Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

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Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
The Great Comet
Music Dave Malloy
Lyrics Dave Malloy
Book Dave Malloy
Basis War and Peace (novel) by Leo Tolstoy
Productions 2012 Ars Nova
2013 Kazino NYC
2015 American Repertory Theater
2016 Broadway
Awards 2013 Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater
2013 Obie Award
Best New Musical, 2013 Off-Broadway Alliance Awards

Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 is a musical adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace, with music and libretto by Dave Malloy and directed by Rachel Chavkin. It is based on Volume 2, Part 8 of War and Peace, focusing on Natasha's affair with Anatole, and Pierre's search for meaning in his life.[1]


Act 1[edit]

Part I
Moscow, 1812, just before Napoleon’s invasion of Russia and the burning of the city. As the story begins (“Prologue”) we meet “Pierre,” a wealthy aristocrat having an existential crisis, living a slothful life of wine, philosophy and inaction. Meanwhile, the young, newly engaged Natasha Rostova and her cousin Sonya arrive in “Moscow" to stay the winter with Marya D., Natasha’s godmother, while Natasha waits for her fiancé, Andrey, to return from the war. Marya D. tells Natasha that she must visit her future in-laws, a demented, miserly old prince and his spinster daughter, Mary, (“The Private and Intimate Life of the House”), to win their affection and secure the marriage, which is critical to the Rostovs’ status and fortune. However, Natasha’s visit with Mary and Bolkonsky ends in disaster (“Natasha & Bolkonskys”) and she leaves missing Andrey more than ever (“No One Else”).

Part II
The next night Natasha is introduced to decadent Moscow society at “The Opera”; there she meets Anatole, a young officer and notorious rogue (“Natasha & Anatole”); after their interaction Natasha feels confused, and tries to remember her love for Andrey (“Natasha Lost”).

Part III
Anatole, his friend Dolokhov, and Pierre go out drinking; they are met by Hélène—Pierre's wife and Anatole's sister—who taunts Pierre and attempts to get him to drink himself into oblivion. Anatole declares his intention to have Natasha, although he himself is already married, and asks Hélène to help him. Pierre finds Hélène's familiarity with Dolokhov offensive and challenges him to a duel, almost getting himself killed ("The Duel"). Afterward, Pierre reflects on his life ("Dust and Ashes"). Natasha and her family go to church ("Sunday Morning"); later, Hélène arrives and invites Natasha to the ball that night ("Charming"), where Anatole seduces Natasha ("The Ball").

Act 2[edit]

Part IV
Anatole and Natasha make plans to elope, and Natasha breaks off her engagement with Andrey as Mary fruitlessly begs her to return to the Bolkonsky home (“Letters”). Sonya finds out about the plan and realizes it will mean Natasha’s ruin (“Sonya & Natasha”); she determines to stop her at any cost (“Sonya Alone”). That evening Anatole and Dolokhov plan for the elopement (“Preparations”) and call on their trusted troika driver, “Balaga,” to take them to Natasha’s house. However, “The Abduction” is thwarted at the last moment by Marya D.

Part V
After scolding a grief-stricken Natasha (“In My House”), Marya D. sends out “A Call to Pierre,” asking him to help handle the crisis. Pierre finds Anatole hiding with Hélène, and kicks Anatole out of Moscow (“Find Anatole”/”Pierre & Anatole”); Natasha poisons herself (“Natasha Very Ill”). Andrey returns. Pierre explains the scandal to him and asks him to be compassionate, but Andrey is unable to forgive (“Pierre & Andrey”). Finally, Pierre visits Natasha (“Pierre & Natasha”). After their meeting, Pierre experiences a moment of enlightenment while seeing “The Great Comet of 1812” in the night sky.[2]


Malloy's original score (orchestrated by the composer) merges Russian folk and classical music with indie rock and EDM influences. The piece is described by the composer as an "electropop opera" and is through-composed, with exactly one line of spoken dialogue, in Pierre and Natasha's only scene together.[3]

The libretto features many sections of word-for-word Tolstoy, taken from Aylmer and Louise Maude’s 1922 translation.[4]

Musical numbers[edit]

"No One Else" was added for the Off-Broadway Kazino transfer, replacing a different aria for Natasha, "If He Were Here Now."

"Dust and Ashes" was added for the ART run.


