Another Chance to Catch the Comet

By many accounts, a moving, bold and extraordinarily beautiful piece of musical theatre —  Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 is coming back.  And the fresh method and manner of its limited return engagement is intensifying the innovation and excitement of the work itself. GreatComet

I live on the west coast and I’m lucky to get to New York once a year.  But this is just too cool and different not to take notice of.  Here’s what I understand about this show:

Dave Malloy, a prodigiously talented composer, musician and performer, took a piece of Tolstoy’s War and Peace as inspiration and wrote Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812  – often described as an immersive “electropop opera”.   During its original run at Ars Nova in the fall of 2012, it was widely and highly acclaimed by critics.  It was named in the Top 10 theatre events of 2012 by New York Magazine and the New York Post and TimeOut; it recently won the 2013 Richard Rogers Award for Musical Theatre; this week, both the show and its lead actress Philippa Soo received nominations for 2013 Drama League Awards (Outstanding Production of a Musical and Distinguished Performance).

The sung-through musical tells the story of young Natasha, betrothed to one man but in love with another, with myriad supporting tales and characters befitting a slice of a Tolstoy novel.  As described in reviews, Malloy and the show’s director, Rachel Chavkin, transformed the Ars Nova theatre into a Russian nightclub with cabaret tables for the audience, complete with warm perogies and chilled vodka.

Ars Nova production photo by Ben Arons

Ars Nova production
photo by Ben Arons

After the original run, new producers came on board who have some experience with seeing things in a new light.  Howard and Janet Kagan (Pippin, Porgy and Bess) in partnership with Randy Weiner (Sleep No More) and Simon Hammerstein will present the new limited engagement production in a special temporary state-of-the-art performance tent venue named Kazino — set up at West 13th and Washington Streets in New York’s meatpacking district.  It opens May 1  and will run to a hard final closing date of September 1, 2013.

As reported by, Weiner said:

“Howard and Janet’s production of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 will be more than just a stunning theatrical production; it will be a bona fide only-in-New York event . . . Simon and I were inspired by the world of the show to heighten and augment the experience. We are creating our own unique take on a Russian supper club, a world of mystery and mystique that will entice and entertain audiences before, during, and after the show.”

Kazino will be open before and after the performance and will offer a full Russian menu and bar and pre and post-show live entertainment.  Rachel Chavkin will again direct and this production will feature many of the original Ars Nova cast members including Dave Malloy and Philippa Soo.

Award-winning, cutting edge musical theatre, in a Russian supper club set up for 18 weeks only, in a state-of-the-art performance tent under The High Line.  Sounds pretty intriguing to me.

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  1. Ruth S
    May 3, 2013

    Great tip for what to see on my once in several years trip to NYC May 16-19. I had tickets to Testament of Mary, but it got cancelled! Any other top picks? I’m thinking of 3 nights of theatre or maybe just 2.
    Ruth S

    • Susan Fairbrook
      May 3, 2013

      Ruth, Of course I have suggestions! One of the plays I noted in my earlier post “Oh to Be in New York in Spring!” (see March archives) has just been nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play and extended so you may still be able to catch Richard Greenberg’s “The Assembled Parties” at The Manhattan Theatre Club through June 16. By coincidence, he is also the bookwriter of an intriguing new musical “Far From Heaven”" opening Off-Broadway next week at Playwrights Horizons. I don’t think you’ll be able to get tickets to Matilda” at this point but put that on the list when you have more advance notice. Have fun and let me know how you like whatever you see!

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