Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 Strikes Broadway in Style


Avi Hathorne, Reporter

Most theatergoers are familiar with Broadway favorites such as Les Misérables, The Phantom of the Opera, and The Lion King. Famous as they are, these shows often overshadow equally stunning musicals. One such musical is Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812, which opened on Broadway earlier this month and proved to its audience that a musical based on a section of War and Peace can be much more quirky and engaging than it sounds.

Great Comet, referring to itself somewhat broadly as an opera, features a unique combination of Russian folk music and EDM that leaves viewers delighted, wondering what in the world they have just witnessed, or both. Lyrics range from the usual personal dialogue to third-person narrative describing details that are not always apparent in live theater, and, in keeping with the operatic style, the entire show has only one spoken line.

Every bit as distinct as the music is the Broadway stage. Alongside the typical house seats across from the stage, there are several rows and a handful of tables directly onstage. Occupants of these seats are at the center of the action, and at several points during the performance, actors will hand a prop to an audience member or push someone aside to “borrow” their seat for a scene. The theater does not make use of a traditional orchestra pit; instead, several instruments are positioned at natural points in the set, while the rest play an instrument while singing, dancing, playing a main role, or all of the above.

Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 is not what most often comes to mind when one thinks of musical theater. Its eccentricity, however, lends it charm and novelty, and it is a thoroughly enjoyable way to distract oneself from the monotony of everyday life.