The piece premiered on October 16, 2012 at Ars Nova. In May 2013, the show transferred to a custom pop-up venue Kazino, initially located in the Meatpacking District. In September 2013, the show and Kazino moved to the Theater District. The production, directed by Rachel Chavkin, was staged immersively in a Russian style dinner club, with the action happening all around the audience. The original Off-Broadway cast consisted of Phillipa Soo as Natasha, Lucas Steele as Anatole, composer Dave Malloy as Pierre, Brittain Ashford as Sonya, Amber Gray as Helene, Grace McLean as Marya D., Gelsey Bell as Princess Mary, Nick Choksi as Dolokhov, Blake DeLong as Bolkonsky/Andrey and Paul Pinto as Balaga, with sets by Mimi Lien, costumes by Paloma Young, lights by Bradley King, sound by Matthew Hubbs, music direction by Or Matias, choreography by Sam Pinkleton, and stage management by Karyn Meek.

In September 2014, the show had its South American premiere, at Teatro Parapluie in Quito, Ecuador, in a Spanish language production.

The team behind the original production remounted the show at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, Massachusetts from December 2015 to January 2016. The production will open on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre on November 14, 2016, starring Josh Groban as Pierre and Denée Benton as Natasha, both making their Broadway debuts.[5]


Character[6] Voice[7] Description[8]
Natasha Rostova Soprano


"Natasha is young": A nineteen-year-old ingenue who is innocent, doe-eyed, and profoundly, lethally romantic. She is betrothed to Andrey and loves him dearly. She is the cousin and best friend of Sonya, who which she goes to Moscow with under the care of her godmother, Marya D.
Pierre Bezukhov Baritenor G2-B4 The illegitimate son of a famous Russian family. Socially awkward and with a melancholy streak, he is an outsider in society despite his copious amounts of wealth. He is a good friend of Andrey and keeps an eye on Natasha for him while Andrey is away at war.
Anatole Kuragin Tenor


"Anatole is hot": An aristocratic, seductive hedonist, who spends his money on women and wine. He is the brother of Hélène and best friends with Dolokhov. He is an otherworldly, David Bowie type, and has an interest in Natasha.
Sonya Rostova Mezzo


"Sonya is good"" Natasha's cousin and closest friend. She is fiercely dedicated to her cousin and will do anything and everything to keep her safe.
Hélène Kuragina Alto


"Hélène is a slut": Anatole's sister who married Pierre for money. She also has a relationship with Dolokhov. She is highly sexualized and not very intelligent, but is manipulative and dedicated to her brother.
Marya Dmitriyevna Alto


"Marya is old-school, a grand dame of Moscow." She is also Natasha's godmother, and is a very strict woman, however, she is also kind. Natasha and Sonya live with her during their time in the city.
Fedor Dolokhov Baritone


"Dolokhov is fierce, but not too important": He's Anatole's friend and an extremely talented marksman. He also has an interest in Hélène.
Mary Bolkonskaya Mezzo


"Mary is plain": the daughter of Bolkonsky and Andrey's sister. She lives at home with her father as his caretaker, where she is tormented and abused by him. She is confined to the home and has no friends.
Andrey Bolkonsky/Old Prince Bolkonsky Baritone


"Old Prince Bolkonsky is crazy" and suffering from many age-related ailments. He is taken care of by his daughter Mary, but he torments her regardless.

"Andrey isn't here": he is fighting in the war for much of the show, and is betrothed to Natasha. He is serious and slightly bitter.

Balaga Baritone


"Balaga's just for fun." He's a famous troika driver, and assists Anatole with his plot for escaping Moscow to go to Poland. He is wild and mystical.

(Lines in quotations are lyrics from the opening song, "Prologue," which introduces the characters[9]

Original casts[edit]

Character Ars Nova (2012) Off-Broadway Kazino Meatpacking District (2013) Off-Broadway Kazino Times Square (2013) American Repertory Theater (2015) Broadway (2016)
Natasha Phillipa Soo Denée Benton
Pierre Dave Malloy David Abeles Scott Stangland Josh Groban
Anatole Lucas Steele
Sonya Brittain Ashford
Hélène Amber Gray Lilli Cooper Amber Gray
Marya D. Amelia Workman Grace McLean
Dolokhov Nick Choksi Ian Lassiter Nick Choksi
Andrey/Bolkonsky Blake DeLong Nicholas Belton
Mary Gelsey Bell Shaina Taub Gelsey Bell
Balaga Paul Pinto Ashkon Davaran Paul Pinto
Ensemble N/A Nicholas Belton, Catherine Brookman, Josh Canfield, Ken Clark, Lulu Fall, Luke Holloway, Azudi Onyejekwe, Mariand Torres, Katrina Yaukey, Lauren Zakrin Sumayya Ali, Courtney Basset, Josh Canfield, Ken Clark, Erica Dorfler, Daniel Edmond, Lulu Fall, Ashley Pérez Flanagan, Nick Gaswirth, Billy Joe Kiessling, Azudi Onyejekwe, Pearl Rhein, Heath Saunders, Katrina Yaukey, Lauren Zakrin

