Saw Great Comet yesterday (7-30-17), and I just wanted to share some of my experience with you guys! I was sitting in the rear mezz, which I highly recommend!
*I'mma skip over a lot of the main details just because they’ve already been covered, but I’ll try to include things that were particular to this show/not often talked about.
• There’s a little vignette right before the show starts where Andrey is leaving for war, and it begins with Natasha screaming the most heartbreaking no you’ve ever heard in ur life.
• When Oak came out, there was thunderous applause. Like, it went on for at least a full minute. I was so happy.
• Also, hearing that first accordion note reduced me to tears bc I’m sensitive™.
• So lemme talk about Oak’s voice real quick. Someone noted that it’s this perfect blend between Groban’s smoothness and Malloy’s roughness, and I have to wholeheartedly agree. It’s absolutely beautiful. He’s a beautiful Pierre.
• Also, he plays Pierre with a lot of melancholy. It’s almost as though he’s always on the verge of tears.
• “He’s charming; he has no sex.” While the ladies are skipping around him, Hélène is conducting them, and it’s hilarious.
• “I pity you. I pity me. I pity you.” — Oak sings these lines so gutturally. His agony echoes off the very walls of the Imperial.
• “Pierre” received a long applause as well.
• GRACE MCLEAN DESERVED TO BE NOMINATED FOR A TONY AWARD!1! HOLY CRAP. HER VOCALS BRING THE HOUSE DOWN!!!!!!!
• The moment she belts her first lines, you know exactly what kind of personality Marya D. has, and that’s a tribute to her actress. Srsly.
• During the song, Marya will sometimes act maternally to Sonya, but the moment Natasha comes back into sight, she’ll roughly push Sonya away, and it’s hilarious.
• Natasha’s humming is absolutely heartbreaking. It’s one of the many moments in the musical when you realize how young she is.
“The Private and Intimate Life of the House”
• There were understudies for both Mary and Bolkonsky/Andrey, Courtney Bassett and Ken Clark respectively. They were wonderful. Ken’s performance especially stood out to me.
• “People enjoy me, though…” Before he sang these lines, he held eye contact with a person across from him for, like, five seconds, and it was incredibly funny. (Same goes for him patting his wig and powder flying into the air.)
• “BRING ME MY SLIPPERS! YES, FATHER. YES, FATHER. BRING ME MY WIIIIIIIIIIIIINE.”
• The audience interaction in this one is A+. Mary’s suitor and Bolkonsky’s cheap French thing draw huge laughs from the crowd.
• “They are there upon his head.” I’ve seen a few posts where people lament that the audience laughs at this line, but I truly think it’s supposed to be laughed at. Mary is kind of coy when she says it, like she’s laughing at it herself. After that, though, her mood dips, slowly sinking into this utterly palpable reproach.
• The audience was completely silent.
• While she’s singing her final lines, Bolkonsky is slowly making his way back to his chair, and your heart shatters as you watch. He’s clutching his back and using the railing for support. When he finally collapses in his chair, he kinda puts his head in his hands.
“Natasha and the Bolkonskys”
• Towards the beginning of the song, Natasha and Mary hoist chairs over their heads and join a table of people on stage. It’s hilarious. They really milk the awkwardness of the moment.
• “Constrained and strained” is so frickin’ good. When Courtney and Denée sing it, it’s really low and creepy.
• “Says the mean, old man in his underthings” drew huge laughs, especially bc of Bolkonsky’s hand movements. He kept gesturing towards his entire body.
“No One Else”
• Honest to God, I could write essays on how perfect Denée Benton and her performance of this song is. She emotes so beautifully. Her voice, her movements, her facial expressions all come together to create Natasha, a young, lost girl who wants nothing more than to see Andrey again.
• I cried (obviously).
• The blue light is absolutely gorgeous in this song. (The blue light is meant to be the moon.)
• At one point, Andrey shows up, and snow begins to lightly fall on him. He reads one of Natasha’s letters, brings it to his lips tenderly before walking away, and just behind him, almost able to reach him, is Natasha, her face the perfect picture of despair.
• Denée Benton.
• The applause after this song was long and well-deserved.
• Just for the record, songs like this one, “The Duel”, and “The Abduction"—where all of the cast members are out—are absolutely electric. The energy is incredible.
• “The opera, the opera…” Marya D. belts these lines so loudly, lololol.
• On one side, you can spot Heath Saunders as one of the opera goers, and lemme just tell you guys, that long, black coat suits him.
• “Hélène and Dolokhov arm-in-arm…” They aren’t so much arm-in-arm as they are passionately making out on stage. Omg. I love them.
