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:

  • Adaptation Distillation: In a manner of speaking. It covers only a very small slice of War and Peace - think 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.
  • Anger Born of Worry: "In My House" is Marya D. shouting at Natasha, because she's worried about her and what would have happened if they'd managed to elope.
  • 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.
  • Beware the Quiet Ones: "Dear, bewildered and awkward Pierre" is a force to be reckoned with once you've finally managed to make him mad.
    Pierre: "My face, already pale, becomes distorted by fury/I take you by the collar with my big, big hands/and I shake you back and forth until your face shows a sufficient degree of terror."
  • 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.
  • Comet of Doom: Averted. Pierre notes in the finale that the comet, which usual portends the end of the world, instead helps bring him to a new sense of life. Also, a bit of historical inaccuracy, as the "Great Comet" of the title was mostly prevalent in 1811, not 1812.
  • 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.
  • Did Not Think This Through: Natasha and Anatole's plan to elope. On Anatole's side, it's technically bigamy, which could legitimately put him in jail during this time period. On Natasha's side, if she just up and vanishes, her family will go into a panic looking for her, and her father will probably challenge Anatole to a duel. Dolokhov and Marya D. both attempt to point these things out, but Anatole doesn't care and Natasha is too angry to listen.
  • 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.
  • Drives Like Crazy: Balaga, the famous troika driver.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Pierre at the rave.
  • Exact Words: When Pierre is trying to get Andrey to resume his engagement with Natasha:
    Pierre: You told me once a fallen woman should be forgiven.
    Andrey: But I didn't say that I could forgive.
  • Gratuitous Russian: For the most part, averted, even though all of the characters are Russian. There are a few Bilingual Bonus moments, such as in Hélène's number, or Pierre's toast during the abduction.
  • Hero of Another Story: Andrei, who is one of the major protagonists in War and Peace, yet is quite out of focus here, given the setting of the story.
  • 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. Scott Langland is equally fit. Both wore fat suits for the role.
    • Also, Dolokhov is introduced as "Anatole's friend, a crazy good shot," and introduced at the Opera as "the Assassin." The only time he fires a gun — at Pierre, during The Duel — he misses.
    • Likewise, Hélène is introduced as "a slut", but Dolokhov is the only lover of hers in the show.
  • Love Makes You Dumb: Natasha catches a major case of this. Not once does she think that perhaps there's a shady reason for a young man in reasonably good social standing to want to elope with her. Sonya and Marya D. both point out that something must be up, but she insists that Anatole has good reasons. She doesn't know what they are, but they're good! (Anatole, for his part, only escapes this by virtue of not actually being in love with her.)
  • Minor Character, Major Song: Indeed, Balaga's just for fun.
  • Number of the Beast: "It is Napoleon! Six hundred, three-score and six!" says Pierre, after studying the cabal.
  • Obliviously Evil: Anatole doesn't actually mean to hurt any of the people he hurts—he's just so completely thoughtless he doesn't consider how his actions impact other people. However, played with in that he is deliberately thoughtless. "Don't speak to me of that!" is practically his catchphrase whenever someone tries to tell him about the consequences of his actions.
  • Oh Crap!: "A Call to Pierre" is Marya D. and Pierre both having these as they share information and realize just how badly things have gone with Natasha and Anatole.
  • 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").
  • Patter Song: "Preparations," although it substitutes the comedy of most patter songs for menace.
  • Playing Cyrano: Played with. Anatole is no shrinking violet, but he does have Dolokhov write his love-letters for him.
  • 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) was played by Amber Gray, and Phillipa Soo, who played Natasha, is mixed-race. The actress who replaced her, Denee Benton, is black. Marya D.'s role was also originated by a mixed-race actress. More likely a case of Ability over Appearance Colorblind Casting.
  • Refrain from Assuming: Most of the songs in the show are named after the principle characters that sing them, rather than after any lyric. Audience members even call one of the few that is ("Charming") by its non-title, "How She Blushes."
  • Running Gag: "Lend me fifty rubles?"
  • Russian Naming Convention: But of course. Lampshaded in both the Prologue ("Everyone's got nine different names!") and when Natasha and Sonia introduce themselves to Marya during "Moscow."
  • Shotgun Wedding: Anatole wouldn't have a wife if not for a certain Polish heiress's father finding out about their dalliance.
  • Shout-Out: There are quite a few musical quotations, including one from Hamilton.
  • 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.
  • Slut-Shaming: Natasha gets a lot of this in the second act, but eventually the other characters realize that Anatole lied to her and led her on, and shift the blame to him.
  • 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.
  • Virgin in a White Dress: Natasha ("Natasha is young") and her best friend, Sonia ("Sonia is good") both have white dresses for costumes.
  • Your Cheating Heart: This forms the entire basis of the plot—Natasha is cheating on Andrey and Anatole is cheating on his unnamed Polish wife. Meanwhile, Hélène makes no secret of the fact she's sleeping around on Pierre.