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Posts tagged ‘Best Actor’

CD of “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet…”A Masterpiece Recording of a Masterpiece Musical!

The soon-to-be-released 2-disc CD of the Original Broadway Cast of “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” is a masterpiece of recording of a masterpiece musical. I’m sorry, I just can’t stop the superlatives when talking about “Natasha, Pierre..” or as some call it “The Great Comet.” But whatever you call it, I predict it’s going to land like a bomb in the middle of TONY awards season. It’s due out May 19 and it will be flying off the shelves, like, well, like the great comet that it memorializes forever in this dazzling pop-opera spectacle that I’ve seen FOUR times and I can’t wait to see again!

Natasha, Pierre 22And yes, the magnificent lyric baritone of the legendary Josh Groban pierces through the massive ensemble and breaks your heart, with a vocal range we have barely heard him use before, especially thrilling in the darker, almost guttural, lower tones. Groban is turning into a consummate actor-singer right before our very eyes, and he has been selling out Broadway with this fiery, very avant-garde opera that challenge him at every step he takes and every note he sings and he meets the challenges magnificently..

And yes, I could see him singing at the Met one of these years. His voice just grows in depth and resonance in this incredible recording, as his performance as Pierre Bezukov has grown, too, since I first saw it. “Poor, bewildered Pierre, a warm-hearted Russian of the old school” sings the full-throated chorus, masterfully orchestrated by composer Dave Malloy. He was nominated for TWO Tonys, for his score and his orchestrations of it.

Natasha, Pierre 20Groban has two stunning solo numbers “Dust and Ashes” which ends his Act One and the title song, which ends the show. He is also singing throughout the entire score, with that pure, moving voice that is sometimes here almost a rock rasp. “What? What? WHAT?” he wails as his cousin Maria Demitryevka (the frightening Grace McLean) tells him some very alarming news indeed regarding his unrequited love, beautiful, young Natasha.

His Pierre is angry, frustrated, and almost always reading or drunk. He is married to “a bad wife”, the slinky, sensual Amber Grey as Helene.

amber-grey

She continues with this sensational role of “the slut”, wailing like a blues singer, belting out “Charmante,” wearing green furs and sequins, and sounding for all the world like a Russian Billy Holliday. As she helps seduce innocent Natasha, a better-than-ever Denee Benton, for her dissolute brother Anatole.Denee Benton 1

He is played to the hilt and beyond by Lucas Steele, who has also been with the show through all the years of its’ many peregrinations as has Amber Grey, McLean and many others. He actually has a larger role than Groban!Josh and Lucas

“Natasha, Pierre…” has had a grueling five year journey From the tiny Ars Nova theater Off-Off Broadway to the festive circus tent in the meat-packing district, where I first saw it. where they served dinner! They also went to Boston to the ART theater there. All the while under the stupendously inventive guidance of  director Rachel Chavkin. who is herself nominated for a Tony, too.

“Natasha, Pierre…” has now been nominated for TWELVE Tony Awards and I hope it wins all of them. Groban, Benton and Steele have all been nominated in their categories, but only Lucas Steele of the actors has won an award for the evil Anatole so far. He scored a prestigious Lucille Lortel Award.Lucas Steele 1Lucas Steele Lucille Lortel Award 1

In his category, Best Featured Actor in a Musical, he’s up against Broadway veteran Gavin Creel, who is a riot in “Hello, Dolly!” Both shows are mega-hits, but Steele’s Anatole is so dastardly, and also so devilishly handsome and sexy AND he plays the violin, having a wild solo as he fiddles away, preparing his plans to abduct the underage Natasha. He’s married already, and it’s a crime that he’s about to perpetrate. Yes, even in 1812 Moscow, he would be considered a criminal. and yes, this is all out of a tiny sliver of the 1000+plus-paged novel “War and Peace” from which this epic is adapted by the uber-talented Malloy.

This sliver is so epic…you can only imagine what the rest of Tolstoy’s classic novel is like. Believe it or not, I read it in the 8th grade. The other kids in the Bronx Catholic boys school I was doomed to,  made fun of me carrying his huge tome around with me for a year.

