By: Christian Bonavita
Students who attended Staten Island Tech’s recent Russian Culture Trip were dazzled by a performance of Broadway’s new musical, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, starring Josh Groban and Denée Benton. The musical, adapted from an excerpt from Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, was at times beautiful, at times bizarre, and endlessly creative.
The Great Comet is told entirely through music; very few lines are spoken, and the rest are sung in lines that amount to almost 30 songs. These songs vary greatly in genre; some sound very traditional and Russian, while other songs sound closer to rock, EDM, or classic Broadway ballads. These songs fit perfectly with the characters brought to life by the cast, whether it be Denée Benton’s innocent and young Natasha, Brittain Ashford’s beautifully emotive Sonya, or Josh Groban’s regretful and explosive Pierre.
Another strong point of the show was the ensemble. Most ensemble members are also musicians, and dance up and down the aisles and across the stage while playing accordions, violins, or other instruments. In numbers where they were not playing instruments, they brought the music to life, making some songs feel like full-blown parties and others feel closer to classic Broadway ensemble pieces. The energy brought by the ensemble made the experience of the show completely immersive.
The most unique point component of the show is the set and audience seating on the stage. The lower stage is circular, with a pit in the center that contains the musical director, a cellist, and Pierre’s study, where a few scenes take place. There are stairs leading up to several platforms where actors and ensemble members can perform, and all throughout, there is audience seating, either at booths or chairs next to tables. The best way to experience the musical is to be on the stage with the actors; there were several points where the actors interacted with audience members for laughs. However, traditional seating is also available in the orchestra and mezzanine.
Overall, The Great Comet is a unique Broadway experience that leaves audience members wanting to see it again immediately afterwards. With great lead performances, an especially strong ensemble, a unique stage and a spectacular storyline, The Great Comet is destined to be Broadway’s next phenomenon.