Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 by Dave Malloy
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 is an electropop opera written by Dave Malloy, although it doesn’t really stay in that genre throughout the whole show. It’s a fun soundtrack based off a seventy page sliver of War and Peace, specifically the part revolving Natasha’s affair and subsequent failed elopement with Anatole. It’s very bouncy, and at some points can be very trippy, despite the fact that it isn’t a very “happy” musical. Currently, it is on Broadway, and has been nominated for twelve Tonys.
The show features the vocal talents of many people, including Josh Groban as Pierre, who sings a seven minute aria entitled “Dust and Ashes” that really highlights his talent, Denee Benton as Natasha, who has a beautiful soprano voice, Amber Gray as Helene, who is simply a vocal powerhouse, especially in “Charming”, Lucas Steele as Anatole, who has an incredible falsetto, and basically, the entire cast. I could easily go on with examples for every single cast member.
The songs itself are interesting and amazing, each one in their own way. Being an opera, the entire show is sung, even parts that would be dialogue in any other musical, but it is written in such a way that you cannot imagine those words without the melody behind them. Another interesting point is that many of the lines are direct quotes from War and Peace, making the songs unconventional in that most of the lines don’t rhyme at all, yet it still works. Many of the actors also play instruments onstage as part of the show, along with singing and dancing; for example, Pierre plays accordion and piano, Anatole plays violin, and Dolokhov plays guitar, to name a few. These qualities all add to the show’s uniqueness from other Broadway musicals.
The soundtrack consists of twenty-six songs, all of which are amazing. The opening song, “Prologue” is bouncy, fun, and a good way to start off the show. About halfway through the first act is “The Opera”, a ten-minute long, and very trippy song about Natasha’s fateful visit to, well, the opera. It consists of different melodies, and tells an important chunk of the story. My personal favorite is “Charming”, the second to last song in act one. As I mentioned before, Amber Gray kills it as Helene in this song with her rich alto voice, and it is simply an incredible song that I can listen to for hours without tiring of. Another good song is “Letters”, the opening to act two. It has amazing harmonies and showcases a lot of different characters and how strangely similar each of the plights are. Lastly, “Preparations” is a song leading directly up to the abduction, and Nick Choksi, who plays Dolokhov, is amazing, especially in the middle of the song. The song itself is just as unique as the others, starting off with one melody and about a minute in switching pace entirely, literally, as the tempo picks up and everything gets more intense. Once more, I could easily continue, but I would end up just listing off the entire show.
To recap, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 is an imaginative, creative, and uniquely flavored Broadway musical that brings a classic Russian novel to a new audience and also manages to feature every single cast members’ separate talents in such a way that it all weaves together into something fantastic, or incredible, or any other good adjective one might wish to apply to the show. It’s well worth a listen, or two, or more.