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Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812

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Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Natasha, Pierre and The Great Comet of 1812.jpg
The Great Comet
Music Dave Malloy
Lyrics Dave Malloy
Book Dave Malloy
Basis War and Peace
by Leo Tolstoy
Productions 2012 Off-Broadway
2014 Quito
2015 Cambridge
2016 Broadway
Awards Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater

Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 is a sung-through musical adaptation of a segment of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace written by composer/lyricist Dave Malloy and directed by Rachel Chavkin. It is based on Volume 2, Part 5 of Tolstoy's novel, focusing on Natasha's affair with Anatole and Pierre's search for meaning in his life.[1]

After its original run at the Ars Nova in 2012, a staging in both the Meatpacking District and the Theater District of Manhattan in 2013, a 2014 Spanish-language staging in Quito, Ecuador, and a remounting at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Massachusetts, in 2015, the musical premiered on Broadway in November 2016 at the Imperial Theatre.

The musical received positive reviews, particularly for Phillipa Soo, Denée Benton, and Josh Groban's leading performances, as well as for the production's score and direction. The show was nominated for 12 awards—the highest number of nominations in the 2016–2017 season—for the 2017 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical, Best Actress in a Musical for Benton, Best Actor in a Musical for Groban, and Best Direction of a Musical for Chavkin. It won two awards: Best Scenic Design and Best Lighting Design in a Musical.

Synopsis

Act 1

The story is set in Moscow, 1812, just before Napoleon’s invasion of Russia and the burning of the city. As the story begins (“Prologue”), Pierre, a wealthy middle-aged aristocrat, is having an existential crisis, living a slothful life of wine, philosophy, and inaction ("Pierre"). He is best friends with Prince Andrey, who has left to go to war. Andrey has recently become engaged to the young, beautiful countess Natasha Rostova. Natasha and her cousin Sonya arrive in Moscow to stay the winter with Natasha's godmother, Marya D., while Natasha waits for Andrey to return from the war. Marya D. is an old friend of Pierre's ("Moscow"). Marya D. advises Natasha that she must visit her future in-laws, the demented, miserly old Prince Bolkonsky and his spinster daughter Mary (“The Private and Intimate Life of the House”), to win their affection in advance of the marriage, which is critical to the status and fortune of the Rostov family. However, Natasha's visit with Mary and Bolkonsky ends in disaster (“Natasha & Bolkonskys”), as Mary finds Natasha vain, Natasha finds Mary cold, and Bolkonsky behaves bizarrely. Natasha leaves their home missing Andrey more than ever (“No One Else”).

The next night Natasha is introduced to decadent Moscow society after an extravagant performance at "The Opera". There she meets Prince Anatole, a young and handsome officer and, it turns out, a notorious rogue (“Natasha & Anatole”); their interaction leaves Natasha feeling confused.

Anatole, his friend Dolokhov, and Pierre go out drinking; they are met by Pierre's unpleasant wife, Hélène (Anatole's sister), who taunts Pierre and flirts with Dolokhov. Anatole declares his intention to have the young woman he just met, although he is already married (Pierre is not aware to whom Anatole is referring). Pierre finds his wife's familiarity with Dolokhov offensive and drunkenly challenges him to a duel, almost getting himself killed ("The Duel"). Fortunately, and luckily, Pierre wounds Dolokhov, and Dolokhov misses Pierre; no one dies. Afterwards, Pierre reflects on his life ("Dust and Ashes"). Natasha and her family go to church ("Sunday Morning"). Hélène finds it amusing to encourage her brother Anatole's conquest of the young countess Natasha, which she knows would lead to Natasha's ruin. Hélène seduces Natasha and invites her to the ball that night ("Charming"), where Anatole seduces Natasha, and she persuades herself that she loves him ("The Ball").

