Unique Adaptation of a Slice of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace”
On October 18, 2016, the long journey of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 gloriously culminated its long theatrical journey with the start of previews for its Broadway production. The show will officially open on November 14, 2016 at the Imperial Theatre, and is currently scheduled for an open-ended run. The journey for The Great Comet, as the show is known for short, began in 2012 at the Off-Off Broadway venue Ars Nova. In summer 2013, a custom-built venue was built in the Meatpacking District to house the musical event, which also included a full-course dinner of Russian cuisine served to patrons during the show. Following the success of that run, the show transferred to a similar custom-built venue in the theatre district, where it concluded in the spring of 2014. In the meantime, the show also played a limited engagement at American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which is the prestigious venue led by Diane Paulus that originated such recent Broadway productions as Hair, Porgy & Bess, Waitress, Finding Neverland, and All The Way. Finally, the show has come to Broadway.
This show has a book, music, and lyrics by Dave Malloy, who also did the orchestrations. It is based off a 70-page excerpt of Leo Tolstoy’s famously long novel, War and Peace. In bringing the audience up close and personal to the brash young lovers of 19th century Moscow, The Great Comet innovated by making a classic work more accessible to contemporary audiences. The show is directed by Rachel Chavkin, who is making her Broadway directorial debut with this show. In the show’s long journey, it has had an array of cast members, some of whom have been with the project from the beginning, and some of whom are joining for the Broadway production for the first time. Most notably, the role of Pierre, which was originated at Ars Nova by the show’s creator Dave Malloy, will be played on Broadway by Josh Groban, the singer-songwriter who has sold over 25 million records worldwide. On the other hand, some actors have grown along with the production; performers who have been there since the beginning include Lucas Steele as Anatole, Brittain Ashford as Sonya, and Nick Choksi as Dolokhov. The role of Natasha was originated by Phillipa Soo (Hamilton), but is now played by Denée Benton.
A Custom-Built Seating Arrangement for the Imperial Theatre
When the show was announced to be transferring to Broadway, many wondered how the immersive experience of the custom-built venues, complete with Russian dining, could transfer to the larger, more traditional venue. Although meals will not be served on Broadway, many initiatives are being undertaken to transform the Imperial Theatre into a more multidimensional experience. Specifically, the front orchestra will have the seats removed, and this is where the action takes place. Meanwhile, a curving runway will bisect the rear orchestra, and this is where the actors will enter and exit. As for the proscenium stage, seats will be placed on the stage facing the orchestra, so that audience members will surround the action. Furthermore, to recreate the Russian dinner club ambiance, more chairs with tables are placed around the stage area in the center of the front orchestra. The last time that a Broadway theatre was so drastically transformed was in 1974, when the revival of Candide relocated the action at the Broadway Theatre to the middle of the orchestra.
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