There are many spectacular musicals that have graced Broadway throughout history, no two being exactly alike. Some shows are based on pre-existing work, some are completely original. Some shows take place in modern day America, some take place in a different place or a different time.
It is impossible to describe all musicals using the same adjective, as each show is individually unique and marvelous in its own special way. That being said, certain shows will always be better than others, and there is no doubt that "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812" by Dave Malloy just might be the best.
This electrifying sung-through musical is based on Volume Two, Part Five of Leo Tolstoy's complicated Russian novel "War And Peace". At around 1,225 pages unabridged, "War And Peace" is one of the longest books ever written. The musical is roughly two hours long and is based off of a mere 70 pages of the novel.
The production tells two stories: one of Natasha Rostova's affair with Anatole Kuragin, and one of Pierre Bezukhov's search for a better and more meaningful life.
"The Great Comet" is a musical unlike no other. Described as an "electropop opera" by Malloy, the show features actors and actresses who play their own instruments live on stage; audience participation; various song genres; and only one line of spoken dialogue. Many of the lyrics, as well as the spoken line, are taken directly from Tolstoy's own words.
The set-up of the staging is also incredibly unique, the production taking place in a sit-in dinner theatre. Throughout the show, the cast interacts with the audience as they sit on/near the stage.
As a show, "The Great Comet" defines what Broadway is meant to be about; originality, creativity, talent, and shameless pride in being yourself. The show is diverse, with race-blind casting for principal cast members and gender-blind casting for ensemble and swing roles.
Given the fact that many of these characters are the definition of white Russian aristocrats, it is groundbreaking that performers of color portray them on stage. For example, Black actress Denée Benton played Natasha in the Original Broadway Production. Representation is of utmost importance, and "The Great Comet" includes it without blinking an eye.
Additionally, "The Great Comet" sends out an important message: even misfits can be heroes, and no one is too broken to be loved. The two titular characters each undergo hardships, crises, and internal conflicts throughout the story.
Natasha makes the mistake of having an affair and experiences a wide range of emotions and distress as a result of her actions. Pierre, on the other hand, is a depressive man living a withdrawn life, drowning in wine and sorrow. However, the audience still roots for these two characters, thanks to the complex and charming ways that they are portrayed.
Natasha and Pierre may be rich young adults in nineteenth-century Russia, but countless fans in the twenty-first century relate to them and love them, and therefore find comfort in the fact that they are written to be heroes that end up getting better in spite of their struggles.
No dramatic work will ever compare to "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812", and it would be a miracle for a show to even dream of coming close to its level. The show is for everyone, regardless of how they may feel about "War And Peace" or electropop operas or anything else that makes the show what it is.
Those who are familiar with the show can attest to this fact, and surely each and every Comet listener will feel their newly melted heart blossom into a new life as they play the cast recording.