Act 2

Anatole and Natasha make plans to elope (she still does not know that he is married), and Natasha tearfully breaks off her engagement with Andrey (“Letters”). Sonya finds out about the plan and realizes it will mean Natasha's ruin (“Sonya & Natasha”); Sonya determines to stop the elopement at any cost even if it means they may not stay friends (“Sonya Alone”). That evening Anatole and Dolokhov plan for the elopement (“Preparations”), and Dolokhov tries to change Anatole's mind but with little success. Their trusted famous troika driver ("Balaga"), soon arrives to take them to Natasha's house. However, they are thwarted at the last moment by Marya D. ("The Abduction"). Marya D. scolds Natasha but then tries to comfort her with Sonya's help. Natasha screams at them to go away and waits for Anatole to come back for her all night ("In My House").

Marya D. sends out a letter to Pierre ("A Call to Pierre") asking him to come and help handle the crisis. Pierre finally learns that the object of Anatole's conquest is Natasha. Marya D. finds out that Anatole is married and tells a grief-stricken Natasha. Pierre, outraged, searches for Anatole ("Find Anatole"). When Pierre finds Anatole, he gives him money and orders him to leave Moscow (”Pierre & Anatole”). Natasha poisons herself with arsenic (“Natasha Very Ill”) but lives. The next day Andrey returns. Pierre explains the scandal to him and asks him to be compassionate, but Andrey is unable to forgive Natasha and will not ask for her hand in marriage again (“Pierre & Andrey”). Finally, Pierre visits Natasha (“Pierre & Natasha”). After their meeting, Pierre experiences a moment of enlightenment himself while seeing "The Great Comet of 1812" in the night sky.[2]

Music

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 just one line of spoken dialogue, in Pierre and Natasha's only scene together.[3] On stage, nearly all of the actors play musical instruments augmenting the show's orchestra. Groban plays the accordion briefly, and plays large sections of the score on the orchestra's piano.[4]

The libretto contains many passages taken word-for-word from Aylmer and Louise Maude’s 1922 translation of Tolstoy's novel.[5]

Musical numbers

**An aria for Natasha, "Natasha Lost", was cut from the Broadway production but is included on the original cast recording between number 8 ("Natasha & Anatole") and number 9 ("The Duel").

Productions

The musical premiered on October 16, 2012, at Ars Nova; directed by Rachel Chavkin[6] the show was staged as an immersive production, with action happening around and among the audience. The set designed by Mimi Lien and lights by Bradley King transformed Ars Nova into a Russian Club. The creative team were completed by Paloma Young, costume designer, Matt Hubbs as sound designer, and Dave Malloy as musical director. The cast included Malloy as Pierre, Phillipa Soo as Natasha, Lucas Steele as Anatole, Amber Gray as Hélène, Brittain Ashford as Sonya, Nick Choksi as Dolokhov, Shaina Taub as Mary, Blake DeLong as Andrei/Prince Bolkonsky, Amelia Workman as Marya D. and Paul Pinto (who also served as associate music director) as Balaga. The show was the first production of Ars Nova to ever transfer to Broadway.

In May 16, 2013, the show opened in the Meatpacking District at Kazino,[7] a temporary structure designed as an opulent Russian club, where the immersive production was staged, again by the same creative team. The cast reprised their roles, except Choksi, now replaced by Ian Lassiter, and Workman, replaced by Grace McLean. David Abeles took over the role of Pierre on July 9, 2013. The show closed on September 1, 2013.

The show opened for a 14-week limited engagement in September 2013 at the Kazino and moved to the Theater District, with the final cast of the previous production. On December 10, 2013, the two-disc cast recording was released. The show was extended and ran until March 2, 2014.

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 (A.R.T.) in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with performances beginning December 1, 2015 to January 2016. Now expanded to a proscenium stage, the set put audience onstage, with unique seating options, with banquette and dining tables added. Scott Stangland took over the role of Pierre, Denée Benton starred as Natasha, Lili Cooper as Hélène, Nicholas Belton as Andrei/Prince Bolkonsky and the rest of the cast reprised their roles.