• “Noooo, I’m enjoying myself this evening.” Pierre pumps his fist and smiles this absolutely giddy smile.
• When Marya sees that Natasha is talking to Hèlène, she runs up and pushes Nat behind her.
• To indicate that the “curtain rises,” some of the light bulbs retract. It’s a cool effect.
• I know the literal opera part of the song sounds incredibly weird on the recording, but in person, it’s more hilarious than you’d think. The actors are doing ridiculous things and making animalistic noises, lol.
• When it’s over, the spotlight turns to Natasha and Sonya. Sonya’s asleep, lolololololol.
• Right before Anatole comes in and around the time Natasha begins to “pass into a state of intoxication”, she hallucinates Andrey being injured during the war. The two circle each other around Pierre’s salon, simply gazing into each other’s eyes, and it’s intense.
• Anatole’s entrance is frickin’ ridiculous and amazing all at once.
• You know those measured beats at the beginning of his introduction? During each of those, he sharply turns his head in a new direction, ostensibly to show off his head.
• Also, his walk is literally a swagger.
• Either in this scene or during “Natasha and Anatole”, he caught a lady unaware and kissed her on the cheek. She jumped so badly, lolololol.
“Natasha and Anatole”
• During the intro of the song, Anatole checks himself out in a mirror before posing himself perfectly for the moment Natasha turns around to see him.
• Also, let’s talk about Lucas Steele for a hot minute. He is Anatole Kuragin, from his almost exotic voice to the way he walks. Out of the cast, I’d say that Steele is the one who plays the crowd the best.
• Throughout this number, Anatole and Natasha play the roles of pursuer and the pursued. Natasha tries so hard not to be wrapped under his spell. :(
• When he takes the flower off her head, Natasha makes a perfect :O face. I love Denée Benton.
• “And kiss me on the neck.” He does manage to get this kiss, and it’s really rough-looking.
• “How do you like Moscow?” Lolololololololol.
• For the most part, the two are roving around the stage (mostly bc Natasha is running away from Anatole), but at the end, they sit down next to each other, and it’s played as a really significant moment.
• “The Duel” is epic live. Holy freakin’ crap.
• The moment Dolokhov, Pierre, and Anatole clink their glasses together, the strobe lights come on and the real party begins. There’s intensely sexual dancing, half-naked people, and glow sticks everywhere.
• Y'all, I saw Marya D., in a skin tight, black costume no less, whip several people with a riding crop with my own two eyes.
• Also, in the very back of the rear mezz, there was, like, a threesome going on.
• The energy during this song was absolutely nuts.
• Sonya’s party outfit is so cute. It’s an almost innocent looking dress, and she’s wearing bright sunglasses.
• The ensemble echoing back “corpulence” is really frickin’ funny.
• Nick Choksi really highlights the psychopathic part of Dolokhov, especially in the “Here’s to the health of married women” sequence. His movements are jubilant but also shark-like. He and Hélène make out for a loooooong time.
“Dust and Ashes”
• Oak’s “Dust and Ashes” is an absolute privilege to hear, and if you have the chance, I would go and listen to it while you can. His voice could have shaken the entire foundation of the theater.
• While he’s singing, the entire cast lines up in the rear mezz to provide backup vocals, and it’s incredibly poignant. (Also, tho, Lucas Steele stood in front of me, and I died.)
• “Don’t let me die while I’m like this…” During these lines, Oak starts crying, and it guts you.
• There was a two minute applause for “Dust and Ashes”, and I was on the verge of crying just bc he was getting such a huge applause.
• Oak is perfect, okay?
“Sunday Morning” / “Charming”
• “Everyone sees a man!” Ingrid delivers this line so well. It got a huge laugh.
• AHHHHHHHHH, now here’s a symbolic moment for you. When Natasha says that she can see a shape in the darkness as she’s looking into the mirror, Pierre is standing up right behind her. Pierre is her future.
• (The moment Nat leaves, he sits back down.)
• Amber Gray can slay me, tbh. “Charming” is everything I could have ever asked for.
• When she walks in, the lights are bright behind her, and her hood is over her head, effectively masking her identity. It’s a really neat moment.
• The lights dim when she takes off her hood.
• Natasha is in her undergarments throughout the song until Hélène gives her her cloak. (Btw, Natasha looks gr8 in said cloak.)
• At some point, Natasha starts mimicking Hélène’s movements, and it’s adorable but also a really nice character touch. Same goes for Hélène snatching Andrey’s necklace off of Nat’s neck and exchanging it for her own pearls.
• This number was enchanting. I had a hard time focusing on the main stage bc the dancers in the rear mezz. were so mesmerizing in their movements.
