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February 4, 2019

What About Pierre?: 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812


In 19th Century Russia, the company of one of the most beloved modern musicals, Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, writes “letters” while “Andrey isn’t here” – but that’s not all.

The iconic electropop opera received rave reviews upon its first Off-Broadway run, which is why its eventual Broadway transfer was inevitable. You might think you know all there is to this 2017 Tony-nominated production by Dave Malloy, but there’s more to it than meets the eye. Here are some fun facts about this breathtaking show:

1.   Initially, Dave Malloy thought that producers would “shut down the idea” entirely, as it is an offbeat pop opera based off of 70 pages (Volume 2, Part 5 to be precise) of Leo Tolstoy’s novel, War and Peace. At first it may have seemed like this idea wouldn’t work – but as we can now see, it did. (Source)

2.   Before its transition to Broadway, the show started at Ars Nova, an 87-seat Hell’s Kitchen cabaret theater, before making a detour to a makeshift tent in the Meatpacking District. (Source)

3.   After seeing an off-Broadway performance in 2013, Josh Groban raved about it on Twitter. He was a fan first, and when he heard it was coming to the Great White Way, he reached out to producers in an attempt to secure a role in the Broadway debut – and he was quite successful. Being able to play Pierre was fulfilling Groban’s “childhood dream” of being on Broadway. (Source)

Amelia Workman, left; Phillipa Soo, center; and the playwright-accordionist Dave Malloy performing Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 at Ars Nova (Ben Arons)

4.   Comet’s Off-Broadway production was nominated for a whopping 9 Lucille Lortel awards, winning 3. It also had Obie, Drama Desk, Drama League and Off-Broadway Alliance Award nominations (and two more wins). (Source)

5.   To play the lead role of Pierre, Groban had to learn to play the accordion, which he picked up while on his concert tour. He took his accordion, affectionately named Olga, with him to New Zealand, South Africa, Australia and more. (Source)

6.   Comet had 4 Theatre World Award honorees, including a special award honoree for Dave Malloy himself. (Source)

7.   To keep the show’s intimate feel, director Rachel Chavkin transformed Broadway’s Imperial Theater into Imperial Russia, removing 200 seats to create an intimate supper club for 1,200 that allowed the cast to roam the entire theater and the audience to feel like they were part of the show. (Source)

8.   The design of the entire theatre, from the box office lobby to the iconic lighting fixtures hanging from the ceiling can all be attributed to Mimi Lien, the Tony Award Winner who did away with the traditional proscenium stage. The immersive experience of the set did not stop with the stage set-up. The set extended out into the box office lobby, which was designed to look like the concrete walls of modern-day punk rock Russia. (Source)

Josh Groban and the Cast of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. (Chad Batka)

9.   The ensemble cast of Comet received the Actor’s Equity Association Advisory Committee on Chorus Affairs (ACCA) award for Outstanding Broadway Chorus. (Source)

10.   Upon first listen, it may not be evident, but none of the lyrics in Comet’s music rhyme. Malloy’s innovative style is fully attributed to him and sounds like nothing that has ever been put on Broadway. (Source)

To purchase a copy of Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812, click here, and to learn more about licensing a production, click here.