“Natasha, Pierre, and the Nice Comet of 1812,” written by Dave Malloy, has all the time been one in all my favourite musical theater reveals. The piece takes a 70-page sliver of “Warfare and Peace” by Leo Tolstoy and twists it right into a two-hour story of Russian aristocracy and marriage, pleasure and chaos. It delivers all of it with ballads and pop-opera songs that make you bounce in your seat.
Seeing the present in San Jose was like revisiting an outdated good friend: via efficient staging, choreography and general vitality that poured out of every solid member, I walked out with a larger understanding and appreciation for one thing I’ve liked for years.
Set within the midst of the Napoleonic wars, it follows Pierre (Stephen Guggenheim) — an outdated man within the depths of existential disaster — and Natasha (Paloma Aisenberg ’23) — a naive but lovely younger lady eager for her away-at-war fiancé Andrey (F. James Raasch). When Natasha arrives in Moscow together with her cousin Sonya (Annie Hunt) to stick with godmother Marya (Susan Gundunas), she has to navigate society whereas remaining devoted to her engagement. All the pieces modifications when she meets the charming participant Anatole (Jared Lee), resulting in a conflict of feelings, a scandalous affair and a (ruined) elopement scheme.
From the onset, I observed that the present effectively used the theater’s small house. Numbers made use of the aisle house and there was a T-shaped a part of the stage that prolonged into the viewers, creating intimacy inside the theater. The outstanding set design (by Jon Gourdoine) included a number of ranges and transferring furnishings items. Whereas easy in look, they have been essential to indicate the totally different areas the characters inhabited, starting from a membership to a household residence.
My favourite a part of the set have been the floating devices scattered all through the stage. Actors would play devices through the present, corresponding to Pierre on the piano, Andrey on the accordion and Hélène (Juanita Harris) on the violin.
This instrument motif mirrored the meta side of “The Nice Comet”: the characters are performing this as if it have been a e-book. Not solely have been the lyrics typically delivered from the third-person, however typically if characters weren’t in a track, they might observe from totally different elements of the stage — emulating somebody passively studying a e-book — or fill in as further characters exterior of their roles.
At first, I questioned if the small solid would efficiently seize the world of the present and not using a full ensemble, which the unique manufacturing had. By the tip, although, it was apparent that query didn’t must be requested.
With influences from pop, rock and a mix of Russian people, upbeat musical numbers consisted of intricate choreography that replicated the full of life vitality of the society. Standouts have been “The Membership,” the place a line of individuals inspired Pierre to bask in his alcoholism; “Balaga,” which launched the crazed troika driver portrayed by Corey Bryant; and “The Abduction,” the place Anatole, Dolokhov (Nicholos Rodrigues) and Balaga organized in a triangular formation to emulate a automobile touring via Moscow.
The present is understood for an immersive expertise with loads of viewers interplay, and this solid managed to recurrently acknowledge the presence of an viewers with out breaking character. Some viewers members would turn into characters themselves. Some characters, corresponding to Outdated Prince Bolkonsky and Anatole, immediately flirted with or yelled at viewers members. My favourite viewers interplay was after they handed me a shot glass (stuffed with water, in fact) throughout “Prologue,” which was consistent with the alcohol and ingesting proven thematically all through the present.
Each actor was brilliantly casted with equally excellent vocals to again them up. Aisenberg stood out as Natasha; she was fairly actually glowing each time she walked on stage. Her solo, “No One Else,” showcased her soprano vary and grasp on readability as she sang about lacking her fiancé after the failed dinner along with his household.
Sonya is first launched with the phrase “Sonya is nice”, and Hunt portrayed that kindness to perfection. That is the primary time “Sonya Alone” — a track the place Sonya dedicates herself to defending Natasha it doesn’t matter what although she disapproves of Anatole — made me tear up.
Even Mary (Osher Advantageous), labeled a “minor character” within the first track, stood out in the best way she held herself on stage. Her hunched shoulders and fearful gaze throughout “The Personal and Intimate Life” confirmed how caged she was by her father.
The casting of Anatole was equally essential to this manufacturing’s success. Lee is older than different variations of the character that I’ve seen, which precisely displays his age within the supply materials. Whereas Lee performs an equally good-looking and charismatic character, it felt the way it ought to have felt — predatory, provided that Natasha is in her early 20s at most. It left no room for romanticization of their relationship.
Lee did a superb job at portraying a strolling pink flag, his first entrance showcasing an egotistical swagger that indicated why the track about Anatole and Natasha’s elopement was referred to as “The Abduction.” This energy dynamic made the present real looking: Natasha later takes accountability for dishonest, however her naivety leaves room for forgiveness as Anatole just isn’t an trustworthy man.
Different parts of manufacturing design — sound, lighting and costumes — have been unimaginable, too. There was little to no suggestions with the microphones and I heard each phrase, which is vital as your entire musical is sung-through. Lighting successfully captured the temper of every track, and an association of chandeliers and string-lights on the ceiling made it in order that the ultimate track — “The Nice Comet of 1812” — had a fixture resembling a comet. Costumes have been well-planned and versatile as solid members performed a number of characters and characters needed to change outfits in between or throughout songs.
My solely criticism was that I didn’t like Anatole’s gold pants. Whereas he’s a flashy character, one thing extra modern and traditional would have blended in higher with the opposite costumes and never regarded too on-the-nose. Even when he wanted to face out, a deep pink coat or extra promiscuous shirt might have been carried out that higher matched the present’s aesthetic.
On the first look, two hours of Russian literature dwell doesn’t sound interesting on the first look. Nonetheless, as viewers members left in awe and muttered their admiration as they left the theater, I affirm that this manufacturing is a should see for Bay Space theater-goers. Go, comply with the comet.
Editor’s Notice: This text is a overview and contains subjective ideas, opinions and critiques.