As a preview for our Russian adventure next month, Ben and I were transported by a comet to Moscow, Russia in Dave Malloy’s Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet 1812 yesterday. It’s an electro-pop opera based on Leo Tolstoy’s epic novel, War and Peace (Volume 1-3, mostly 3). Although it’s billed as a dinner theater, it’s no kitschy, shlocky dinner theater that triggers traumatic flashbacks of cheesy whodunnit mystery dinners.
Under the Highline Park, inside the large billowy white tent, you’re taken back to 19th century Moscow. The red walls were heavily decorated with paintings, many of them depicting portraits of Russian royalty and war scenes. I felt like I entered a formal Russian salon. A tall willowy blonde Russian server walked us to our table. There were several small round tables, each filled with little plates of food. As part of our ticket, we got a little platter of different types of breads and pastries, fruit salad, crudites (which were really pickled vegetables), a shot of borscht (too vinegary), a spinach and ham omelet, and two different types of smoked salmon, along with a mimosa. A little later they also served us a potato dumpling and tea biscuits for dessert. The portions were small and I would consider this less of a dinner and more like several little plates of snacks. I advise that you don’t come here hungry. They do have an a la carte menu where you can order more food, but the items are a bit pricey.
I was enchanted with the environment. We ate, talked, and absorbed the atmosphere.
The website advised that we should arrive a half hour before the show starts, but we recommend that you arrive an hour before the show. This way you can comfortably eat. We had to share our little table with another couple. It was much better to be the first to arrive and comfortably enjoy the space before other people arrived.
I knew nothing of the story of War and Peace, so the characters and the plot line was completely new to me. The music began playing and the characters streamed in, singing and introducing themselves. What I really enjoyed was how the musical was played out all around us. The characters walked through the center of the room, spoke and interacted with the audience, and there was a special raised walkway all around where the characters also walked and dance, so it was a real 360 degree experience.
I most closely identified with poor Mary Bolonsky, the sister of Natasha’s fiance. She’s plain and dutiful, and her situation threatens to beat her spirit, but she refuses to go down. It’s too easy for the audience to love Natasha because she’s beautiful. She’s used to life handing her whatever she wants and as such, she doesn’t think of the consequences of her actions. Her impetuousness gets her into trouble. I loved how the music underscored the characters’ emotions, in particular the flirtation scene between Natasha and Anatole. The deep resounding bass beats echoes the pounding hearts between these two clandestine lovers.
I really enjoyed this theatrical experience. I highly recommend seeing this to anyone who love avant garde theater and musicals. Regular admission price is $125, but you can buy a ticket for $79 for the Wed 2 pm or Sunday 1 pm show with discount code TM1812 until July 7th.
Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet 1812
13th St & Washington St (under the Highline)
Regular admission $125