“Are you really reading all that?”

Yes, I was and I did, and I’m so glad now that I can say that I felt every inch a genuine Russian after reading it and especially seeing “Natasha, Pierre” FOUR times! And now this extraordinarily beautiful, tuneful, masterfully recorded treasure of a CD is coming soon! May 19! Remember that date!

I saw “NPATGCOE,” as the Internet might abbreviate, this last time, seated RIGHT ON THE STAGE! Every time you see it sitting in a different place in the wildly re-devised Imperial theatre,  it’s like seeing a different play! When you’re sitting on the stage itself, you feel like you are IN the play! The stage actually vibrates with the bass notes of the synthesizer that sometimes Josh Groban himself is playing in the pit of the orchestra. Which is stage center and completely unhidden.Natasha, Pierre Marquis

In fact, from his first entrance in front of a blinding blaze of  white lights, he is playing the accordion himself, and he rarely if ever leaves the stage.  Bespectacled Pierre is Tolstoy’s alter-ego. He is one of the first, modern anti-heroes. He is thoroughly depressive, a big Russian,
beaten-up bear of a character. And yes, he’s the hero of “War and Peace.”  Groban to his everlasting credit has totally immersed himself to the point of unrecognizability in his heroic, vanity free performance. He is wearing a fat suit. He now lumbers and growls and shuffles his considerable weight as a middle-aged man would. His long, thin fingers shake with what may be delirium tremens as in a man who drinks Way too much. His young brow is now furrowed, without any make-up.

You can hear this bear of a character that he is so perfectly portraying growling through the CD like a wounded animal. But like the maestro he is, Pierre’s voice, his howl of pain, is always also modulated and very, very beautiful.  And moving.Natasha, Pierre Broadway SetYou must hurry and buy it. I predict it will be a best seller, the first Broadway recording and the best maybe ever. It could go platinum in five minutes. And go see Groban live and onstage before he leaves the show forever in July. He’s entitled. He’s been packing them in on Broadway, for nearly a year, revitalizing it and don’t even get me started on Mimi Lien’s transformative set and the wild, magnificent lighting of Bradley King! Both also nominated for Tonys. I hope they all win!

I also have to add that there seems to be a thousand-voiced choir, an epic number of voices that call themselves “The Great Comet Singers” who are pictured in the CD program and contribute to the amazing sound and rhythm of “Balaga” and “The Abduction.” They are also credited as “Shakers.” Because the audience was all given egg-shaped shakers to increase the beat of the delirious troika ride to end all troika rides in Act Two. Yes, “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet” of 1812 will abduct you, too. Your heart, I mean. You’ll never think of musicals the same way again.

Lucas Steele & Denee Benton 1
#Natasha, Pierre, # The Great Comet of 1812, #Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 # Josh Groban, #Lucas Steele, #Tony Awards, #Denee Benton, #Russia, #War and Peace

Final Final Oscar Predictions. It’s All La La

emma-stoneThese are my final FINAL Oscar Predicitons in the major categories. It’s still “La La Land” and I know it bares repeating or maybe it doesn’t. It’s been as David Poland told Sasha Stone “an open and shut season.” It’s been “LLL” ever seen it was first seen at Telluride and Toronto. It’s seems only the extremely popular “Hidden Figures” could upset, if anything. But “La La” is going to win A LOT of awards come Sunday night. I might be live blogging it, but then again I might not. We’ll see.

But Emma Stone seems unstoppable as of course does Viola Davis. And if anyone is going to upset it’s Mashershala Ali of “Moonlight”, it’s the  surging Dev Patel of “Lion.” He won BAFTA. He could easily win here.

dev-patel-5

Damien Chazelle will win Best Director for “La La Land.” Like Viola Davis, he’s won everything else.

The real nail biter is going to be Best Actor between Casey Affleck for “Manchester by the  Sea” and Denzel Washington for “Fences.” It could go either way. Denzel won the Tony for this when he did it onstage on Broadway and also with Viola who won a Tony, too.