The Broadway production at the Imperial Theatre began previews on October 18, 2016 and opened on November 14, 2016, starring Josh Groban as Pierre and Denée Benton as Natasha, both making their Broadway debuts, with choreography by Sam Pinkleton, sets by Mimi Lien, costumes by Paloma Young, lights by Bradley King, sound by Nicholas Pope and music direction by Or Matias.[8][9] With sets similar to the A.R.T. remounting, the production took the proscenium stage, but removed almost 200 seats from the audience to accommodate the design. Again, the options of stage seats, in banquettes or dining tables is available. Following Groban's departure on July 2, 2017, Okieriete Onaodowan would assume the role of Pierre the following day.[10] Ingrid Michaelson is set to assume the role of Sonya at the same performance.

Characters

Character[11] Voice[12] Description[13]
Natasha Rostova Soprano

G3-F#5

"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 goes to Moscow under the care of her godmother, Marya D, with her cousin and best friend Sonya.
Pierre Bezukhov Baritenor G2-B4 "Dear, bewildered, and awkward Pierre...rich, unhappily married Pierre": The illegitimate son of a famous Russian family. Socially awkward and with a melancholy streak, he is an outsider in society despite his 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

C2-C#5

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

B3-C5

"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/Mezzo-Soprano

E3-F5

"Hélène is a slut": Anatole's sister who married Pierre for money. She is highly sexualized, manipulative, and dedicated to her brother.
Marya Dmitriyevna Alto

G3-E5

"Marya is old-school, a grand dame of Moscow": She is 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.
Fedya Dolokhov Baritone

E3-F4

"Dolokhov is fierce, but not too important": Anatole's friend and an extremely talented marksman. Possibly having an affair with Hélène.
Mary Bolkonskaya Mezzo

G3-F5

"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

Ab3-Eb4

"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

A2-E4

"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)[14]

Original principal casts

Character Ars Nova
(2012)
Off-Broadway
Kazino Meatpacking District (2013)
Off-Broadway
Kazino Times Square (2013)
American Repertory Theater
(2015)
Broadway
(2016)
Natasha Rostova Phillipa Soo Denée Benton
Pierre Bezukhov Dave Malloy Scott Stangland Josh Groban
Anatole Kuragin Lucas Steele
Sonya Rostova Brittain Ashford
Hélène Kuragina Amber Gray Lilli Cooper Amber Gray
Marya Dmitriyevna Amelia Workman Grace McLean
Fedya Dolokhov Nick Choksi Ian Lassiter Nick Choksi
Andrey Bolkonsky/Old Prince Bolkonsky Blake DeLong Nicholas Belton
Mary Bolkonskaya Gelsey Bell Shaina Taub Gelsey Bell
Balaga Paul Pinto Ashkon Davaran Paul Pinto

Notable cast replacements

  • Composer Dave Malloy reprised the role of Pierre on Broadway for 10 performances in May and June 2017. He is set to return to the role from July 3 until July 9, 2017.[15]
  • Multi-platinum singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson is set to temporarily take over as Sonya from Brittain Ashford on July 3, 2017. Ashford is scheduled to return to the role on August 16.[16]
  • Okieriete Onaodowan, best known for originating the roles of James Madison and Hercules Mulligan in the 2015 musical Hamilton, is set to take over the role of Pierre from Dave Malloy on July 11, 2017.[17][15]

Critical response

The piece was very well-received by the New York press; Charles Isherwood in the New York Times called it “a vibrant, transporting new musical," and both Times theater critics included the show on their Best of the Year lists.[18] 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."[19] 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.”[20]

Awards and nominations

Original Off-Broadway production

Sources: TheaterMania[21] Internet Off-Broadway Database[22]Village Voice[23]

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2013 Obie Award[24] Special Citations Dave Malloy & Rachel Chavkin Won
Drama League Award[25] Distinguished Performance Award Phillipa Soo Nominated
Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Musical Nominated
Drama Desk Award[26] 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
Off-Broadway Alliance Awards[27] Best New Musical Won
2014 Lucille Lortel Award[28] 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

Original Cambridge production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2016 Elliot Norton Award[29][30] 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 Won
Outstanding Performance by an Actress Denée Benton Nominated
Outstanding Ensemble, Large Theatre Nominated

