Interview with Great Comet of 1812 star Brittain Ashford
Brittain Ashford has been a part of Dave Malloy's immersive hit musical Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812, taking on the role of Sonya, since it's original off-Broadway conception in 2012.
We caught up with Brittain to get her thoughts on this remarkable journey to the Great White Way:
Congratulations on your Broadway debut, Brittain! You have been with the musical since its original conception off-Broadway at Ars Nova. What have some of your personal highlights of the journey been so far?
Brittain Ashford: Thank you! It's been a long and crazy, exhausting, rewarding journey. While it's hard to think of specific highlights, I can say opening night on Broadway was incredibly emotional and satisfying. We've met a lot of wonderful people along the way and have had some amazing nights with the cast and crew. I think one of my favorite nights with the cast had nothing to do with the show itself: all of the songwriters in the show had done a song exchange, Secret Santa style. So a room full of amazing musicians and writers sharing the work of another cast member. Just such a feeling of community and joy.
THM: In the opening number, as we meet all the players of the piece, we repeatedly hear the lyric "Sonya is good." Could you tell us a bit about your character - why is she "good" and what is her importance in terms of the narrative?
BA: Sonya is just so... wholesome? In the show Sonya serves as Natasha's confidant, devoted friend, and moral compass. Her duty to her family far surpasses any self interest, and in that way she is very good.
THM: You originally started with the musical's creator Dave Malloy as Pierre and now the role is being played in the Broadway production by Josh Groban. How would you compare working with both of them?
BA: The short answer: they've both been such a pleasure to work with. When we started at Ars, Dave and I were already friends-- so it was a lot of fun, especially as we were trying to figure out little music changes as we went. And I'm so excited to see Dave back in the role for a bit come the summer. Josh has been great-- super humble, really willing to get into the piece with the rest of the cast. They both bring something magic to the part of Pierre, I feel super lucky to have had the chance to work with them both.
THM: Do you feel that a prior understanding of Leo Tolstoy's "War and Peace" is beneficial for an audience member?
BA: Absolutely not! Truth, when I first started working on the show I hadn't read a page of the book. It wasn't until we moved to the Kazino space that I read the chunk that the show is based on. For those who really know the novel, they may find some winks in the show. But I don't think it is necessary in the least to be familiar with the text.
THM: I would say this production is one of the most unique shows I have ever seen on Broadway. Could you describe to our readers what makes it such a unique, theatrical event compared to the other shows Broadway currently has to offer?
BA: I love answering this. There are the obvious things that people are talking about a lot: the "stage" is bonkers, the show moves throughout the theatre, there are roving musicians peppered throughout the ensemble, and the entire cast is regularly breaking the fourth wall. But what I genuinely believe makes this show so special and different are the unique voices and personalities that are allowed to exist in the production. I often tell my friends who might not be super excited about the prospect of seeing a "Broadway Musical" that the show is different, and it is.
Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812 is booking through to 3 September 2017 at Broadway's Imperial Theatre.