• Also, tho, the ensemble dancers mimicked what Anatole and Natasha were dancing at times.
• When Natasha tries to run away from Anatole, he pursues her up the steps and forces their first kisses. She’s surprised at first, but gives into it with abandon a few seconds later. The kiss lasts a very long time.
• At the end of “The Ball”, Natasha and Anatole run through the doors together and then turn to face the audience. They’re holding hands. The lights are bright behind them.
• “Letters” is such a frickin’ jam, y'all.
• When it starts, the cast members spill out of the double doors singing.
• At the beginning of “Letters”, just as Pierre is addressing Andrey, Andrey appears at the top of the stairs. Pierre faces him.
• “I see nothing but the candles in the mirror.” For one of the very few times in the play, Natasha and Pierre face each other.
• The geometric symmetry in the choreography is really wonderful all around. For instance, at one point, Mary, Natasha, and Pierre are all positioned in a triangle, taking turns facing one another.
• Anatole’s love letter was an absolute showstopper. People were whistling, clapping, and screaming when he started holding those really long notes. Holy crap @ Lucas Steele!!!!!
“Sonya and Natasha” / “Sonya Alone”
• “Sonya and Natasha” is intense. I was on the edge of my seat for their fighting.
• “I’m soooooooooooooo happy, and sooooooooooo frightened.” Kill it, Denée!!!! (When she’s singing about her happiness, her arms are extended widely, and when she’s singing about being frightened, she withdraws into herself.)
• “I have no will. My life is his.” During these lines, Natasha is wrapped around an increasingly agonized Sonya.
• “Sonya Alone” is one of the most powerful numbers in the show, and you really don’t recognize it until you see it live.
• The theater is almost completely dark with the exception of a spotlight on Sonya. Throughout the entirety of the song, Natasha is ambling about, tightly clutching Anatole’s letter.
• Sonya never takes her eyes off of Natasha, and your heart can’t help but ache for both of them.
• Ingrid Michaelson is truly a wonderful Sonya—maybe not as sure as Brittain but she definitely doesn’t lack heart.
• On the first “I will protect your name and your heart”, Natasha stumbles on a stair, staggered by the weight of her friend’s words. Then, she walks to the opposite side of the stage, only to be completely stopped by Sonya’s, “I know you’ve forgotten me.”
• For the rest of the song, Natasha is still, her head inclined towards Sonya.
“Preparations” / “Balaga”
• When Pierre greets Anatole at the beginning of this number, it’s almost as though he’s caught Anatole out. Anatole had been trying to sneak past unnoticed.
• Anatole shaves in front of a mirror during “Preparations”, lol. At one point, he turns to the crowd with shaving cream still on his face.
• Dolokhov sings his arguments at Anatole very fiercely during this song, even more so than he does in the recording.
• I looooooooooooove “Balaga”. It’s such a wild performance. Paul Pinto moves with such agility and manic energy. The ensemble hands out the egg shakers during this one.
• “THE ABDUCTION” IS SO GOOOD. HOLY CRAPPP.
• Anatole singing “WHOOOOA” while swinging his green jacket cleared my skin, watered my crops, and cured my depression.
• The whole theater is absolutely alive with commotion. There’s a dance off between a guy in the rear mezz and a guy on stage that’s frickin’ amazing.
• People are doing backflips.
• Natasha smashes a painting on Balaga’s head.
• Marya and Hélène are making out.
• Pierre is doing a cute jig.
• It’s beautiful, beautiful chaos.
• When Pierre screams his “WHOA” part, everyone collapses on the floor, absolutely exhausted, and then, then, the most wonderful thing happens.
• Pierre giggles.
• God, I love Oak.
• “Wait, wait. First we have to sit down.” Anatole made room for himself next to a girl, which was hecking funny, but what was even funnier was that the girl leaned her head on Anatole’s shoulder. The whole theater dissolved in laughter. Anatole held the quiet for a comedically long period before getting up, and when he did, he kissed the girl on the cheek. It was really cute.
• When Marya entered at the end of the song, surrounded by this harsh, red light, there were audible gasps in the audience. People weren’t expecting her, lol.
“In My House”• GRACE MCLEAN DESERVED A TONY NOMINATION: PART TWO.
• She acted her butt out through this entire song. I’m serious.
• Her voice is dangerously quiet until, “YOU LISTEN TO ME WHEN I SPEAK TO YOU. YOU LISTEN TO ME WHEN I SPEAK TO YOU.”
• The tension in the room was palpable.
• Also, all of the yelling you hear on the recording? It’s so much more intense live. It’s fierce enough to make you flinch.
• “Don’t touch me!” At one point when Natasha screamed this, she physically pushed Marya away, and Marya wasn’t angry so much as she was stunned.
