Broadway Review: Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

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A few years back, my husband helped put together a sound system for a little show with an even littler budget. As a result, they offered us a couple of tickets to see that show in a room that felt about the size of our living room.

We sat at a small table that had a plate of perogies and a bottle of vodka on it…for us to consume during the performance. Suffice it to say that we could tell it would be a one-of-a-kind experience.

Fast forward to now, and that little show has played in several different venues, all leading up to Broadway.

Natasha is a beautiful ingénue visiting Moscow while she waits for her beloved fiancé Andrey to return from the war. In a moment of indiscretion, she is seduced by the dashing (but already married) Anatole and her position in society is ruined. Her only hope lies with Pierre, the lonely outsider whose love and compassion for Natasha may be the key to her redemption… and to the renewal of his own soul.

I can’t say that I’ve ever read War and Peace, but rumor has it this musical is somehow connected. Whatever the source material, the creative team has produced a little magic in this one.

They have a very strict no-pictures policy in the theater, and I get it. Having experienced The Great Comet, it feels like you’re on the inside of something special – something you have to experience yourself to really understand. As a result, this picture below is actually from a previous production in Boston.

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photo by Evgenia Eliseev

I think you can still tell from this how unique it is. There is seating all over the stage, and stairs and catwalks throughout the theater where musicians and dancers roam the room in a way that makes you feel like part of the action.

After a party scene, one cast member “passed out” with his arm draped over me. Later in the show, egg shakers were handed out to audience members so we could jam along with the other musicians.

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Oh, and there’s one other minor little thing about this Broadway production. The male lead is played by Josh Groban. I wouldn’t call myself a fan of his, per sé, but there is no doubt that his voice is like butter.

The female lead is the one who captured my heart, though. Denee Benton is really something special! I had the pleasure of seeing Phillipa Soo (now better known for playing Eliza in Hamilton) in the original production, but Benton really blew me away. She plays that ingénue masterfully, and I found myself really sympathizing despite some questionable decisions by her character.

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photo by Chad Batka

My one complaint about the show is that the resolution is rushed. There were a lot of questions left unanswered, but it felt like they were tight on time and just had to wrap things up. Honestly, though, the rest of the performance is so fun and immersive, it’s an easy thing to forgive.

If you’re in NYC and can’t get tickets to Hamilton either, Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 should definitely be on your short list of alternatives.

In 19th-century Russia we write letters, we write letters…

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