Original Broadway production

Year Award Category Nominee Result
2017 Tony Award[31] Best Musical Nominated
Best Book of a Musical Dave Malloy Nominated
Best Original Score Nominated
Best Orchestrations Nominated
Best Actor in a Musical Josh Groban Nominated
Best Actress in a Musical Denée Benton Nominated
Best Featured Actor in a Musical Lucas Steele Nominated
Best Scenic Design in a Musical Mimi Lien Won
Best Costume Design in a Musical Paloma Young Nominated
Best Lighting Design in a Musical Bradley King Won
Best Direction of a Musical Rachel Chavkin Nominated
Best Choreography Sam Pinkleton Nominated
Drama Desk Awards[32] Outstanding Director of a Musical Rachel Chavkin Won
Outstanding Set Design Mimi Lien Won
Outstanding Lighting Design for a Musical Bradley King Won
Outstanding Sound Design in a Musical Nicholas Pope Won
Drama League Award[33] Outstanding Production of a Broadway or Off-Broadway Musical Nominated
Distinguished Performance Award Denée Benton Nominated
Josh Groban Nominated
Outer Critics Circle Award[34][35] Outstanding Set Design Mimi Lien Won
Outstanding Lighting Design Bradley King Won
Outstanding Sound Design Nicholas Pope Nominated
Theatre World Award[36] Denée Benton Honoree
Josh Groban Honoree
Amber Gray Honoree
Dave Malloy Special Award Honoree
Chita Rivera Awards for Dance and Choreography[37] Outstanding Ensemble in a Broadway Show Pending
ACCA Award for Outstanding Broadway Chorus[38] Sumayya Ali, Courtney Bassett, Josh Canfield, Kennedy Caughell, Ken Clark, Erica Dorfler, Lulu Fall, Ashley Pérez Flanagan, Paloma Garcia-Lee, Nick Gaswirth, Alex Gibson, Billy Joe Kiessling, Mary Spencer Knapp, Blaine Alden Krauss, Reed Luplau, Brandt Martinez, Andrew Mayer, Mary Page Nance, Shoba Narayan, Azudi Onyejekwe, Pearl Rhein, Celia Mei Rubin, Heath Saunders, Ani Taj, Cathryn Wake, Katrina Yaukey, and Lauren Zakrin. Recipient
Extraordinary Excellence in Diversity[39] Recipient

Recordings

In December 10, 2013 Ghostlight Records released a two-disc original cast album of the entire score.[40]

The original Broadway cast recording was released on May 19th, 2017.

Book

On November 22, 2016 the book Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812: The Journey of a New Musical to Broadway was released. The book, edited and compiled by Steven Suskin, includes interviews with many of the original cast members, as well as the annotated script and photos of both the Kazino and Broadway casts. The book also includes a CD with five songs from the show: three from the original cast recording, and two featuring Josh Groban and a 25 piece orchestra.

