CMU School of Drama

Thursday, September 15, 2016

How to Keep the ‘Great Comet’ Party Going on Broadway: Dish Out the Pierogies (and Add Josh Groban)

The New York Times: In the beginning, there was the book. Famously long, and a bit of a slog. But Volume 2 Part 5 caught the cruise ship pianist’s eye.

There was that beautiful girl, killing time in the big city while her fiancé was away; the ill-advised flirtation with a dreamy playboy; the unhappily married rich man starting to fall apart; the swirl of back-stabbing aristocrats, Russia at war, and a comet streaking across the sky.

This section of “War and Peace,” Dave Malloy thought, would make a perfect musical.


Brennan Felbinger said...

Great Comet is certainly the most anticipated Broadway opening of the season for me, and from the article it seems for many others as well. It really is something so exciting and innovative to take over a Broadway house, particularly with an immersive feel that has only been seen up to this point off-broadway in productions like Sleep No More and Queen of the Night. I can only hope that this show really takes off at the Imperial, because I think it will do wonders for expanding the Broadway theatre genre. Up to this point, it seems that shows that fit only a very specific and or traditional mold end up running at length on Broadway, and I think it would be very exciting to see a show outside of that mold that ends up really succeeding and proving that is possible to appeal to larger audiences with a less-traditional take on audience-cast interaction.

Sam Molitoriss said...

I've vaguely heard of The Great Comet before, but this is the first time I've read about the show. This looks really neat! Not only because of it being based on War and Peace, but also because it is bringing (somewhat) immersive theatre to Broadway. I don't think any other currently-running shows on Broadway have seating on the actual stage. That provides such an immersive experience for an audience member. I also now finally know why Josh Groban has been growing out his beard. I'm currently listening to the soundtrack, and I find the music to be pretty darn good. The style is very unique, which I appreciate. It's a good blend of 1800's Russian folk music and pop. It flows very well, which might be a consequence of having the same person write the book, music, lyrics and orchestration. I would definitely go see this show, especially if I could sit on stage. I'm excited to see how this show does.

William Lowe said...

I really enjoyed the makeup of this article and how I think it does great justice to the journey of a Broadway show, the way it should be done. I feel like today there are too many of these shows which have some pre-existing celebrity as a member and that gets them a free pass to Broadway. Granted, Great Comet added Josh Groban to make the transition to Broadway; however, the article does a great job of showing it’s long and uphill journey to this point. It is a unique piece of theatre approaching a well-known piece of literature from a new angle, which is a good thing for Broadway today. It is also such a unique theatrical experience – especially when it just started out – but the Broadway effect is still shown. There is a not-insignificant discussion in the article about the way that the vodka and pierogis will be affected as the transition occurs. There is a great lack of ability to have a setting like Ars Nova on Broadway – actually, it’s impossible. It’s good that the production will have vendors walking the aisles selling vodka and pierogis and not just have them sold in the lobby, but it’s still not the original experience of having your own table and the action happening all around you.

noah hull said...

I got to see Great Comet when it was at the American Repertory Theater and I would love the chance to see what the Broadway production does with it. However, I do hope they keep the same audience set up of having the theater laid out like a club and the show taking place among the tables and booths of audience members. Without that the show would have felt much less engaging and ultimately would not have been as memorable. Being inside the show made the world feel much more real and helped make the show more understandable (I have a feeling that if you were sitting in the normal theater seating part of the audience there were sections of the show that made very little sense). If they change the show to work for a traditional seating arraignment, then it will loose much of what makes it feel real. When you’re sitting there it feels like the actors are just going about their lives, in no small part since they’re not constantly having to reposition them selves to include the audience and be facing them.

Rachel said...

I’m so pleased that a production like this is being transferred to Broadway. Though, as the article mentions, a musical based on classic literature isn’t unique, it’s certainly a different flavor from the current norm.

It sounds like so much care has been taken to make it an artistically rewarding and interesting production. It’s evident in the choice of collaborators, in the attention paid to the relationship between performers and audience, in the choice to be aesthetically effective rather than relying just on spectacle, and in the collaborator’s insistence in remaining true to the beauty and heart of the piece during the transfer to Broadway.

I hope the trend of nurturing thoughtful, meaningful, beautiful, unusual pieces of theatre (made by passionate collaborators) on Broadway continues. The Disney juggernaut and productions designed for pure entertainment have their undeniable place (I hope they stick around, too,) but they need to be balanced out by pieces that prove theatre can be more than that.

Amanda Courtney said...

It appears as if what is doing really well on Broadway right now is theatre that defies Broadway conventions. I think the audience interactivity and immersion is really innovative, and a bold move. The producing team must be lauded for sticking to this model, and not compromising on this aspect of the show despite being moved into a new space. I think the incorporation of food is excellent, as taste is an often untapped sensory experience that can broaden the world of the show. That said, I wonder how having vendors moving about will affect the audiences ability to remain within the show.

I have read the book, and I wonder how the show makes the content of the final "act" of Tolstoy's novel approachable. Furthermore, the background and entirety of the story leading up to the final section gives the events of that section their stakes, and emotional importance. Though by no means crippling, these are important factors that must be - and hopefully are - addressed.

Zak Biggins said...

I am so excited to see Great Comet on Broadway during Mid-semester break. It is so fantastic to see that this production has two CMU alum as it's leading players. This show is innovative as it redefines the audience experience in theatre. We have seen productions do similar things (sleep no more, cabaret revival) and they have turned out wildly successful. Audiences like to be challenged. It's okay not to know the answers right away. This show is so interesting because it's only one chapter of such a huge book. I am really interested to see how the show is conveyed and how truly that is to the text. I am excited to see Denee Benton as Nastasha, although I do love Phillipa Soo's portrayal in the original off-broadway cast. This show is going to be amazing.