Tonight I saw another Broadway show – Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. It’s a show I knew next to nothing about before seeing it. All I knew was that it was based on a small chunk of War and Peace, and that it was recommended that you read the synopsis in the Playbill beforehand, so you know what’s going on. In fact, the opening number, Prologue, advised the same thing.
The staging was magnificent, with the performing area sneaking out, into, and through the audience in the auditorium, and with lots of seating on the stage, allowing some lucky audience members to get up close and personal with the cast as they performed. This blurring of the lines between performers and audience made for an interesting experience, and if you want to see the show, and if you don’t mind paying the premium, I’d recommend sitting at one of the tables onstage.
And what of the show, itself?
The Great Comet is an opera, so you’ll need to recalibrate if you’re expecting a straight Broadway musical. Written by Dave Malloy and directed by Rachel Chavkin, it’s a small story. Natasha is engaged to be married to Andre, who is away at war (he certainly isn’t here). She visits her godmother, and finds herself seduced by Anatole – a handsome scoundrel who professes his love. But though the story is small, the personal stakes are high, and the score is filled with emotion from start to finish.
It’s difficult to pull out individual highlights, but I’ll try.
The absolute highlight for me was Brittain Ashford as Natasha’s cousin and confident, Sonya. Sonya Alone will be with me for quite a while to come.
Josh Groban is the show’s big name. His performance as Pierre grounds the show and he acts as its drunken, flawed conscience. He has relatively little to do in the first act, but shows what he’s made of in the second half. Pierre also acts as Groban’s unofficial audition for the role of Tevye in perhaps a decade or so, and I’ll be queueing for tickets for that!
Lucas Steele plays Anatole like an evil Disney prince, and I half expected him to belt out Agony at inopportune moments. Another great performance. Believable and real.
Denée Benton is ostensibly the star of the show, and the quality of her performance of Natasha would single her out for praise in any other show, but the sheer quality of the cast in this show means she’s just going to have to accept she’ll need to share the limelight.
The ensemble were magnificent, and sounded better than every other cast I’ve seen on Broadway, the West End or any other theatre.
It’s a complex show, despite the simplicity of the storyline, but it’s rewarding, and I can’t wait to see it again.
The one thing that always frustrates me about seeing Broadway shows is that every performance of every show seems to elicit a standing ovation. We’re rather more reserved in the UK and reserve standing for those performances that are extraordinary and rare. Standing for every show weakens the act, and means you have nowhere else to go for the truly remarkable shows.
Tonight I stood. And I meant it.
Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 is playing at the Imperial Theater on 45th Street and is highly recommended.
(Note: images in this post are, for some reason, rotated by 90 degrees, and I’m too apathetic to change them).
So, I’m currently in London, looking forward to a signing at Forbidden Planet at 1.00pm (with Paul Cornell, Cassandra Khaw and Zen Cho). I stayed overnight at a Hilton near Holborn. As a frequent Hilton guest I got upgraded to a very nice room in the executive wing.
Slightly mixed feelings about the recent Porridge one-off. Porridge is one of my two all-time favourite sitcoms (the other being Yes Minister/Yes Prime Minister), so it was with trepidation that I sat down to watch the new version. It was written by the original writing team of Dick Clement and Ian La Frenais, and starred Kevin Bishop as the grandson of Ronnie Barker’s Norman Stanley Fletcher.
It felt a bit like a long-lost episode of the original series, but with different characters. And therein lies the problem, I think. It did nothing new. Which shouldn’t necessarily be a problem, as it exists to honour the original. I was hoping for something different, while at the same time, desperately hoping it wouldn’t try anything different. Hence the mixed feelings. It was a decent enough tribute, I think, and I don’t object to it existing, but I do hope it doesn’t go to a full series.
So, we’ve not yet left the EU, but the British public has voted to, by the smallest of margins. The British public has chosen to believe the lies and fear-mongering vomited up by the Leave campaign. The British public, when presented with actual facts, and advice from pretty much every economic expert, has chosen to side with Nigel Farage, Michael Gove and Boris Johnson.
I’m still trying to get my head around that.
Overnight the pound drops to a 30 year low, Scotland considers leaving the UK again, as does Northern Ireland, Greek banks are (at least temporarily) not exchanging sterling, several other right-wing parties in European countries are talking about holding their own referendum to leave the EU and my daughters have lost the right to live and work in 27 countries. Due to a 52/48 vote.
I had zero respect for our government before this. Is it possible for respect to drop to negative figures? Cameron called this referendum due to internal struggles within his own party. He gambled the entire UK economy on a whim, and lost. It now remains to be seen whether Cameron’s legacy will merely be the wholesale destruction of the British economy, or whether he has started the avalanche that will destroy Europe, too.
You did this, Cameron. Although you claim that you wanted us to Remain, you ruined the future for our children. This is your doing.
And yes, you had help from the floppy haired buffoon, the racist and the other liars, as well as half the UK voting population, who were spoon-fed lies and empty promises, but this is your doing. You will forever be remembered as the worst prime minister this country has ever had.
But still – you’ll get on the board of several multinationals and maybe negotiate a few last-minute sales of British institutions to your friends before you leave, so you’ll be all right. While the rest of us have to try to find a way to move forward through this stupidity.
It feels like today will be the day the calendar started, again, that in a far-off post-apocalyptic future, people will look back on Brexit day and wonder how we could have been so fucking stupid.
That is all.
(Nothing to do with parking, for once).