The show’s standout is Phillipa Soo as the graceful though deeply conflicted Natasha, who sings with both dignity and conviction. Both her voice and presence manage to transform a large circus tent into an intimate venue. David Abeles as Pierre brings a calm and steady presence to what otherwise is a chaotic narrative, and his thoughtful and nuanced performance showcases his abilities as a musician (he plays both the piano and an accordion), actor, and singer without ever managing to monopolize the spotlight. Lucas Steele is a dashing Anatole, and it’s hard not to be drawn in by his charisma, no matter how unlikable his character may be. Brittain Ahsford delivers the show’s most haunting performance as Natasha’s cousin, Sonia, who desperately tries to prevent her from falling for Anatole, but remains loyal even so.
All told, Pierre, Natasha, and the Great Comet of 1812 is one of the most inventive works of theatre that the New York stage has witnessed in quite some time. Take the classic ingredients of war and romance and spice them up with some rock opera, electro-pop flair, and you’ve got yourself a winning concept, not to mention a rollicking good time. If this is the future of musical theatre, than it’s one that promises to be very bright.
Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812is playing at Kazino in New York City through February 2, 2014. Composed and written by David Malloy.
Christopher White is the Director of Education and Programs for the Center for Bioethics and Culture Network, author of Renewal: How a New Generation of Faithful Priests and Bishops is Revitalizing the Catholic Church, and theatre critic for Aleteia. He is the 2013-2014 Robert Novak Fellowship Award Winner and writes frequently on matters of bioethics, public policy, and theatre. He lives in New York City.