Tantrum Theater, Ohio University’s professional theater in the College of Fine Arts, will present OHIO alumnus Dave Malloy’s electro-pop opera, Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812.
The production, initially planned to debut in spring 2021, is adapted from a 70-page section of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace. In this period-romance piece, Natasha has just moved back to Moscow with her family to wait for the return of her fiancé. During this time, she meets and falls for Anatole, a roguish character. While Natasha ruins her reputation with this romantic trance, Pierre, a family friend, is trying to pick up the shattering pieces.
The show is directed by Alan Patrick Kenny, assistant professor and head of musical theater, with musical direction by Brent Frederick, assistant professor of instruction in musical theater and music direction.
Kenny is excited to get people back into the theater.
“We've been anticipating this so much, to have this moment where we can actually do a live musical in the room with people,” Kenny said. “We have a cast of 29 and an orchestra, and they're all on stage. And, we have actor-musicians, who are all over the space, who are singing and acting with their instruments. It's such a raucous, wonderful, beautiful, funny and moving event.”
A preview performance will be held on March 24 and showings will continue from March 25 through 26 and March 29 through April 2 at 8 p.m. in the Forum Theater, located in the basement of the Radio Television Building (RTV). Tickets are on sale on Tantrum Theater’s website.
Producing Director of Tantrum Theater Joshua Coy said the most surprising thing about the show is the dramatic set and the activeness of the piece.
“The play itself, the setting is dramatic,” Coy said. “The physical set of the show is dramatically done by our set designer. It's very active; it’s not a play that has a lot of downtime. It's exciting. So you're going to be able to have an experience like you would have in New York, but here in Athens.”
While watching this once-in-a-lifetime showing, viewers will be able to enjoy the many different musical takes. From Russian folk, waltz and club type, music drives the story with only one line of dialogue not underscored by it, Frederick said.
“It's this interesting interpolation of musical theater styles and traditional folk, Russian-sounding music,” Frederick said. “It's got sections that sound like they belong in a club and they've got sections that sound like they are traditional. All of it works together as a device of the storytelling, which is really cool to see unfold. It's something unlike what most people have heard when they come into the theater because the styles are so disparate.”
Depending on perspective, everyone will get something different out of the show. Kenny said every night he gains something new after watching the show.
“People are going to come in with their own experiences,” Kenny said. “Maybe someone who has read more in War and Peace and loves that literature will get one thing out of it. And someone else, who is not interested, will get something completely different out of it. Everybody in terms of their own interests and their own things that they relate to will probably grab on to something different. I think that's what's so exciting about this kind of musical and this kind of experience.”
Frederick said Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 will be a musical that audiences won’t soon be able to forget.
“If you like beautiful costumes, you'll see that,” Frederick said. “If you like music that's loud, you're going to hear it. If you like music that is traditional musical theater, you're going to hear it, and you're just going to see some great acting. You're going to see people playing accordions and running around on the stage, and playing instruments while they're acting. I think walking out of this experience, it's something that people are going to go, ‘Wow, I'm able to feel something again after two years of numbness.’”