• “Natasha’s whole body shook with noiseless, convulsive sobs.” She was literally bent over, grasping the railing like she couldn’t breathe.
• “And she threw herself down on the sofa.” Natasha stands erect with her arms crossed and her head buried in them. The spotlights focus on her, and that’s when Marya softens.
• You can see the fight leave Grace McLean’s body. Her voice is incredibly tender.
“A Call to Pierre” / “Find Anatole”
• GRACE MCLEAN DESERVED A TONY NOMINATION: PART THREE.
• Her face is absolutely devastated as she’s talking to Pierre. Like, I still have chills thinking about it.
• Also, Pierre is waking up from a nap at the beginning of this number, lol.
• “I have been… studying.” He glances quickly at the place he had been napping.
• The sheer power in Oak’s voice really comes out in these next songs. Anger and fear simmers behind the way he sings. A+++
• At the beginning of “Find Anatole”, he truly sounds out of breath. His body is fully bent over for a couple of seconds.
• “He can’t be married!” The absolute horror in Denée’s voice nearly slaughters you, tbh.
• When Pierre discovers Anatole and Hélène and gets mad, they start to run away.
• Pierre is livid when he finds Anatole and Hélène. I mean, livid.
“Pierre and Anatole” / “Natasha Very Ill”
• Pierre nearly throttling Anatole is a sight™.
• “Amuse yourself with women like my wife!” The spotlight shines on Hélène as she stands up and bristles indignantly. What an amazing character touch.
• During that long pause before Pierre apologizes to Anatole, Natasha walks right between the two and drinks the arsenic. A few moments later, it begins taking effect, and she starts screaming. It’s a terrible, convincing sound. She runs off stage. Marya and Sonya follow her.
• “FOR PETERSBUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUURG!” :’)))
• There was a pause between “Pierre and Anatole” and “Natasha Very Ill” while we all wildly applauded that C#. Holy crap @ Lucas Steele!!!!!!!!!!!!
• “Natasha Very Ill” is sad. Everyone is devastated, especially Sonya and Marya.
“Pierre and Andrey”
• Ken Clark is an amazing Andrey. He has a v. human approach to the prince.
• When Pierre and Andrey are trading insults, there’s a lot of affection between them. It’s really as though the two haven’t seen each other in quite awhile.
• Andrey’s somewhat tender tone continues until he asks Pierre to confirm whether the rumors he had heard were true, and when Pierre replies in the affirmative, that is the very moment when Andrey assumes his colder exterior.
• It frickin’ breaks your heart.
• “If you wish to be my friend, never speak of that again.” During “If you wish to be my friend,” Andrey’s voice breaks seemingly on the edge of tears, and then it hardens at the end as he jabs a finger in Pierre’s chest. The moment he does so, though, he immediately looks horrified. Did I really just threaten my friend?
• “Well, goodbye” is soft.
• CRAP. I FORGOT THE WORST PART OF THIS SONG. Behind Andrey and Pierre, Natasha and Sonya are standing in a darkened corner. Whenever Andrey refers to Natasha, she flinches and buries herself into Sonya.
“Pierre and Natasha” / “The Great Comet of 1812”
• “Pierre and Natasha” broke me.
• At the beginning of the song, Natasha slowly makes her way down the staircase, entirely dependent on the railing to get down. It tears at your heart. You can’t help but remember how lovely and vibrant she had been at the beginning of the play.
• The nightgown she’s in makes her look so small, and with her braided hair, she looks just like a little girl.
• Oak emotes his lyrics so tenderly, so gently in this one. His voice is always on the verge of breaking.
• “She began to cry…” Yeah, no. She sobbed, and you sobbed with her. Her whole body was shaking. She had to hold on to the rail.
• An interesting tidbit: Hélène is sitting right behind Natasha, and she has her head in her hands like she’s reacting to the sadness of this scene, too.
• “All over…” At this point, Natasha is walking back up the staircase, and the theater is absolutely silent. You could have heard a pin drop. Oak says the written line to her back.
• I’ll never forget the way Oak delivered it, and I will never want to either.
• His voice simply broke on “if I were free”.
• Pierre turns away from her, and then she turns towards him, slowly making her way back to him.
• During her last lines, Natasha touches his cheek, and it is sincerely one of the most beautiful moments of this very beautiful play.
• “The Great Comet of 1812” was moving, too.
• The theater very much looked like a beautiful night sky. The comet prop was stunning, too.
• Pierre sat down at the end of the song and gazed reverentially up at the comet.
This play was one of the most beautiful experiences of my life, and I recommend it with all of my heart and soul. Please, please support it if you can.