But he has two Oscars already. Are they ready to admit DW to the three time winners club which only has four people in it. Daniel Day Lewis, Jack Nicholson, Walter Brennan and Katherine Hepburn? I wonder.

I hope it’s Casey Affleck essaying a much more difficult and indelible part in “Manchester by the Sea.” He’s won 40 Best Actor Awards and has just won the BAFTA,  as did Emma, Viola and Dev. BAFTA is very influential. I’d vote for Casey, as I’ve said a million times this season.casey-on-boat-2

#Final Oscar Predictions

#Casey Affleck

#Dev Patel

#Emma Stone

#La La Land

#Manchester by the Sea

#Fences

#Dev Patel

#Lion

What the BAFTAs MAY do to Oscar 2016?

Sad BaftaBAFTAS 2016 1What will be the BAFTAS effect on Oscar this year? It may be more than ever. The nominations for BAFTA(the British Academy Awards equivalent) are fewer, only five, in the Best Picture race. And though the British themselves are trying to align their awards with ours, more and more each year, the EFFECT they have on wavering Oscar voters stateside is monumental….Sometimes…And sometimes it’s the undecided votes  that determine the winner, especially in a close year like this in the acting categories.

Of COURSE, “La La Land” is going to win Best Picture. It’s as popular there as here. So let’s table that discussion right now, shall we? The other nominees are the British film “I, Daniel Blake”(no), and the American films “Manchester by the Sea”, “Arrival” and “Moonlight” and I don’t see any of those upsetting LLL, as it’s known on the Interwebs.

oscars-2017-3There IS a overlap from BAFTAs membership to AMPAS, estimated at a voting block of about 600. This becomes a crucial indicator when there is a close-as-close-can-be race. Like this year’s Best Actor. Casey Affleck will win this. And what you say? Denzel Washington isn’t even nominated! Yes, that’s right. And so isn’t “Fences” whose sole nominee is Viola Davis in Supporting. And you heard it here first folks, remember that. VIOLA MAY NOT WIN HERE!naomie-harris-1

It may be Brit star Naomi Harris, who was so strong and touching as the drug-addicted mother in “Moonlight.” Brits win here. It’s their awards after all. And the same goes for “Moonlight”s Mahershala Ali, who is most definitely going to win the Oscar in the Supporting Category, but also, not necessarily in Britian. It may very well be British Indian actor Dev Patel who is nominated for the Weinstein Co.’s “Lion.”lion-2I still think that USA favorites Ali and Davis will prevail in Supporting states-side. But just watch what happens if wins for Naomi Harris and Dev Patel occur in London on Sunday. And Casey Affleck wins Best Actor there. As will Emma Stone in Best Actress(They love “La La”).

The complete absence of “Fences” at the BAFTAs (esp. if Viola Davis Loses!) may mess with the perceived momentum of that movie.

So with POTENTIALLY DIFFERENT-than-the-SAG winners, Harris and Patel and no Viola, and Denzel not even nominated, it just MAY, I say, MAY insure that the brilliant portrayal of Casey Affleck in “Manchester by the Sea” continues on to win his BIG ONE as pre-ordained by the NYFCC, the National Board of Review, The Critics Choice Awards and the Golden Globes and every other critics’ group awards across the country.

Denzel was brilliant on Broadway, but in the screen version, he directed himself, and that was his big mistake. The movie seemed LONNGGGER than the stage version. Why? Because he kept pausing and dragging out EVERY SINGLE SYLLABLE til yes, indeed Viola Davis’ Rose DID seem like a Supporting performance. Every line was had an exclamation point at the end of it. A nd every close-up of himself was just held too long. That’s what makes a picture extend itself in time and wears out its’ welcome.

So enjoy your trip to the London stage, Casey. You gave the better performance, the Best Performance of the year. BY A MILE. As a lonely alcoholic janitor, who is tortured by his tragic past, his Lee Chandler is indelible, unforgettable.

casey-affleck-ad

And once upon a time, he appeared in a Kenneth Lonergan play in London to great acclaim, so they love him already in Blighty.

