring fellow refugee Vladimir (David Warner), who’s in love with Zoya. Zoya gets her imperial way — she is the czar’s niece, after all — and marries her American. Evgenia, of course, succumbs to that mysterious, fortuitous vidvirus that serves so handily in TV dramas.
In New York, Zoya, after a final, gruesome scene with Andrews, finds herself Depression-destitute. But where there’s a will, there’s a way. She finds two ways: by opening a high-toned shop and by marrying wealthy wholesaler Simon Hirsch (Philip Casnoff).
Self-absorbed Zoya sails through life wringing her hands over her plights but never sees how she hurts those around her. Actual noble Russian emigres of the 1920s and ’30s spoke of, thought of and revered their homeland, but not Zoya, who uses a peasant’s tenacity climbing to her improbable heights.
Gilbert, narrating the story with a good accent, occasionally misplaces the darned thing as the drama rips along. Her Zoya rings hollow, while Boxleitner’s captain is a conventional leading-man interp.
Casnoff (he played Frank Sinatra in the CBS vidbio) comfortably limns loving second husband Simon. Rigg, done up sternly, and Warner, as an elderly suitor for Zoya, give the vidpic dignity.
Margaret Illmann, as a doubting dancer greeting Zoya at the ballet, is memorable in a brief role, and Julian Stone, as conniving Freddy, who marries Zoya’s daughter, is strong. Peggy Cass appears eloquently as landlady Malloy.
The well-traveled production looks costly, designer Francesco Chianese has chosen effective sites (the St. Petersburg exteriors work especially well), and Barbara Lane’s costumes are appropriate. The camerawork of Laszlo George, with its usual efficiency, enriches the drama, and Michael S. Murphy’s editing gives the work a fast pace. No lingering here!
Steel’s storyline is thin to begin with, but Colla and the cast help it along with lots of zest. For those who know nothing about the Russian Revolution, Faberge eggs or Uncle Nicki, the work may be a puzzler, but the vid appeal of both Steel and Gilbert will serve as sufficient draw.