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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
NATASHA, PIERRE AND THE GREAT COMET OF 1812
at the Kazino

WINE AND SOUL
By MATT WINDMAN

  Ph: Chad Batka

Whereas many shows lose some of their luster when transferred to a bigger venue, Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, Dave Malloy’s festive, sexy and intermittently reflective electro-pop opera based on a small slice of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, truly does play better at Kazino than it did at the more intimate Ars Nova, where it premiered almost a year ago and received a good deal of acclaim.

Kazino is a tall, velvet-draped, tent-like structure that was constructed especially for this production. During the summer, when the musical made its highly publicized, commercially produced Off-Broadway comeback, Kazino was parked in the trendy Meatpacking District around the High Line. The tent has now been moved to the Times Square area, to the exact location where the similarly sized Spiegeltent was once situated.

Whereas theatergoers were treated to a buffet-style dinner during the summer run, the food has apparently been axed, although drinks are still available for purchase. If food is no longer viewed as an essential part of the production, its producers might eventually bite the bullet and transfer it to Broadway later this season.

At the start of the piece, the young, very spirited cast welcomes the audience and warns them in a very playful ensemble number that the show is based on “a complicated Russian novel” and breaks down the characters, sort of like a sung-through synopsis.

The plot itself is actually rather straightforward (girl meets boy, girl loses boy, girl is sad). And while the innocent Natasha (Phillipa Soo) and the hunky Anatole (Lucas Steele) fall head over heels for each other, the aristocrat Pierre (David Abeles) indulges in existentialist philosophy, wine and a duel.

Since there is no traditional stage, the bulk of the action takes place in the aisles in between the small tables where audience members are seated or on side platforms. The musicians are scattered throughout the space, creating an immersive soundscape that nicely compliments the 360-degree visual concept.

Yet in spite of all the incredible ingenuity of director Rachel Chavkin, the show (which runs just under three hours) often slows down in pace and intensity, getting bogged down in repetitious details and songs that eventually start to sound the same. But with enough liquor in your system, you might not care.   

Speaking of alcohol, the show’s producers recently announced that they will no longer offer Russian vodka in protest of the disconcerting wave of homophobia that has come out of Russia lately. Take that, Putin!

 


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