NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 Previews- Page 5

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wonderfulwizard11
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As far as the sound goes, I wouldn't expect the sound to be perfect for at least the first week. If the show really is staged all over the house, then it's an unusually difficult task for a sound designer to make sure everything is clear, and you can't really start doing that until you have a house actually filled with audience members. 

I am a firm believer in serendipity- all the random pieces coming together in one wonderful moment, when suddenly you see what their purpose was all along.
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Crazy how given the perspective of Passing Strange from Whizzer did nothing to help me understand if I am going to like this and I usually agree with his take on things so I will go into this one with some trepidation. How spectacle in a tent transfers to spectacle in one of the larger Broadway houses should be interesting.  I thought the whole appeal of the tent experience was intimacy.  I will say this - I downloaded the recording as soon as it was available and found it not very interesting to listen thru with its cacophony and dissonance laced electro-pop score. So much so I had to delete it from my phone because it kept getting added to my car riding shuffle. All that said I thought the Hal Prince Candide at the Broadway theater (similar immersive experience on what looks like  a larger scale) was one of the best theatrical experiences I have ever had and being a young pop oriented theater newbie it even made me appreciate a more classical score - so I am hoping for the same here. I think the experience will help me appreciate the score as something to listen to in order to relive the experience - if that makes any sense.

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QueenAlice
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I enjoyed it very much in the tent and will be curious to see how it works in the bigger space. I thought the cast downtown (while appealing) also had a few members who were a little 'fringe' and not quite Broadway calibre. I can't imagine this piece will be for everyone, but I think its exciting they are trying to do something different on Broadway.

“I knew who I was this morning, but I've changed a few times since then.”
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aaaaaa15 said: "I'm shocked that people would struggle with the plot. Isn't it based on only 70 pages of War and Peace? I actually think it's one of the simplest stories being told on Broadway right now.

 

"

Agreed. I actually was waiting for the plot to get complicated. I followed the prologue's instructions and had my program out and open waiting to reference if needed! I didn't glance at it once.

 

I've had more time to think about it - and I swear this will be my last post about this show! - and I think the issue is that they have lost the story they were telling in order to create an event.

 

We're introduced to this baccinalia version of Moscow with gypsies, heavy drinking, big parties, slutty wives, etc. and the story is actually about being trapped within society's strict moral codes. This is in total opposition to how they chose to portray this society. Natasha ends as a ruined woman and I get why, but that really came out of nowhere. I kept thinking, "It can't come down to something this simple." Like how is Pierre's wife a slut with no known repercussions, cast members are dry humping like it's Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge and then suddenly this one character is essentially banished and her life is destroyed for acting out on her sexual desires?

 

And how how does Pierre fit into all of this? I understood every word he said (sound was fine in the back row of the balcony!) but I couldn't tell you why he was so melancholy and I couldn't tell you what revelation he had at the end of the show. I could understand why he was taken with Natasha at the end but outside of that I didn't know what he was doing there or why he would be portrayed as a central figure. Are they both feeling trapped and constrained by the time and society to which they belong? Because everyone was LOVING it up until they seemingly didn't.

 

Thus it felt like the creative team's great - and it was truly great and worth the price of admission - spectacle didn't seem to align with the story. I think this may be why some found it hard to follow. The visuals and the themes don't seem to go hand in hand. I think it's also why I found myself losing interest.

 

I'll stop responding now (sorry for all the posts!) but will be excited to read everyone else's opinions as the previews continue. I did recommend the show to visiting family this morning so I do think folks will enjoy it!

 

 

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I’m hoping to see the show for the first time in January, but I’ve been listening to the cast recording for two years now and I find the score exhilarating—and, yes, emotionally involving. Then again, the styles of music here are exactly my cup of tea. 

Perhaps it helps that I’ve read the novel, but I love these characters and I’m moved by Natasha’s situation. I don’t think either the musical or the novel is meant to be as nakedly emotional as something like “Les Miserables”—but there are still quite a few moments that get to me. There’s a particular moment towards the end

 
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Pierre's "If I were not myself, but the brightest, handsomest, best man on earth..."
 

that I find really moving.

With all that said, there have been several times where I've fallen in love with a cast recording only to find that the "spectacle" of the actual production overwhelms the emotions of the score. It's entirely possible that will be the case here—but I’ll have to wait until January to make that judgment.  

Anyways... This is my most anticipated show of the new season, so I'm excited to hear more reactions in the coming weeks.

Updated On: 10/19/16 at 05:43 PM
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I was also at the first preview last night. I saw the show years ago at Kazino and fell absolutely in love with it and was very nervous about how it would hold up in a larger house. I've gotta say all my fears were dashed last night. My only critique of the show was the sound. I was sitting far house left in a rush seat. While I could always understand the lyrics, there were times when I wished it had sounded louder and fuller. 

