Broadway is a loving home to the ever-changing and rapidly progressive art form of theatre. Every once in a while, a show comes along that is as innovative as it is captivating. Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, more commonly known as The Great Comet, is the most recent game-changer, notable for showcasing a new avant-garde style of theatre. Nominated for an impressive 12 Tony Awards, this musical based on a 70 page section of Tolstoy’s War and Peace reimagines the classic novel in a way that is enchanting and modern.
The score, composed by Dave Malloy, is an enticing combination of various different music genres. Though deemed an electro-pop opera, this show definitely incorporates many more styles than it is given credit for. Though some songs, such as No One Else, Natasha and Pierre, and Prologue closely resemble the melodies of classic showtunes, others, such as Charming and Sonya Alone, have a more indie-influenced sound to them. Despite the musical stylistic differences, all of the songs surprisingly mesh together seamlessly to build one cohesive and exciting work of art.
As I mentioned earlier, the plot is based around one section of War and Peace. Although this may cause some to want to shy away from the show, all should keep in mind that The Great Comet is a loosely based and modernized piece, as opposed to a word-for-word rendition of the novel. To really exaggerate this mix of current themes and traditional stories colliding, the costumes by Paloma Young are an intricate mix of both classic and contemporary fashion. She utilizes corsets and draping gowns, though also incorporates modern flares such as chainmail and cold-shoulder cuts. The costumes, along with Malloy’s music, work to meld together 1812 and 2017.
The current stars, including leading man Josh Groban and leading lady Denee Benton, are up for Tonys awards for the roles of Pierre and Natasha, respectively. Though Groban and Benton are undeniably perfect in their roles, there are many other standouts in the cast. Lucas Steele, who plays Anatole, has found a large resonance with many audiences as the deceptive heartthrob that attempts to elope with Natasha. Similarly, Brittain Ashford wins over the hearts of many nightly as she portrays Natasha's best friend and confidante, Sonya. Those mentioned are merely notable roles; however, the entire cast shines as an ensemble, and at one point or another during the performance, each individual member is featured.
The Great Comet also incorporates onstage audience members: a feat that is rarely seen, let alone on Broadway. Innovative seating on the stage allows for the actors to interact with the audience, giving a much more personal experience to theatregoers. This choice also makes the time difference between 1812 and 2017 seem less significant, as viewers feel as though they are living along with the story instead of watching what has happened. Although this concept may be very exciting for some, there is offstage seating aswell, so even those that wish to stay away from the limelight can still bask in the beauty of the show.
Although many new shows have graced the numerous Broadway stages this year, it is clear that The Great Comet is one that will be remembered for decades. There are so many aspects that are so unique and outstanding about the concept of the show, particularly the way that War and Peace has been translated into music and monologue while still maintaining its original brilliance. To be able to pull this off while still delivering a progression-driven production is worth more than any accolade or award. Whether they win the Tony for Best Musical or not, The Great Comet is a production that shines as bright as the rock for which it is named after.