Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812

greatcometHalf, if not more, of New York has already seen this vibrant and athletic interpretation of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” which is giving “Hamilton” a run for its money in the pop opera category.

Coming from Off-Broadway’s Ars Nova four years ago, it has briskly made its way via the meatpacking district to the Imperial Theatre, where an open run will allow absolutely everyone to see it. (Hurrah for historical interpretations.)

Josh Groban is Pierre, both morose and a bit plumped up, whose demeanor and music (accordion/piano) mirrors his misery. The elegant Natasha, left to her own devices as her nobleman fights Napoleon, brightens at the sight of Anatole (right away you know he’s a no goodnik) and behaves – well how much can a girl be tested?

There’s a lineage “map” explaining the relationships and a synopsis in the program, but no one has the time or inclination to reference it once the excitement begins.

You can sit right on-stage and find a few members of the cast in your lap or choose a step below which is plenty close to the action but devoid of actual involvement. And then, of course, there’s the orchestra. Drinks are provided to further enhance the twists and turns in the plot. But the story submerges when so much of the show is practically pantomime with very loud music and minimal elocution (every 12th word stands out), so you just have to go with the flow and enjoy the cacophony.

And… you will!

Barbara Tober

 

Previous post:
Posted: 10/28/16 by Phil Neches
90Taking a sliver out of Tolstoy’s epic “War and Peace,” “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” transforms it into a high voltage rock opera à la “Cabaret.” Fortunately, this sliver reduces the plethora of Tsarist Russian aristocrats of the full novel to a manageable handful of main characters, and this production brings them to vivid life.

Natasha Rostova, the young, pretty, talented, romantic, but high-strung ingénue, is swept away, seduced, and almost elopes with the libertine, amoral Anatole Keratin. She is finally comforted and saved by Pierre Bezuhkov, a philosophical misfit who drinks too much and is Tolstoy’s alter ego.

Josh Grobin makes his Broadway debut as Pierre, padding his youthful frame to acquire the gravitas and ennui of his character. Since Pierre’s role is most important in the last scenes, Grobin helps out with the orchestra on accordion, piano, and percussion to keep his presence as Tolstoy’s narrative voice front and center throughout the show. In his final numbers, Grobin reminds us why the emotional power and deep sensitivity of his voice make him a multi-platinum star.

Natasha is newcomer Deneè Benton. Just two years out of acting school at Carnegie Mellon, she is a talent to be reckoned with. With her serene presence and silky voice, she could be the next Audra McDonald.

Lucas Steele makes a marvelous cad as Anatole. And, wow, can that villain sing!

The staging is almost psychedelic. There is no “fourth wall” here: some of the audience is on the stage and the action moves throughout the house with an ensemble that includes gypsies, hussars, musicians and ballerinas. Don’t come late: they won’t seat you because you’d collide with a cast member. Sit on the aisle and you might become part of the play, at least for a few seconds.

Tolstoy did not consider “War and Peace” to be a novel, but rather a melding of fiction, history, and philosophy. It’s hard to consider “The Great Comet” an opera because the music is high octane Broadway pop and the staging is avant garde. And nobody dies, at least not until Napoleon actually invades Russia after the curtain.

 

Previous post:
Posted: 09/30/16 by Doug Anderson
On occasion, Dale and I suggest a performance we’ve seen that we think you might enjoy. Over the years, we’ve brought “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” to your attention.

We first saw “The Great Comet” at Ars Nova, a tiny venue way off-Broadway. There wscreen-shot-2016-09-21-at-2-56-24-pmere small tables, each with a bottle of vodka and a loaf of pumpernickel bread. We were blown away. Apparently, so were others as the show moved into a purpose-built tent below West 14th street near the Hudson River. Then it was moved uptown to a tent in the 40s near 8th Avenue.

Finally, “The Great Comet” will be on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre that’s been re-configured to deliver a variety of ways to see the show.

We’ve seen this in all iterations and will be going with friends to see it again. It keeps getting better. We’ve chosen to sit in upholstered chairs at tables, which are shown on this seating plan in yellow.

As this is one of those times when unconventional shows sometimes become so successful that it’s hard to get tickets, maybe you should consider booking now?

We can’t wait to see how it does on-Broadway.

One Response to “Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812”

  1. Expectations often impact how you feel about a show. Pierre, Natasha……. had been so hyped, “Better than Hamilton” etc. that we were truly disappointed. And in our view it is no Hamilton. It is loud and we thought off base – when the biggest musical number – which went on way too long – is about the Troika driver, who has nor major role in the musical, you wonder what they were thinking. At the same time the production itself, in the way it uses the theater as a stage is rather wonderful.

    Our view is that it was produced for the tourist trade.

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