Regarding the transformation of the theatre, it took my breath away when I rounded the corner and saw how I couldn't recognize the interior of the Imperial at all. The amount of lighting they added throughout the house is insane and stunning. 

The audience was pretty all over age wise, but there was definitely a lot of middle aged and older women who were clearly there for Josh. 

My friend who was seeing it for the first time said that even though I had told her about it, it was still not what she expected and unlike anything she's seen and she also fell in love.

The rush seat was pretty good, but I would ask for House Right if given a choice. While they move all over, and they don't stand in one space for too long, I definitely noticed they seemed to use stage left more, so I missed a couple seconds here and there. Can't wait to go back!!!

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Was there something wrong with Brittain Ashford's mic? I could barely make out what she sang while the others sounded crispy and clear to me.

KayGlass2
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I have been so excited about this show for ages, having never seen it before tonight.  

I am not sure what I just saw, and that's not a good thing.

Staging : Yay...also Nay.  I was seated at one of the tables onstage, and there was a LOT I couldn't see.  Anything that happened in the mezz was directly over my head, couldn't see it at all.  Anything that happened on the other side of Pierre's music pit/area was totally lost to me unless it was on the riser near the doors.  

Sound : Very difficult.  Some mics were loud, some were quiet.  Hard to hear everyone at all times.

Ensemble staging : A bit of a hot mess.  They were ALL over the place, all the time.  Behind me, next to me, all over.  They were out in the crowd, up and down the stairs, in and out of the doors.  The costumes were distracting and not unified, and I was more distracted by everyone than anything else.  If they're going to be mingling with the crowd, I need to feel like it adds to the experience.  I didn't get that from this at all.

Josh Groban : An actual star.  I was so surprised.  He was extremely nuanced and polished, his voice was beautiful.  I wish he'd had more to do, he was a real joy.

Denee Benton : Excellent.  A bit shaky and new, but I think she has tremendous potential.

Plot : This is where the show entirely lost me.  Yes, I get what it's based on.  Gotcha.  But it makes NO SENSE.  Let's get this straight (spoilers) 

 
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Natasha is engaged, doesn't hit it off with her potential in-laws, goes to an opera, meets a dude.  The dude is married, which we apparently don't talk about because it apparently doesn't hinder his desire to ELOPE with her?  Um.  Okay.  He has a slutty sister who is married to Pierre, but that doesn't get talked about much or explored or dealt with.  Natasha is going to run off with the hot dude, her cousin-person-whoever stops her because it would "ruin" her (why!  why does no one explain anything!) and so she drinks arsenic and doesn't die, the end.  Oh, and there is a comet.  For like, a second.

It's so flimsily put together and badly narrated, some scenes last forever and make no sense, while some are so brief and yet clearly important.  I just think it's an awful mess, and I was really looking forward to it.

The lighting is gorgeous, though.

 

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I haven't seen the musical yet, but love the cast album. I am failing to understand why some don't get why Natasha's involvement with Anatole would "ruin" her. Just because other female characters are shown as sexually wild?  Then again I love the novel and thanks to several classes have read it several times. Maybe anyone unsure should at the least rent the recent War and Peace miniseries (which covers this part better than some other adaptations) before watching it. 

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EricMontreal22 said: "I haven't seen the musical yet, but love the cast album. I am failing to understand why some don't get why Natasha's involvement with Anatole would "ruin" her. Just because other female characters are shown as sexually wild?  Then again I love the novel and thanks to several classes have read it several times. Maybe anyone unsure should at the least rent the recent War and Peace miniseries (which covers this part better than some other adaptations) before watching it. 

 

"

Um...Because the direction is very often confusing and the central story is overshadowed by the "spectacle"? Honestly, isn't it a director's job to guide the audience through a story even if many audience members know absolutely nothing about the material and the material is in some ways tough? And why should anyone be expected to have read a certain novel in order to attend a show? If the show itself is confusing, then there is something wrong with the way they structure it or present it. In this specific case, what I find most gnawing is its lack of focus and character development except Natasha. Pierre is supposed to be the one having the existential doubt but what I saw yesterday only made him seem unnecessary rather than the "reason" in the materialist, crazy Russian society as his character is probably intended to be. I did find it charming that they were trying to engage the audience in the play. But at least for the second preview, the engagement was achieved at the cost of storytelling.

 

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I, nor my 15 year son, didn't have ANY problem with the plot. Neither of us had any previous knowledge of the actual story.  Nor were we distracted by the spectacle....which is odd, as I don't particularly care for spectacle.

Granted, I saw this at the ART, but I doubt that much has changed.