And most important of all, after the BAFTAS occur on Sunday, on Monday, (at last!) the Oscar voting OPENS! And most people send in their ballots IMMEDIATELY, especially now that they can do it electronically.

#Casey Affleck, #BAFTA, #Manchester by the Sea, #Predictions # Denzel Washington # Fences # Viola Davis # Oscars

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FINAL SAG Predictions! Each Film Will Win ONE Award

manchester-by-the-sea-92-emma-stonesI have to get this out as soon as possible. It’s SUCH a cut and dried year that it’s almost like typing blindfold. OF COURSE, Casey Affleck is going to win Best Actor tomorrow night at the SAG Awards. He’s won everything else. And it IS a great affecting performance that stays with you. It is also the most courageous depiction of grief I’ve ever seen in a major motion picture. He’ll win here because I think the SAG ensemble prize is going elsewhere. No, it’s not the 14 time Oscar nominee “La La Land”. It wasn’t even nominated!

But I think it’s leading lady, Emma Stone will win Best Actress. If they like “La La Land” and evidently they do, Emma in Best Actress is the only place they can vote for LLL. The same with “Manchester”. Casey Affleck will win big, because it’s not possible to vote for him or “Manchester by the Sea” anywhere else in this group of Awards.

Also, remember it’s a VERY American voting body. It’s the Actor’s of America voting so foreigners need not apply.

Viola Davis is the most mortal of locks for Best Supporting Actress for “Fences.” She’ll repeat her Broadway triumph here.

It’s a little trickier as we go on. So far we have one for “Manchester by the Sea”, Casey Affleck and one for “La La Land” Emma Stone, We have one for “Fences” which will be Viola Davis.

Then we run into the problem so who will win Best Supporting Actor. Will it be Mahershala Ali for “Moonlight” or Patel for “Lion”? Given that I think SAG is in a -spread-the-wealth mood. If Mahershala wins for his compassionate drug dealer then “Moonlight” won’t also win Best Ensemble. They might want to give “Moonlight” Best Ensemble(and it truly IS an ensemble). Then another actor of color would win Supporting which would be Dev Patel. If they liked “Lion” and the Weinsteins, this is the only category where they can vote for him.

So, if early in the evening, Patel wins in Supporting, then you can be sure that “Moonlight” will walk away with ensemble

But if it’s Mahershala Ali, who wins then the top award, their version of Best Picture, will go to another racially themed film, the box-office blockbuster “Hidden Figures” which has been surging during the voting period.

So therefore SAG will feel they’ve been fair to all. “Everyone has won and all  shall have prizes” cried the Dodo in “Alice Through the Looking Glass.

#SAG Awards #Final Predictions, #Casey Affleck, #Best Actor, # La La Land

 

 

 

 

Why Casey Affleck Will Win Best Actor Oscar.

If I was an AMPAS voter, I think it’s just between my two favorite movies (alas, not “Jackie” evidently..sadly…)”La La Land”casey-affleck-adand “Manchester by the Sea”. Initiallly, if I were a voter, I would’ve just said “Yes!” to La Land’s bounce and bouyancy all the way, but now that I’ve had time to mull it over, if I were an Academy member, I might put down “Manchester by the Sea”as my #1 film, because it has gravitas. “La La Land” doesn’t. Not really.

And Casey Affleck’s incredible performance! Imagine how different that film would be if Matt Damon, the originally intended lead, did indeed do it. I don’t think I could ever imagine Sunny Matt as a Hot Mess. And Casey Affleck plays the conflicted male loser so believably…I mean, he really puts you in the mindset of someone who’s killed, accidentally, but I mean, I’m not going to spoil it any further… The unfathomable despair of those deaths…. It’s almost unbearable. It’s unthinkable. BUT HE BEARS IT. He survives the unimaginable, which is the point of the whole film I think,manchester-art-direction

And Kenneth Lonergan, the filmmaker, is a great under-sung America playwright, has done just that. Put the unthinkable on screen and says “Here. This is what life is about. Multiple losses. Deal with it.” And the audience and Affleck’s character, in fact, the whole of New England village Manchester itself is still grappling with the ramifications of what he did. “Manchester” is a movie that ABOUT something. It’s profound. But it’s also profoundly, unexpectedly funny, but that is its’ genius.

