Andrey Isn't Here


Another Openin’


“Prologue” from Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 (music and lyrics by Dave Malloy)

I really enjoyed Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 when I saw it on Broadway. That production truly built a world that transported me from start to finish. The plot isn’t one of my favorites, but the overall experience has stayed with me.

I recommended Great Comet to friends while it was running. I eventually had to stop doing this. Multiple people got annoyed with me for recommending such a weird show. And it is a weird show. I haven’t read War and Peace (which it’s based on), but taking a step back from Great Comet’s story, it doesn’t exactly scream “musical.” Helene (who is a slut—her words, not mine) helps her brother Anatol (who is hot) seduce Natasha (who is young). Because, as the Prologue says repeatedly, Natasha’s fiancée Andrey isn’t here. Natasha and Anatol get caught, and it’s very tragic and depressing for everyone involved. That’s the gist of it. Not a plot to inspire jazz hands.

The world of the show makes it work for me, though, and the Prologue does a perfect job pulling me into it. If you saw Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, you know this is no ordinary opening number. Ensemble members run into the audience and throw out party favors while singing and playing instruments. The fiddler near my aisle was throwing out noisemakers, and I nearly knocked over an old lady trying to get one. I definitely got carried away, but I’ve never been to a Broadway show where they threw out party favors and I WANTED THAT NOISEMAKER. (The old lady ended up getting it, so I don’t feel too bad.)

As I’ve said a few times this week, I prefer group openings that introduce each character. Great Comet’s Prologue nails this technique. It’s just so much damn fun. Admittedly, the entire show isn’t like this. Each character has their own musical style, and none of them sing in the style of the Prologue. The opening is probably the most traditional musical theater song in the show. It’s a smart beginning for a show that’s bravely weird in its musical choices. Some folks aren’t into the variety of music styles Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 serves up, but it’s hard not to be on board with this opening number. I adore it.

Of course, my favorite song in Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 is Helene’s number “Charming.” I’m obsessed. Tomorrow starts Week Eight, which is Villain Songs, so I’ll geek out about it next week.