If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
Updated On: 10/20/16 at 05:41 AM
After Eight
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"Maybe anyone unsure should at the least rent the recent War and Peace miniseries (which covers this part better than some other adaptations) before watching it."

 

The show has to stand --- or fall --- on its own.

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Updated On: 10/20/16 at 08:51 AM
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I think the slight story (and it is slight- it's a faithful adaptation of a sliver of a quick-moving section of War & Peace, even lifting a lot of the novel's text in the process) is the point here- the show even opens with a song that assigns every character just a one-word descriptor. Malloy is a composer- and part of a burgeoning group of young(er) musical theatre creatives- that is moving away from book-based musical theatre as it has traditionally been done. I don't think it's a trend that everyone will like- just see Jesse Green's review of Hadestown, for instance (a show that was similar to Great Comet, and not coincidentally also directed by Chavkin)- or even necessarily one that will catch on in the commercial realm of Broadway aside from occasional instances such as this.

I think that the last fifteen minutes of the show are very moving- after a raucous two hours, things are suddenly quiet and simple. Natasha and Pierre are onstage together for the first time and accompanied by simple piano scales, and these two characters who are disillusioned, lost, and deceived are able to forge a connection. Things aren't quite resolved, but things are never really quite resolved in life, yet they are both in a better place than they were and are in a place to try to work toward a resolution.

 



"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."
Updated On: 10/20/16 at 11:19 AM
neonlightsxo
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Kad, I think you're right, but I actually found the book/plot in Comet to be much more satisfying than in Hadestown, or either of Malloy's other two shows. But maybe that's just me.

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That's a beautiful way of summing up the ending, Kad.  In addition to the last 15 minutes of the show, there are also a good number of quiet, thoughtful moments scattered throughout the show...The major solos are all actually staged quite simply.  I mean, you would think from some of the posts on this thread that there's a crazy kickline going on in the background during Natasha's big solo...

Updated On: 10/20/16 at 11:35 AM
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neonlightsxo said: "Kad, I think you're right, but I actually found the book/plot in Comet to be much more satisfying than in Hadestown, or either of Malloy's other two shows. But maybe that's just me."

Yes, Comet undeniably has a stronger dramatic text (largely because it relies so heavily on the source material). Usually shows like these can best be described as "staged concept albums"- loosely telling a story but relying more on the mood and feeling evoked by the music.

 

"...everyone finally shut up, and the audience could enjoy the beginning of the Anatevka Pogram in peace."
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I saw the show last night after getting a rush ticket in the morning (Orchestra E 18 )

I have to say that I thought the show was amazing and I look forward to seeing it again and seeing how it does this season.  I read that people were having trouble following the plot so I was a little nervous beforehand.  After seeing the show I'm very surprised people are having an issue.  The Playbill has a very brief synopsis and family tree to give you a skeleton of the show and the opening number identifies all the characters and gives them a simple title.  I had no trouble following the plot and found it both emotionally engaging and moving.  The spectacle of the show didn't distract me at all, it just helped immerse us into the world.  This show stimulates so many of your senses.  Visually stunning, audibly complex and beautiful, thought provoking, the cast will hand you things and interact with you, and I was even fed by a cast member haha

The cast was incredible and also very gracious at the stage door. If you're wondering, the entire cast signed and took pictures.  Even Josh Groban took the time to chat and take a picture with me.  Very nice guy.

Sorry, I feel like I'm ranting, but I just really loved this show and I went in knowing nothing about it.

"In here, life is beautiful"
Updated On: 10/20/16 at 02:13 PM
KayGlass2
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Great points, Kad.

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Judging just from the original album, I can understand some audience members' reservations about how 'women's virtue' is handled in the show. The show has a difficult line to walk: women's virtue has to, by and large, be taken seriously by the show or there are no dramatic stakes surrounding Natasha's almost-dalliance with Anatole. On the other hand, the show wouldn't want to actually endorse the old-fashioned idea of a woman being 'forever ruined' and so forth. On the other hand, it seems that Helene is meant to be seen (by the modern-day audience) as a villain, largely due to her manipulation of Natasha, but we're also meant to side with Pierre with regard to Helene's (probable) infidelity causing him pain and humiliation. But on the other hand, completely demonising Helene would lead back to that old-fashioned 'bad woman' labelling that the show is presumably trying not to endorse. I wouldn't know how to manage this myself if I were creating the show, but judging from the album I'm not sure if the show quite succeeds at it.