Surviving something you thought you’d never be able to survive. Like this past election….And still having a battered, but intact sense of humor and decency. He’s still alive. He struggles, but he goes on living. As Beckett said in “Waiting for Godot”, “I can’t go on….I go on.”

Affleck is playing one of the most original characters ever written for the screen, in that sense. And he’s won over 30 acting awards already! He’ll win BAFTA in a walk. The Brits go for the serious, the heavy(see “Hamlet”) and if he wins SAG, too! Bob’s your uncle, as the Cockneys say.manchester-by-the-sea-8

I did not like Denzel Washington, over-acting in “Fences,” is his only credible competition in the Best Actor category, but Washington did not get nominated for a BAFTA either as director or actor.  Another big snub. And he lost the Golden Globe to Affleck. And he wasn’t named as one of the five directors in the DGA.

Both, though, will get nominations on Jan.24. The next big test will be at SAG. If Affleck wins that, the game is over.

#Casey Affleck

# Best Actor Oscar

#Manchester by the Sea

# Kenneth Lonergan

  • [This article was originally  a post in the comments section of http://www.awardsdaily.com, but I thought it was too good not to reprint (and re-write it) here. Thanks as always to Awardsdaily.]
  • BAFTA noms out! La La Land Leads with 11. Aaron Taylor-Johnson nominated AGAIN!

    aaron-taylor-johnson-winning-golden-globeWell, the nominations for the BAFTAs, the British equivalent of the Academy Awards, were announced in the middle of the night(EST) last night and it’s no surprise to anyone that “La La Land” leads the pack once again, dancing off with 11 nominations, more than any other film and also being nominated in every single category it possibly could be.la-la-land-7A REAL surprise that it was followed in the nominations with “Nocturnal Animals” at nine. The divisive Tom Ford thriller is going to sound familiar from the Golden Globes because it was Aaron Taylor-Johnson’s upset win in Best Supporting Actor was the first bombshell of the night in a night of bombshells. Taylor-Johnson is playing a serial killer in this dark film, which I’m now predicting will do better with the Academy later this month than people, or pundits, heretofore expected.

    In Supporting Actor, he’s once again up against Hugh Grant for “Florence Foster Jenkins”, Dev Patel(who is really the lead) for “Lion. All these three gentlemen are Brits btw. Mahershala Ali, who WAS the front-runner and good ole boy Jeff Bridges playing a tired and retiring Texas detective in “Hell or High Water.”aaron-taylor-johnson-4Also in play is the very young Lucas Hedges who dazzles in my fave, “Manchester by the Sea” which racked up six noms. Best picture, Best Director, Best Screenplay, Best Actor, Casey Affleck(who I think will win this, once again, for his haunting, haunted performance as Lee Chandler[he’s won everything else])Best Supporting Actress Michelle Phillips and Best Newcomer, Lucas Hedges. Best Newcomer is a category that the Academy doesn’t have, so to get a nomination for his incredible, funny heart-breaking lost teenager, he’d have to be nominated as Supporting by the Academy. Perhaps he will. I hope he does.

    manchwarwe-by-the-sea-6michelle-willilams-manchester-1Strange to note, but there was ONCE AGAIN a big snub of Denzel Washington’s performance in “Fences.” He’s NEVER been nominated for any BAFTA award in his long, long career, though his magnificent co-star Viola Davis was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. But she’s the sole nomination that “Fences” got another shocker (but not to me.)

    She and Michelle Williams will go toe-to-toe in this category. And Williams has a better shot here than she does back in American against Viola. Because the Brits just don’t have a history of honoring Black performers, believe it or not.viola-davis-fences-1

    They even snubbed Barry Jenkins for director for “Moonlight”! Though they did nominate Black British Actress the brilliant Naomie Harris and of course Mahershala Ali in the Supporting categories for “Moonlight.”

