By: Tracey Lawie
I traveled to New York City for a long, cold weekend in January to attend the annual APAP (Association of Performing Arts Presenters) conference. The conference where I speed date with dozens of show agencies to discuss and negotiate potential shows to grace the stage of Miller Auditorium for the upcoming season. I also get to take in shortened versions of the performances called “showcases” to sample the potential performances. But, this year, one of my colleagues approached me after a large agency meeting to see if I would be interested in using the extra ticket she had to see Josh Groban starring on Broadway in the new musical offering Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. I was thrilled to see Josh Groban live on stage, and pair that with a new Broadway musical…needless to say, I gave her an enthusiastic “Yes!”
The Great Comet of 1812 is a pop opera, adapted from a section of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. Think it sounds like a bizarre combination? You would be right, but somehow, it works. As The New York Times states, it looks “at a historical period through a contemporary lens,” and they do it well.
The first musical number made me an immediate fan. It is a rousing number that introduces the characters, with a nod to the fact that it may not be all that easy:
This is all in your program
You are at the opera
Gonna have to study up a little bit
If you wanna keep with the plot
Cuz it’s a complicated Russian novel
Everyone’s got nine different names
So look it up in your program
We’d appreciate it, thanks a lot
They then take you on a whirlwind cycle introducing each principal character and I swear I knew every line by the end of the song.
The other thing I should mention is the staging. They rebuilt the interior of the theatre so the cast was immersed with the audience throughout. The chorus was often dancing or playing an instrument directly in front of me. Characters would collapse in chairs next to audience members on stage and at one point, they handed out egg shaped maracas for the audience to play along during a song.
CBS did a great story on Josh Groban and the show. You can catch it here and get more insight to the staging and songs:
Not sure if this show will tour, but if you find yourself in New York, or it does show up in a theatre near you, do yourself a favor and see it!
The two songs that have been earworms for me every day since seeing the show can be listened to here: