WMNR'S Theater Circuit audience is a savvy one, so you know that Christopher Durang's wonderfully witty Vanya, Sonya , Masha and Spike is the top play on Broadway. Well I don't want you to be confused. There's a musical loosely based on Tolstoy's War and Peace playing way downtown at the Kazino Theatre on 13th street that sports a long name, too: Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of1812.
This is dinner theater punctuated by shots of Borscht and vodka and juice, plump round dark bread rolls and butter, all included in the price of your ticket. A profusion of Perogies stuffed with potato and cheese are marched through on narrow white plates. The main course is served during intermission.
Although the whole theme is Russian ambiance from the food to the rich crimson and dark gold décor, this three hour spellbinding extravaganza is written by an American, Dave Malloy, who was commissioned by Ars Nova and is listed in the playbill as Composer/Librettist/and Orchestrator. Having not been familiar with his work, I am duly impressed. The music, pop/opera, is very melodic and dynamic; the libretto tells the passionate story, which is presented by the actors on stages around the perimeter of the room. The chandeliers, created by Trevor Wade, are a modern version of those at the Metropolitan Opera. I want one!
Natasha began life at Ars Nova, an off off Broadway Theater located at 511 West 54th st. It reopened in its new larger surroundings in late May and plays through September 1. This is one of the most engaging productions where the young cast directed dashingly by Rachel Chavkin and choreographed by Sam Pinkleton has the most energy flying from spot to spot and sometimes dropping to sit at a cafe table with the audience. Costumes by Paloma Young are lavish; Scenic design is Mimi Lien, Lit brillianlty by Bradley King.
Natasha is played by the Audrey Hepburn rail slim Phillipa Soo, who sings with power and elegance. While waiting for her fiance, Andrey, to return from the war, she is seduced by the wild Anatole, depicted by Lucas Steele, who wear his blond hair in a whipped cream frenzy. She is preparing to run away with him when her friends and cousins stop her explaining that he is married to another. Reliable Pierre, a pleasant Luke Holloway, tries to calm her, as he discovers the comet streaking through the sky.
The entire company, particularly Grace McClean as Marya D, is excellent. The 8 piece band, consisting of 2 cellos, drums a clarinet, piano, bass, oboe and viola, sounds amazing.
Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812 is truly a unique experience and one that should not be missed. At the Kazino Theatre in NY though September 1.