    I would say that these nominations slow down whatever momentum “Moonlight” which won Best Picture the night before last at the Globes, even though it did make the cut, unbelievably, for Best Picture. “Moonlight” got four nominations, BP, Best Original Screenplay(though the Oscars are considering it as “Adapted Screenplay) and the two Supporting nods I just mentioned.

    manchester-by-the-sea-8But Casey Affleck seems to be conquering all before him. And his complex, difficult performance of a man burdened by an overwhelming grief still haunts me to this day. But you love him for all his suffering. And he’s funny, too. I can’t wait to see “Manchester by the Sea” again.

    The big question with the BAFTAS is will they honor something light and musical like “La La Land” or will the heavy weight dramatic films and performances carry the day?

    And they also tend to vote for their own, which means Aaron Taylor-Johnson may just win, again. They really loved “Nocturnal Animals.” They even nominated Jake Gyllenhaal who wasn’t turning up anywhere, for Best Actor!

    jake-gyllenhaal-nocturnal-animalsI’ll discuss Best Actress at the BAFTAs in a subsequent post and for a complete list of the MANY nominees and categories, go, of course, to http://www.awardsdaily.com

    #BAFTAS

    #Nocturnal Animals

    #Aaron Taylor-Johnson

    #Casey Affleck

    #Manchester by the Sea

    Josh Groban Makes Musical Theater History on Bway in Spectactular “Natasha, Pierre…”

    Can you believe that schlump is  handsome rock star Josh Groban???

    natasha-pierre-1How to describe what is certainly one of the best musical theater experiences I’ll ever have in my life? There are no words. Only superlatives, and they can’t even begin to do justice to the transformative, shocking, heart-breaking, bravura performance Josh Groban gives in the pop-opera “Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comic of 1812” now on Broadway at the Imperial Theater. Former home to “Les Miserables” which ran there for decades and I’m predicting this will, too.

    And win Josh Groban Best Actor in a Musical and every other Tony in the book. Move over “Hamilton” there’s a new masterpiece in town! (And it’s right next door to “Hamilton” too!)”Natasha, Pierre…” is a tiny sliver of Leo Tolstoy’s 1000 page epic Russian novel “War and Peace” and is as unlikely a musical comedy blockbuster as “Hamilton.” The War that’s “breaking out somewhere out there” is the Napoleonic War against Russia. But in Moscow, the decadent aristocracy is partying like it’s 2016.

    They sing “Chandeliers and caviar! The war can’t touch us here!” But of course, it is, led by Napoleon. And  as it gets closer and closer the  aristocrats & the party crowd are becoming more and more frantic.

     

    natasha-pierre-5Those who’ve been following the career of pop star Josh Groban will be stunned by the absolute 360 he’s done with “Natasha, Pierre…” which is as innovative and spectacular a musical, and risky, too, as the astounding performance Groban gives in it. You see, “Natasha, Pierre…” is not your ordinary musical comedy. It’s hardly a comedy at all, though you do feel like you’ve been in the midst of a drunken Russian party that turned into a wild, thumping troika ride.

    As a handsome young man, who is now unbelievably only 35, one did wonder what Groban, a brilliant musician, lyricist and composer as well as a platinum selling recording artist with four world tours and seven albums under his belt, and millions of fans to boot. Sexy, and angelic at the same time, one wondered what he was going to do when his teenaged good looks and youth appeal began to wear off. Not that it has, but Groban was open-minded and daring enough to take on the completely incongruous and daunting role of Pierre Bezukov, Tolstoy’s depressive, over-weight, bespectacled alter-ego in “War and Peace.” It’s proving to be the role of his career.natasha-pierre-4

    At first entrance, on to the stage, flanked by a blinding bank of rock star lighting (by Mimi Lien, whose contribution  is inestimable) Groban enters as Pierre with an accordion, then makes his way almost lumbering to center stage, down several stair cases (director Rachel Chavkin has carved up the Imperial into a brand-new, almost intimate cabaret-like space and puts the audience onstage, too!) and you think that middle-aged, almost-fat man CAN’T be Josh Groban, but it is! josh-groban

    Heavily bearded with long-grown out, almost greasy, dark, curly locks, he looks nothing like any iteration we’ve seen of Josh Groban  before. He’s almost unrecognizable!  He’s totally transmogrified himself into this hulking Russian bear of a character, but that’s exactly what Tolstoy wrote his hero as. He’s the symbol of pre-Napoleonic Russian aristocracy.

