Before buying a ticket to The Great Comet, it is important to keep in mind no matter where you sit, you will inevitably be immersed with all the joys of this show. The typical “orchestra” area is practically built into the stage—small tables are seamlessly incorporated into the unique stage structure. Often times, the actors will even interact with those sitting in the stage region. My seats were in the rear mezzanine, and while I was incredibly jealous of those sitting in the midst of all the action, we were still fortunate enough to receive the complementary pierogis (which were handed out by the ensemble at the beginning of the show).
Once the music to the “Prologue” started playing, members of the cast filled empty crevices throughout the mezzanine and stage. The Imperial Theatre suddenly transformed into an intimate showcase of 19th century Russia; no matter where you looked, there was something different and exciting to see. The actors MADE SURE everyone in the audience was having fun and most importantly, involved in the story. The ensemble’s costumes were so eccentric, fun, and fitting to the narrative while the gowns worn by the title female roles were simple, beautiful, and representative of their social statuses. Watching the Great Comet was practically reaping all the benefits of reading a great classic novel sans the technicalities.
While there is an abundance of impressive factors to recognize in the Great Comet, my favorite aspect of this show was, hands-down, the casting. Each actor (and their voice) fit every role to a T. The casting for this show is, in fact, SO outstanding that if someone were to give me a brief description of each character and then blindfold me while having the cast sing to me, I would most likely be able to match up every actor to their respective roles. I left the theatre that night almost certain Denée Benton is a young and naïve Russian ingénue; Brittain Ashford is her paranoid, loving, and protective cousin; Grace McLean is their strict and meticulous caregiver; Lucas Steele is a cocky, boyish, and irresponsible cause of chaos; and Josh Groban is infamously “bewildered, and awkward…rich, [and] unhappily married.”
My favorite number from the show was Ashford’s “Sonya Alone.” It was one of the very few moments in The Great Comet where the stage seemed bare. All attention was on Sonya and the conflict she faced which so many can relate to: doing what is “right” vs. doing what will make others happy. I have no other word to describe Ashford’s voice other than raw, and well-equipped to depict unconditional love. It was the type of performance that made you place yourself in a character’s shoes and identify with a fictional storyline.
Creativity and innovation were never lacking in The Great Comet. In my opinion, those qualities the show possesses are why it is so distinguished from any other show (and received 12 Tony Nominations). As I searched the tables and floors around me for one of the show’s complementary egg-shakers before I left, a man tapped me on the shoulder and handed me one with a smile. He told me it was his seventh time seeing the show and had already collected every color egg-shaker. It was the perfect end to a perfect night and showed me just how much this show is cherished. If you get the chance, go check out Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, you will walk out feeling like you received a shot of caffeine and a huge hug.
Stage door experience
This was my first stage door experience at a Broadway theatre and I was used to stage-dooring tour casts. Therefore, I was not expecting the large crowd waiting behind the barricade for the cast to come out at the Great Comet. I think a lot of this had to do with Josh Groban being in the show at the time, but everyone was so excited to talk to everyone in the cast, no matter what their role. Looking back, this is probably the only Broadway show I’ve seen where everyone came out, but it is also the only show I’ve seen where everyone in the cast had such an intimate performance for the audience… so it only makes sense. Every cast member seemed so excited and happy to be doing what they were doing. Multiple male actors were complimented on their black nail polish and everyone waiting behind the barricade was thanked by numerous cast members who were so appreciative of the great responses they were hearing. Josh’s exit from the stage door was kind of hectic and it was hard for everyone to get his signature or talk to him, but he did a great job at doing his best to get to everyone. He seemed like such a humble and sweet guy.
Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 is a sliver of the historical classic "War and Peace" by Leo Tolstoy. The creators of “The Great Comet” took this 70 page excerpt and ran with it, creating a dynamic portrayal of a young, elite girl (Natasha) in Moscow who faces the complex challenges of romance. Pierre’s character juxtaposes Natasha’s, as he is introverted and often alone, but both are in desperate need of something they can’t seem to find. Perhaps the things they lack lie within each other.
Cast at This Performance
Mary/Opera Singer/Maidservant—Gelsey Bell
Marya D—Grace McLean
Balga/Servant/Opera Singer—Pual Pinto
Opera Dancers—Reed Luplau, Ani Taj
Photos retrieved from Billboard.com and BroadwayBox.com