Music, Lyrics and Orchestration: Dave Malloy
Reviewer : Rosie Revell
“There’s a war going on out there”
Natasha, Pierre &The Great Comet of 1812’s original cast recording invites its listeners to join Tolstoy’s lovers for an evening they’ll never forget. Set in Moscow during the Napoleonic war of 1812 the show is a vibrant mix of electro pop opera and dinner theatre that promised an immersive and innovative experience with the show happening in the midst of the audience. Since its 2012 off Broadway premiere Dave Malloy’s show has been delighting audiences which is no mean feat considering its hefty source material.
Based on a mere 100 pages from Tolstoy’s War and Peace volume two, the show tells the story of Natasha (Phillipa Soo), betrothed to the absent Prince Andrey (Blake DeLong) who is away at the front fighting the war. While at the opera Natasha falls under the spell of heartless womanizer, Anatole (Lucas Steele), brother of the equally amoral Hélène (Amber Gray). Helene’s husband, Pierre (Dave Malloy) and Natasha’s loving cousin/best friend Sonya (Brittain Ashford) fight to thwart the evil plan. Luckily no other knowledge of the literary classic is needed here.
The opening number helps the listener keep track of the many cast members and their motivations by introducing them in order and urging the listener to keep track through the handy hand drawn diagram in the programme (here in the CD booklet). Malloy’s lyrics are brief, humourous and catchy. The opening accordion heavy number, ‘Prologue’ quickly introduces the principal players; “Hélène is a slut, Anatole is hot, Mary is old school, Sonya is good, Natasha is young,and Andrey isn’t here.” In fact the humorous openings to both CD’s ‘Prologue’ and ‘Letters’ provide a knowing modern day wink “in 19th Century Russia we write letters” and introduction into quite complex material.
The whole show is sung and the songs here drive the story along it is hard to pinpoint one performer over any other here as they are all excellent. The music on show here is an interesting blend of the contemporary with an underlying Russian flavour such as the almost rave- like, Russian style ‘The Abduction’. There are stunningly poetic lyrics in the stand-alone songs such as ‘Sonya Alone’ and ‘The Great Comet of 1812.’ All of which provide a varied, lively, unique and above all entertaining CD that will grow more on the listener with every listen.