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SHOW OF THE WEEK

NATASHA, PIERRE AND THE GREAT COMET OF 1812


Photo by Chad Batka
Dave Malloy in Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
Dave Malloy in Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
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This week marks the final Broadway performances of Dave Malloy's hit musical Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 at the Imperial Theatre and we're celebrating the immersive production as our #ShowOfTheWeek one last time! You can even see creator Dave Malloy in the spotlight himself, giving his own interpretation of Pierre to conclude the Broadway run.

The Great Comet of 1812 has built quite the stellar reputation for itself during its long and winding journey to Broadway, having evolved through various off-Broadway and out-of-town incarnations. Theatregoers have experienced what I can only describe as a modern masterpiece.

The pop rock opera began life back in 2012 at the off-Broadway venue of Ars Nova. After proving to be a convincing hit for the company, the show transferred to a purpose-built, pop-up venue called Kazino in the Meatpacking District in 2013. Later that year, Kazino moved up towards the Times Square area and the buzz continued to grow. The next chapter of the Comet’s life saw the mounting of a production at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which played from December 2015 through to January 2016. Finally, for Natasha, Pierre and the rest of the Russian crew, it was full steam ahead to Broadway and an official opening at the Imperial Theatre on November 14th of last year.

Superbly directed by Rachel Chavkin, the Broadway production endeavours to maintain the charm of the original smaller scale productions, by surrounding the audience with mounted catwalks and pathways, immersing patrons in a 360 degree experience. When I attended, I was frequently spoiled for choice as actors were placed around me in seemingly every different direction, dancing and interacting with audience members. The stage itself is also littered with the general public, some in tiered seating and some at cabaret tables. Designer Mimi Lien has somehow worked a wonder in transforming the Imperial Theatre into a velvety, Russian-style dinner club, evoking an intimate sense of rawness and inclusivity. At The 71st Annual Tony Awards this year, she deservedly walked away with the Tony Award for "Best Scenic Design of a Musical." Sporadically we as audience members also become part of the action of the scenes – no spoilers here though as these moments are part of the unique beauty of the piece.

The narrative is taken from a 70-page slice of Leo Tolstoy’s epic “War and Peace,” but worry not if you’ve never laid a finger on this classic, as the musical is fairly self-explanatory and distinguishes itself from its source material with a more timeless interpretation. Some of the lavish costumes may be period, but Malloy’s score and production elements (which include strobe lighting and glow-sticks at one point) are anything but. Lighting designer Bradley King was also able to scoop this year's Tony Award for "Best Lighting Design of a Musical." In the same way that Hamilton revolutionised the art of musical theatre in the 21st century, The Great Comet also uses a plethora of modern devices to bring characters of the past to thrilling life.

Tony nominee Denée Benton delights with an enchantingly youthful performance as Natasha. Indeed the entire cast moulds together with such a natural ease and bursts into the auditorium and up onto the mezzanine with such ferocity, that it was a struggle to remain seated and not join in the merriment. Cast member Brittain Ashford gives beautifully wrought renditions of “Sonya Alone” and “Natasha Very Ill” and Tony nominee Lucas Steele steals scenes with his roguish charm.

Check out our interviews with original cast members Brittain Ashford and Lucas Steele.

I have no doubt that the closure of Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812 is largely due to principal casting issues, as box office sales have been consistently strong. If you've been sleeping under a rock and haven't had chance to experience this unique Broadway marvel yet, then this is your last chance to witness it in all its splendour and glory at the Imperial Theatre!

Click here for tickets to Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812 through to September 3rd, 2017 at Broadway's Imperial Theatre.

- by Tom Millward

Production Details
Venue: Imperial Theatre
Genre: Musical
Previewed: 18 Oct 2016
Opened: 14 Nov 2016
Book, Music & Lyrics: Dave Malloy
Director: Rachel Chavkin

Synopsis: Dave Malloy's adaptation of a 70-page slice of War and Peace puts audiences just inches away from Tolstoy's brash young lovers, as they light up Moscow in an epic tale of romance and passion.

Cast: Dave Malloy (Pierre), Denée Benton (Natasha), Brittain Ashford (Sonya), Gelsey Bell (Princess Mary), Nicholas Belton (Bolkonsky/Andrey), Nick Choksi (Dolokhov), Amber Gray (Helene), Grace McLean (Marya D), Paul Pinto (Balaga) and Lucas Steele (Anatole)

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