Theatre: Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812

L-R: Anatole (hot), Hélène (slut), Natasha (young), Andrey (who is here, for once), dear, bewildered and awkward Pierre.

"There's a war goin' on out there somewhere
And Andrey isn't here..."
— the prologue

Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 is a 2012 "electro-pop opera" by Dave Malloy, based on Volume 2, Book 5 of Tolstoy's War and Peace. It is something of a coming of age story for the titular Natasha, who finds herself in an unexpected affair with the dashing Anatole Kuragin while waiting for her fiancé Andrey Bolkonsky to return from war. Anatole's sister Hélène finds the whole situation very amusing and helps facilitate Natasha's loss of innocence, while her own husband Pierre realizes he is Desperately Looking for a Purpose in Life. Despite adapting only a very narrow slice of the doorstopper it's based on, it manages to stand on its own as a story.

Notably, the show isn't performed in a traditional theater, but rather a custom-built nightclub, with the action moving around, through, and occasionally with the audience. It also is a true sung-through opera, with a musical style that's pretty much Hair meets Cabaret meets Repo! The Genetic Opera with a dash of modern folk to taste.

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This musical contains examples of:

  • Acting for Two: The same actor plays Andrey and his father, Old Prince Bolkonsky.
  • Adaptation Distillation: In a manner of speaking. It covers only a very small slice of War and Peace - roughly forty-nine pages at the tail end of Volume Two, out of a 1359 page edition - but it still works on its own.
  • All Musicals Are Adaptations
  • All Women Are Lustful: Going off of Hélène's example, Pierre assumes this is the case when he finds out about Natasha's broken engagement. Once he finds out she did it out of shame for her entanglement with Anatole, however, he immediately redirects his anger toward Anatole.
  • Anachronism Stew: The club Anatole, Dolokhov, Pierre, and Hélène attend is staged as a modern rave, with strobe lights, glowbands, the works.
  • Author Avatar: Pierre is a weird example. Dave Malloy didn't create the original character, but for the first run of the show, he played the part himself, and it feels written for him in many ways.
  • Be a Whore to Get Your Man: Hélène tries to manipulate Natasha into this.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Natasha is still languishing from her suicide attempt and has had to break off her engagement to Andrey, along with realizing that Anatole was only using her, but Pierre helps her regain a sense of self-worth, reassures her that she deserves to be loved and admits that he himself would propose to her on the spot if he weren't married to Hélène.
  • Break the Cutie: What happens to Natasha, courtesy of Anatole's loose affections.
  • Breaking the Fourth Wall: All over the place, beginning as early as the prologue: "This is all in your program/You are at the opera/Gonna have to study up a little bit/If you wanna keep with the plot/'Cause it's a complicated Russian novel/Everyone's got nine different names..."
    • During the song "Letters", cast members sometimes give audience members notes of their own.
  • Brother-Sister Team: Hélène freely and gladly helps Anatole in his planned conquest of Natasha.
  • The Casanova: Anatole.
  • Did Not Get the Girl: An unusual example. Toward the end of the show, Pierre awkwardly confesses that if he weren't married to Hélène- and if he felt that he were good enough- he would propose to Natasha himself. Natasha is intensely touched and grateful, but nothing further happens between them. However, if you've read the book, you know that they will eventually be Happily Married.
  • Driven to Suicide: Poor Natasha, after losing both of her lovers. She survives, though, and by the end of the show she's regained a little hope for the future.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Pierre at the rave.
  • Follow the Leader: An unintentional example; Dave Malloy was uncertain that a musical based on War and Peace would actually work, until a friend reminded him of another sung-through musical based on a very, very long and incredibly complex 19th-century European novel. This encouraged him to continue.
  • Informed Attribute: Due to all the direct quoting from Tolstoy, we're repeatedly reminded of how fat Pierre is. David Abeles is stocky at most.
  • Minor Character, Major Song: Indeed, Balaga's just for fun.
  • One Steve Limit: Enforced, unlike in the novel. Andrey's sister is referred to as Princess Mary (with American pronunciation), while Natasha's godmother is called Marya Dmtriyevna (or Marya D. for short, with Marya pronounced as "MAHR-ya").
  • Post Modernism: In addition to all the anachronisms mentioned above, there's the fact that so much of the libretto is directly taken from War and Peace, which means that in many cases the characters are singing Tolstoy's narration about themselves as they act it out, just with the pronouns changed (resulting in a kind of Tropes Are Not Bad version of That Makes Me Feel Angry).
  • Race Lift: Hélène (presumably white in the novel) is played by Amber Gray, and Phillipa Soo, who plays Natasha, is mixed-race. More likely a case of Ability Over Appearance Colorblind Casting.
  • Show Within a Show: The opera the characters attend. To help distinguish it from the rest of the score, it sounds pretty much like the last minute or so of the opening credits of The Shining.
  • Strong Family Resemblance: See Acting for Two, above.
  • Theme Tune Roll Call: The prologue introduces all of the characters except Pierre (who gets an introductory song to himself right afterward).
  • Villain Song: "Charming", for Hélène.