Josh Groban as Pierre with the cast of NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812, photo by Chad Batka.
NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 has a lot in common with HAMILTON. Based on large books, both are sung-through (meaning there is no spoken dialogue), both use a mixture of musical styles including anachronistic modern genres, both have duels, both are created by a single person writing book, music & lyrics and both represent a new wave in American Musical Theater. Having rich base material to draw on helps both shows create intricately detailed plots, deeply drawn characters and insightful storytelling.
For those of you who didn’t make it through Leo Tolstoy’s WAR AND PEACE in school, have no fear. This is a raucous, fascinating musical based on a few chapters of WAR AND PEACE and there is no chance of you falling asleep. Composer/Lyricist/Bookwriter Dave Malloy has gone out of his way to make everything clear with an Opening Number that introduces the characters. I was not a Josh Groban fan going in, but he is perfectly cast as the introspective, corpulent Pierre and his singing and acting shine through on his journey of awakening.
The Set looks like a multi-layered wedding cake in the style of The Russian Tea Room, with audience on all tiers. There is a runway stretching through the theater, where the chorus comes out to feebly draw us into the performance. The lighting is innovative, if sometimes blinding. The tuneful music has moments of divinity and there is some of the best choral work this side of THE COLOR PURPLE. However, I would not recommend this show to anyone who only favors old-fashioned Musicals. This is Art. Sublime, delicious Art.