Critical response[edit]

The piece was highly received by the New York press; Charles Isherwood in the New York Times called it “a vibrant, transporting new musical," and both Times critics included the show on their Best of the Year lists.[10] The Times' classical critic, Anthony Tommasini, called it "a breathless, roughish and ravishing quasi-opera. This is a pastiche score of a cavalier sort. Mr. Malloy lifts styles with such abandon, making willful shifts — from punk riffs to agitated Broadway ballads, mock-pompous recitative to gritty Russian folk songs or drinking choruses with klezmer clarinets — that you lose track of what is being appropriated and really don’t care."[11] Time Out New York gave the piece five out of five stars, and also included it on both critics' Best of lists, stating "this is theater like no other in New York. It grounds you and transports you at once, and leaves you beaming with pleasure.”[12]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Original Off-Broadway production[edit]

Sources: TheaterMania[13] Internet Off-Broadway Database[14]Village Voice[15]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2013 Obie Award Special Citations Dave Malloy & Rachel Chavkin Won
Drama League Award Distinguished Performance Award Phillipa Soo Nominated
Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Musical Nominated
Drama Desk Award[16] Outstanding Musical Nominated
Outstanding Music Dave Malloy Nominated
Outstanding Lyrics Nominated
Outstanding Director of a Musical Rachel Chavkin Nominated
Outstanding Costume Design Paloma Young Nominated
Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater Dave Malloy Won
ASCAP Foundation Richard Rodgers New Horizons Award Dave Malloy Won
Off-Broadway Alliance Awards Best New Musical Won
2014 Lucille Lortel Award Outstanding Musical Nominated
Outstanding Director Rachel Chavkin Nominated
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical Phillipa Soo Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical Lucas Steele Won
Blake DeLong Nominated
Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical Brittain Ashford Nominated
Shaina Taub Nominated
Outstanding Scenic Design Mimi Lien Won
Outstanding Costume Design Paloma Young Won
Outstanding Lighting Design Bradley King Nominated
Outstanding Sound Design Matt Hubbs Nominated
2016 Elliot Norton Award Outstanding Musical Production by a Large Theatre Won
Outstanding Design, Large Theatre Won
Outstanding Director, Large Theatre Rachel Chavkin Won
Outstanding Performance by an Actor Lucas Steele Nominated
Scott Stangland Nominated
Outstanding Performance by an Actress Denée Benton Nominated
Outstanding Ensemble, Large Theatre Nominated


In 2013 Ghostlight Records released a two-disc original cast album of the entire score.[17]


  1. ^ Vincentelli, Elisabeth (October 17, 2012). "Over the Moon For Comet". The NY Post (New York). 
  2. ^ Original Cast Recording [CD booklet]. New York: Sh-k-boom Records.
  3. ^ Clarke, David. "NATASHA, PIERRE AND THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 (Original Cast Recording) is Astonishingly Complex", Broadway World, December 22, 2013, accessed April 7, 2014
  4. ^ Original Cast Recording [CD booklet]. New York: Sh-k-boom Records.
  5. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 Will Play the Imperial", Playbill, March 7, 2016. accessed March 7, 2016.
  6. ^ "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 | Samuel French". Retrieved 2016-05-22. 
  7. ^ "Audition for NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 at Off Broadway Theatre TBA in New York on 01/25". Retrieved 2016-05-23. 
  8. ^ "Audition for NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 at Off Broadway Theatre TBA in New York on 01/25". Retrieved 2016-05-23. 
  9. ^
  10. ^ Isherwood, Charles. "Review", New York Times, May 16, 2013
  11. ^ Tommasini, Anthony. "Pastiche, Parody, Homage and Theft", New York Times, May 22, 2014
  12. ^ Feldman, Adam. "Review" Time Out New York, October 16, 2012
  13. ^ Levitt, Hayley. " 'Here Lies Love' and 'Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812' Break Lucille Lortel Award Records", April 2, 2014
  14. ^ " 'Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812' Off-Broadway", accessed May 18, 2016
  15. ^ "Obies", accessed May 18, 2016
  16. ^ "The 58th Annual Drama Desk Award Winners Are Announced!". 2013-05-19. Retrieved 2016-05-19. 
  17. ^ Gioia, Michael (September 24, 2013). "Two Disc Cast Album of Natasha Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 Will Be Released in 2013". Playbill (New York). 

External links[edit]