References

  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. ^ Amodio, Joseph V. "Josh Groban talks Broadway debut in Great Comet of 1812", Newsday, January 17, 2017
  5. ^ Original Cast Recording [CD booklet]. New York: Sh-k-boom Records.
  6. ^ "Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812". ARS NOVA. 2016-03-29. Retrieved 2017-01-25. 
  7. ^ "Richard Rodgers Award-Winning Musical Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 Opens May 16 at NYC's Kazino | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 2017-01-25. 
  8. ^ Gans, Andrew. "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 Will Play the Imperial", Playbill, March 7, 2016. accessed March 7, 2016.
  9. ^ Isherwood, Charles. "Review: ‘Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812,’ on the Heels of ‘Hamilton’" The New York Times, November 14, 2016
  10. ^ "Hamilton Star Will Succeed Josh Groban in Broadway’s The Great Comet | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 2017-02-15. 
  11. ^ "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 | Samuel French". www.samuelfrench.com. Retrieved 2016-05-22. 
  12. ^ "Audition for NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 at Off Broadway Theatre TBA in New York on 01/25". www.broadwayworld.com. Retrieved 2016-05-23. 
  13. ^ "Audition for NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 at Off Broadway Theatre TBA in New York on 01/25". www.broadwayworld.com. Retrieved 2016-05-23. 
  14. ^ "Dave Malloy (Ft. Dave Malloy & Phillipa Soo) – Prologue". Genius. Retrieved 2017-06-05. 
  15. ^ a b Sblendorio, Marissa (2017-06-30). "HAMILTON's Okieriete Onaodowan Will Make His GREAT COMET Debut on July 11". BroadwayWorld.com. Retrieved 2017-07-01. 
  16. ^ Gans, Andrew (2017-06-14). "Ingrid Michaelson Will Make Broadway Debut in The Great Comet | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 2017-06-14. 
  17. ^ Paulson, Michael (2017-02-15). "A ‘Hamilton’ Star Is to Replace Josh Groban in ‘Great Comet’". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-05-26. 
  18. ^ Isherwood, Charles. "Review", New York Times, May 16, 2013
  19. ^ Tommasini, Anthony. "Pastiche, Parody, Homage and Theft", New York Times, May 22, 2014
  20. ^ Feldman, Adam. "Review" Time Out New York, October 16, 2012
  21. ^ Levitt, Hayley. " 'Here Lies Love' and 'Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812' Break Lucille Lortel Award Records" theatermania.com, April 2, 2014
  22. ^ " 'Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812' Off-Broadway" lortel.org, accessed May 18, 2016
  23. ^ "Obies" villagevoice.com, accessed May 18, 2016
  24. ^ "2013 | Obie Awards". Obie Awards. Retrieved 2017-05-06. 
  25. ^ Miller, Gregory E. (2013-04-23). "2013 Drama League Awards nominations announced". New York Post. Retrieved 2017-05-06. 
  26. ^ "The 58th Annual Drama Desk Award Winners Are Announced!". TheaterMania.com. 2013-05-19. Retrieved 2016-05-19. 
  27. ^ "2013 OBA Awards — Off Broadway Alliance". offbroadwayalliance.com. Retrieved 2017-05-06. 
  28. ^ "2014 Nominations". www.lortelaward.com. Retrieved 2017-05-06. 
  29. ^ "THEATER: 2016 ELLIOT NORTON AWARD NOMINATIONS!". Joyce's Choices. Retrieved 2017-05-06. 
  30. ^ "Elliot Norton Awards". Elliot Norton Awards. Retrieved 2017-05-06. 
  31. ^ "The 2017 Tony Awards - And the Nominees Are... Complete List! NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 and HELLO, DOLLY! Lead Pack". BroadwayWorld.com. 2017-05-02. Retrieved 2017-05-02. 
  32. ^ "2017 Drama Desk Award Nominations Announced | Playbill". Playbill. Retrieved 2017-04-27. 
  33. ^ Cox, Gordon (2017-04-19). "Daniel Craig, Cate Blanchett, Allison Janney Nominated for Drama League Awards". Variety. Retrieved 2017-05-06. 
  34. ^ "Outer Critics Circle Nominations Announced: Hello, Dolly!, Anastasia, Groundhog Day and More!". BroadwayWorld.com. 2017-04-25. Retrieved 2017-04-25. 
  35. ^ "Breaking News: HELLO, DOLLY! & COME FROM AWAY Top Outer Critics Circle Winners; Full List!". BroadwayWorld.com. 2017-05-08. Retrieved 2017-05-08. 
  36. ^ "Breaking: Stars from GREAT COMET, ANASTASIA, MISS SAIGON & More Earn 2017 Theatre World Awards!". BroadwayWorld.com. 2017-05-11. Retrieved 2017-05-11. 
  37. ^ "BANDSTAND, CATS, HOLIDAY INN, SWEET CHARITY Among 2017 Chita Rivera Award Nominees". BroadwayWorld.com. 2017-05-01. Retrieved 2017-05-02. 
  38. ^ "Actors' Equity Association Honors GREAT COMET with Outstanding Broadway Chorus Award". BroadwayWorld.com. 2017-06-14. Retrieved 2017-06-15. 
  39. ^ "A Doll's House, Part 2, Come From Away, Great Comet Receive Equity Diversity Award". TheaterMania.com. 2017-06-22. Retrieved 2017-06-22. 
  40. ^ 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