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.
Josh Groban sings “Dust and Ashes” from NATASHA, PIERRE AND THE GREAT COMET OF 1812.
I remember a time when Producers and the Attorney General of New York were all riled up about say, at the most, a dozen Broadway Box Office Treasurers selling twenty house seat tickets per performance to brokers for a financial kickback known as “Ice.” Well, Ticketmaster has built a glacier over Broadway and no one seems to care.
For example, most of the HAMILTON tickets sold by Ticketmaster are sold-out thru next October, but if you go on the Ticketmaster site, you will see consistently 1/3rd of the seats available for resale “from fan to fan” for exorbitant prices, 3 to 8 times the face value of the original tickets. This means that the majority of the money being made by this hit show is not going to help pay the cast, crew, creatives or investors, it is going to the “fans” or more precisely “e-brokers.” HAMILTON made $1,700,000 gross last week, but there was probably at least another $2,000,000 paid to “e-brokers” above the face value. This is not good business.
Right now, there is a limit of 14 tickets per person each week for ticket sales, but we all know there are ways around that. There needs to be a limit on the amount you can charge to resell a ticket. Or, for every dollar you make over the ticket price, 50 cents should go back to the show. I know, it would be difficult to regulate that income, but if you can’t regulate the sales, what option do we have?
It’s not only HAMILTON, that’s just the most blatant case. And it’s not only Ticketmaster, check out Stubhub or any of the other resale sites. It is SO DAMN HARD TO MAKE MONEY IN THE THEATER BUSINESS. PRODUCERS: DON’T BE SATISFIED WITH A HIT, DEMAND NEW STANDARDS FOR ACCEPTABLE RESALE PRACTICES. (Yes, I am yelling.)
Why bother reviewing a show that only has jacked up resale pricing thru the spring? Yes, it’s magnificent. I could suggest you get the album, but it is a gateway drug to a heroine you can’t afford. Someone needs to manage the availability of regularly priced tickets better and someone should be checking where all the money is going for those $1,500 resale tickets. For a show about America’s first secretary of the treasury, the banks are shockingly closed.