“Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,” with Okieriete Onaodowan and Denee Benton in the title roles, 360-degree immersive experience that feels like you are in 18th Century Russia – for real.
Dave Malloy’s innovative musical about a small part of Tolstoy’s “War and Peace” has re-surfaced at the Imperial Theater in a Broadway transfer of the original, wondrously well-staged production by director Rachel Chavkin.
The staging distributes the action throughout the banked seating levels that comprise both the auditorium and the performance spaces. The view is best from the stage, but the sightlines are also excellent from the banquettes at floor level. And sightlines are as critical as sound levels, because you really don’t want to miss a thing in this production.
Dancers and band members in fanciful punk tatters designed by Paloma Young are scattered about the stage, up the aisles, and at one point all the way to the balcony. No matter where you’re seated, you’re never far from the action because the action is all over the theater.
In “Charming,” the Countess has her eye on innocent, dangerously naive Natasha (Benton, has a beautiful voice). The virginal girl is ripe for plucking by a handsome rogue like Anatole, irresistible in Lucas Steele’s seductive performance. Only Natasha’s loving cousin, Sonya (Brittain Ashford, who delivers a gorgeous treatment of the song “Sonya Alone”) can save the girl from the decadent Muscovites lusting after her innocence.
Malloy, who wrote the marvelous book, tuneful music, and smart lyrics, understands and even admires the members of this aristocratic society, who in ensemble songs like “The Opera” and “Letters” reveal themselves as irresistibly charming and hopelessly corrupt.
Their days are clearly numbered, but until that comet comes, they’re as happy as children, playing at their devilish games.