Wednesday, January 10, 2024


Created by Dave Malloy, who was first introduced to Toronto audiences with his whisky-fuelled song cycle Ghost Quartet at Crow’s Theatre, NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 is choreographed by Ray Hogg (Dixon Road), the critically acclaimed artistic director of The Musical Stage Company and directed by Chris Abraham (Uncle Vanya).

The celestial cast includes Divine Brown as Hélène, Evan Buliung as Pierre, Rita Dottor (Ensemble), Camille Eanga-Selenge as Sonya, Donna Garner (Ensemble), Hailey Gillis as Natasha, George Krissa as Anatole, Lawrence Libor as Dolokhov, Marcus Nance as Andrey (and Bolkonsky), Heeyun Park 박희윤 as Mary, Andrew Penner as Balaga, Louise Pitre as Marya D., and Brendan Wall (Ensemble).


In 'Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 are,' Divine Brown (left), Camille Eanga-Selenge, George Krissa (at back) and Hailey Gillis. 

Photographed by Dahlia Katz


In the opening moments of this spectacular show a cacophony of sound hints at a jumble of indecipherable word and mashed up music, and yet only for a moment - a moment long enough to simultaneously alienate (as in Brecht) and impress with the beautiful, complex and skilfully articulated noise about to unfold - yet gradual enough to prepare the audience for an in your face, frequently environmental, and always action-packed musical evening that flies by even at its two and a half hour, one intermission breakneck pace. And there are Russian inspired cocktails available for pre-order at the bar. Vodka galore! The Kahlua however is a delightfully distracting and slightly bewildering addition. Order double vodka and you will be fine.

There were times when I felt like I was trapped in a Meatloaf concert. Having seen two Meatloaf concerts in the 70's and 80's I can't imagine, even at an advanced age,  a better and more pleasing soundscape to be trapped within. A cross between rock opera, cabaret, operetta and techno-type sounds I am not well versed in but singularly impressed by in this particular production, the score is a masterpiece of seamless ballads, deceptively melodic recitative-cum-conversation and internal meditation - infrequent melodic spoken word laced exquisitely by an ensemble without a single weak performance. 

Standout moments come from every cast member - with intense highlights soaring from the lungs of Evan Buliung, Divine Brown, Heeyun Park  박희윤 , Louise Petrie, George Krissa. Marcus Nance, Hailey Gillis, and Lawrence Libor - among others, too numerous to mention.

Buliung (as Pierre) delivers a show stopping, marked by intimacy and booming emotion, in a ballad-like piece near the middle that joins the ranks of impeccably written and performed stand alone songs from the greatest of musicals. A spectacular and diverse hodgepodge of lyric and music, with appropriately anachronistic words and phrases, transports this wildly entertaining musical version of Tolstoy's novel War and Peace into a welcome yet startling testament to the sad endurance of war over centuries of struggle between soldiers and civilians. 

set design by Julie Fox and Joshua Quinlan - costume design by Ming Wong - lighting design by Kimberley Purtell - sound design by Ryan Borshuk

George Krissa as Anatole bears his well-toned, audience-pleasing chest in a fleeting and unforgettable scene, giving substance, comedy, and craft to his many winking, satiric sideways glances, poses and musical prowess. And he does this with an incredibly diverse range of both voice and physical bravado/virtuosity. Krissa's performance pairs brilliantly with the equally as alluring and emotionally varied, beautifully sung performance by his romantic conquest Natasha (played by Hailey Gillis) - who, even in her iconic misogyny- based shame, culled from the great themes and novels of Tolstoy's time period, she manages to boldly and powerfully disavow full guilt as something she can never recover from. It was far too thrilling for her to fully forget. The villainy too subtle and intriguing to resist, the romance too fine. The chest too beautiful and bare to bear without barely swooning. . . Sorry, I couldn't resist.

NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 shines brightly through the work of an ingenious technical crew and design team - directed with brilliant detail and nuance by Chris Abraham - bringing gorgeous sets, costumes, lighting, choreography, sound and music, into a simultaneously intimate, lush and grand romantic setting - making it all worthy of this 12 TIME TONY NOMINATED spectacular Canadian premiere of a highly acclaimed musical.


No comments:

Post a Comment