    He’s depressive. He’s unattractive and he drinks and drinks and drinks.

    “I drink and read and drink and read and drink,” he sings in a confused clarion of voice that is less than happy about this inactive plight.

    He’s married to a completely inappropriate wife, the witchily attractive Helene, who is referred to in the opening number simply as “Helene’s a slut.” Amber Gray plays Helene with exactly the right blend of nastiness, sexuality and charm. as she sashays  her way through the night seductively telling our heroine, the virginal Natasha (Denee Benton) that she is “Charmante, Charmante.”amber-greyHer brother, who turns out to be a dastard of the first water, Anatole, is portrayed with a devil-ish  blend of blond good looks, rock star pompadour hair, and VERY tight military pants by Lucas Steele. “Anatole’s hot” the opening chorus sings. And who are we to disagree?natasha-pierre-2He’s out to elope, or basically kidnap, Natasha. He’s already married and clearly an irresistible and untrustworthy slime-ball. Anatole’s seduction of Natasha, who thinks he’s going to marry her, forms the plot that is as wildly complicated as the novel itself. But don’t be scared of Tolstoy. You can follow him.natasha-pierre-6

     

    Dave Malloy, who I saw play Pierre originally three years ago, wrote the music, lyrics and adaptation. It is all sung-through, so yes, it is indeed an opera, but it’s only a tiny sliver of Tolstoy. Volume 2, Part 5, to be exact. I saw it first in a circus tent in the Meat Packing District of the West Village, where they served a Russian meal to you while seated at cabaret tables(see above.) It was dazzling, even then.

    Phillipa Soo was astounding as Natasha, and went on to become a Broadway star as Eliza Hamilton in “Hamilton.” But Denee Benton, who plays Natasha now, just glows and glows and grows on you, too, the absolute picture of willful innocence and stubbornness as she falls in love with, then insists on her ill-advised elopement with bad boy Anatole.

    A core of miraculously agile, vocally and physically, actors continued with the show from the tent  they called Kazino to Broadway, including Amber Gray, Brittain Ashford and Grace McLean. In that cast I first saw, Josh Canfield of “Survivor: San Juan del Sur” fame, was equally charismatic as Anatole.

    But it’s Groban that kicks this show upstairs and into theatrical history with his astonishing performance and perfect voice. To hear someone who has been called a choir boy for years with his perfect pitch and miraculous tenor, tear into the gutsy, difficult, challenging, sometimes discordant vocals of “Natasha, Pierre…” is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Drunken, depressed, over-weight, near-sighted and scruffy though his Pierre convincingly is, his golden tones ring out in the night(and twice weekly at matinees.) His respect for the other actors is evident as he also blends seamlessly into their tight ensemble.

    Josh Groban, genius that he is, has perspicaciously plunged himself into the midst of an equally amazing group of fellow-artists, who are geniuses, too, in their own ways. Did I mention Mimi Lien’s lighting? She’s the recipient of a MacArthur Genius grant. So it’s official. And of course, there’s a killer solo that composer Malloy newly wrote just for Groban that they call “Dust and Ashes”, but I would call “This is how I die?” as Pierre berates himself for his intellectual inaction as “there’s a war going on out there somewhere.”

    I’ve seen “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” three times now and I can’t wait to see it again!

    Groban has committed an entire year to staying in this historic production and helping it thrive. It’s been making a million dollars a week.

    #Josh Groban

    # Broadway musicals

    #Natasha, Pierre…

    #Tony Awards

    # Broadway

     

     

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