Saturday. Matinee. My 22nd birthday. Great Comet
I left Los Angeles for New York two days before my 22nd birthday with tickets for only one show (Bandstand) and an idea of what other shows I wanted to see. Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 was at the top of the list. So when I was able to buy next-day matinee tickets at TKTS I was absolutely beside myself.
I had listened to the Off-Broadway Cast Recording for about a year before leaving for New York and had fallen in love with the story and the show itself. I knew that some changes would be made but I had absolutely no idea about how I would feel during this show.
We, my mother and myself, rolled up to the Imperial Theatre in an Uber after getting myself a birthday blowout at DryBar, ready for what this show would become. Upon entering the theatre, I was immediately transported and disoriented. This is not what a Broadway theatre typically looks like, I felt cramped and a bit like Kimmy Schmidt, trapped in a bunker. But after following the crowd through the entry, I was once more transported into a lush, lavish, and absolutely beautiful Russian supper club.
When the lights went down and the actors came out to discuss the rules of the club, I was instantly committed to the show. And then they won me over once more by handing out boxes of potato and onion perogies, which I was lucky enough to find myself in possession of. I was in love.
The lights dimmed, the chandelier rose, and the show began. The prologue makes me so happy with the repeating verses which are insanely helpful. I find that by repeating the names of who is who, it helps the audience get a better grasp of the characters and their personalities.
I wasn’t a fan of Josh Groban, not that I didn’t like him, I just hadn’t had much exposure to his music. I knew him from the 2008 UK Concert of Chess, and thought he was wonderful in that. But he truly shines as Pierre and I feel lucky to see him make his Broadway debut. I also knew that as a fun fact he attended LACHSA, which is one of the high schools that are basically on my college campus.
As for Denée Benton, I actually saw her 3 years ago in the National Tour of Book of Mormon as Nabulungi. From what I remember, she was great in that. As Natasha, however, she soared. I cannot imagine someone more suited for this role than her. Her performance was so wonderful and she truly embodied that naive, love-struck character that is Natasha. Also, this being her Broadway debut was pretty exciting.
For me, however, the absolute standout of the show was Lucas Steele as Anatole. He was able to exude the charm and stubbornness that the character requires all while singing his little heart out. He was funny and, God, he was so charming.
When I woke up on Tuesday May 2, 2017 to the news that all three of these actors were Tony-nominated for their performances made my heart soar.
A criticism I have heard about the show is that they speak a lot of their actions and some people do not like that. But I think it’s genius for two reasons. ONE, the show has pretty much redesigned the Imperial Theatre and the actors are performing around you all the time, including up in the mezzanine and at the back of the orchestra so nearly ever seat has some sort of obstruction, and so the actions being narrated is necessary. TWO, the show is based on a 70-page section of War and Peace, a book, by narrating the actions, it stays truer to the book, as if they are reading directly out of it. I think that is brilliant.
I love that the show is interactive, the actors are playing with the audience and toasting with them. I remember that during the song Letters, Anatole sends a letter along a row in the audience to Natasha. The row happened to be comprised of mainly older people and the last in the row was an elderly lady who was supposed to give the letter to Natasha. She, obviously, couldn’t move as well as a younger person might have so it took her a bit longer than anticipated to hand the letter over, but the audience gave a big cheer as she went to sit back down, and my heart swelled.
When the cast members came out with egg shakers for Balaga and the audience couldn’t keep the rhythm of the song, I felt so much joy. I love audience participation so much when no one is singled out.
I love how different and immersive this show is. It doesn’t leave you with a warm feeling in your heart unless the idea of no one being happy or in love makes you feel warm and fuzzy. To each their own. Still, this show is special, it leaves you feeling new and refreshed and like you and these characters are given a new start.
Everything about this show, the actors, the set design, the costumes, the book, and the music come together to form a perfect art piece. Not one day has passed since I saw this show that I have not listened to the cast recordings and spoken about this show. Of the three shows I saw on that trip, this is the one that has left the biggest impact on me. The fearlessness this show has by being different than the others is so promising of the future of Broadway, and that gives me hope.
I know this seems like a rave, but thats because it is. I love Great Comet. I love this show and want nothing but the best for this show and these actors. I want to see this show a million more times and I wonder if ever this could tour. I want everyone to see this show. When my friends tell me about the trips to New York they have planned for the summer, I tell them to see this show. Even when Groban leaves in early July, Oak will come in and kick ass.
Until next time,