For example, the opening number, when everybody is quasi-out-of-character, might have been an opportunity to delineate between what the creators think and what the 19th-century characters think of this issue. But instead we get Helene flippantly summarising herself as a "slut", while the equally "slutty" Anatole gets to describe himself more positively as "hot" instead. I guess this song isn't the place for nuanced characterisation, but nevertheless given those lyrics I wonder if the opening number would work better if the female characters weren't able to speak for themselves, but were instead described/pigeonholed by the male characters and/or the ensemble. Sexist, but deliberately so as that's the world we're about to see. Maybe it all works better when actually seen onstage?
(For those interested, Amber Grey briefly talks about the 'slut' line at http://stagedoordish.com/amber-gray-on-her-adventures-in-natasha-pierre-and-the-great-comet-of-1812/, and Dave Malloy at http://genius.com/9129036. Interesting, but personally I'm not sure if their takes on this actually come through on the show/album as presented.)

Updated On: 10/20/16 at 06:29 PM
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Fan123 said: "Judging just from the original album, I can understand some audience members' reservations about how 'women's virtue' is handled in the show. The show has a difficult line to walk: women's virtue has to, by and large, be taken seriously by the show or there are no dramatic stakes surrounding Natasha's almost-dalliance with Anatole. On the other hand, the show wouldn't want to actually endorse the old-fashioned idea of a woman being 'forever ruined' and so forth...

...For example, the opening number, when everybody is quasi-out-of-character, might have been an opportunity to delineate between what the creators think and what the 19th-century characters think of this issue. "

 

I might argue that the story as it stands isn't endorsing those ideas; Natasha is written as a character who's a bit flighty, vain and naive, but ultimately sweet and well-intentioned. Her main crime is a lapse of judgment in falling for the wrong guy at the wrong time, and the show is sympathetic to the injustice of her social ruin and suffering for this youthful impulsiveness.

 

In this way, The Great Comet is rather like Les Miserables. The original 19th century novels were keenly aware of how women suffered lifelong consequences for exploring their sexuality, and the fact that they treat "fallen" characters like Fantine and Natasha with such humanity is already a criticism of those social structures. 

 

Despite the unconventional musical style and staging, the show itself is written in a way that stays true to the source material, incorporating large chunks of Tolstoy's own words and allowing the characters to inhabit that world, patriarchy and all. Of course our 21st century sensibilities find the whole thing repellent, which is perhaps why I find Tolstoy's take on the situation compelling. He was able to look at his own society at the time and notice something horribly wrong. 

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Which is a bit frustrating if you really get into Tolstoy and discover his supremely weird and conflicting ideas about the place of women (I find War and Peace's first epilogue worth ignoring, where Natasha suddenly loses all her personality and acts as a mouth piece for Tolstoy , denouncing the fight for women's rights)

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This show is something else. It is unlike any show I have ever seen in the very best way possible. I don't even know where to begin, but I suppose I will start by saying that I fell absolutely in love with the show. It is nothing short of a genius and brilliant miracle. 

As many others have stated, the staging, direction, and design elements are off the charts. The entire Imperial Theatre is unrecognizable from the lobby to the actual theatre. Red drapes, painting, mirrors, gorgeous chandeliers, and dangling light bulbs encompass the entire theatre interior creating a world that is lush, sexy, beautiful, and slightly whimsical. The lighting design is easily the best lighting design I have EVER seen on Broadway.

The cast is killing it. Josh Groban is great. I was worried about his acting going in, but I had no reason to worry. Deneé Benton is very charming and brings a lovely innocent quality to the role. I would have loved to have seen Phillipa Soo's Natasha. The entire supporting cast is extraordinary. Amber Gray is impeccable, and "Charming" was one of the many highlights of the evening.

The energy in the Imperial is through the roof. It is a wonder the roof of that theatre was still there at the end of the evening. I was sitting in the rear mezzanine in section 2, row H (last row), seat 6, and the view was absolutely perfect. This is definitely a show you want to see from the mezzanine. The cast and musicians are all over the theatre, and there is a lot of interaction with audience. Plus, this show has stage pictures for days! These can be most enjoyed from the mezzanine.

I could go on and on about how much I adored this show. I have not felt this transported by a live production since Matilda, and this even blows that out of the water. I know it's early in the season, but The Great Comet might as well start clearing its shelf now for several Tony Awards.

"There’s nothing quite like the power and the passion of Broadway music. "
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"I know it's early in the season, but The Great Comet might as well start clearing its shelf now for several Tony Awards."

 

Especially for the biggest one of all. I certainly wouldn't be surprised --- it meets all the critics' darling qualifications. But you never know. The critics are always on the lookout for new darlings to fawn over. There could be another of them coming down the pike. Dear Evan Hansen, perhaps?

 

Personally, I preferred Paramour to both of them. At least it presented something in the way of entertainment.

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I gotta say, I'm just glad that the biggest issues people have with the show have little to do with the seating/sight-lines. When I heard that this was going to be an environmental production staged in a traditional Broadway house, I got nervous.