Review: Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812

A highlight of the recent trip to New York and Washington was our outing to see the Broadway show ‘Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812’. This musical, currently showing in New York, is not a traditional opera, but is an irreverent and lively show of music and dancing, adapting seventy pages of Leo Tolstoy’s novel ‘War and Peace’. 

Based in Moscow, in the year 1812, young and innocent Natasha Rostova (Denée Benton) and her cousin and closest friend Sonya arrive to spend winter with Natasha’s godmother, Marya. There, Natasha waits for her fiancé, Andrey, whom she apparently ‘loves with all her heart’. However, when being introduced to the young officer, Anatole, the womanising brother in law of the titular Pierre (Josh Groban), Natasha begins to question her engagement to Andrey, as she gains feelings for Anatole, whilst Pierre tries to find meaning in his life. 

The novel may be what the prologue number itself calls a ‘complicated Russian novel’ with many characters, but the opening song introduced the main characters with the lyrics:

Balaga is fun, Bolonsky is crazy, 

Mary is plain, Dolokhov is fierce, 

Helene is a slut, Anatole is hot, 

Marya is old-school, Sonya is good, 

Natasha is young and Andrey isn’t here. 

And what about Pierre?

Dear, bewildered and awkward Pierre? Rich, unhappily married Pierre? 

Even as we were thrown into the middle of the novel's storyline from the start, it was easy to engage with the plot and many characters. The musical was a very immersive show, with actors talking to you before the show began, and singing and dancing all around the audience during the performance; we could even join in with the music, being handed miniature shakers during one lively song. Parts of the audience was even seated on sections of the actual stage! 

I’m sure that many who also came on the trip would agree that this is a show not to be missed, with a number of pupils downloading the soundtrack; as most Bancroftians are most likely unable to currently see the show in New York, the songs are highly recommended to anyone, with the disclaimer that most songs are going to stay in your head for days.