Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812

This musical has seen many stagings: Ars Nova (more of a reading, really), Kazino in the meatpacking district), a lot on 8th avenue, ART in Boston. And now it’s finally, finally on Broadway. Cheap tickets have been hard to find so Kristen and I jumped on $40 tickets that NYU offered her for a student night recently. We found out Josh Groban was out when we arrived but quite honestly, I didn’t care. Josh Groban is really just a non-theatrical version of Josh Young anyways, right? Right.

I sort of remembered the story when I saw The Great Comet in 2013 and Kristen had read the book, so we had an idea of what was going on. 

Let me start by saying that the star of this production is not anyone on the stage, it is the stage, and theatre, itself. I would love to see the budget for the theatre renovation because it is spectacular. In this new staging, they tried as hard as they possibly could to not let the show get lost in the space. They made as many opportunities as possible to get the actors mingling with the audience.

And you definitely want this cast to mingle with you. They are fierce. A lot of them are from the 2013 production and they are all so very talented. Lucas Steele was out, but I think I enjoyed his understudy, Josh Canfield, even more as the pompous asshole Anatole. Scott Stangland was on as Pierre for Josh Groban and he gave a lovely, really nuanced performance.  

The story is kind of ridiculous, though. Natasha meets Anatole and falls for him immediately, not seeing that he’s a complete douche? Come on. And the ‘Great Comet’ is mentioned only in the last 15 seconds of the show. It’s kind of ridiculous. There’s also a LOT going on – because it’s a Russian novel, so, yeah: dense. But as hard as they try, the show gets lost in a theatre as “big” as the Imperial. We sat in the front-rear mezzanine for the first act and it fell flat. When we moved down the second row of the front mezzanine, it became a little bit more exciting.

To that end: this show is beautiful, as is the cast and the score. I just wish it were in a different theatre.

Dear Greyhound Bus Co:

I spent 21 minutes on hold with your customer service line tonight before getting disconnected. Never once did I speak with an actual live human being. That’s some customer service policy you have going there!

On my bus back to New York City from Boston last night, the driver had very little idea how to drive a bus. He had no idea how to maneuver it. It was unsafe, to say the least. He was using a GPS system the whole time but when he crossed from the Bronx over into Manhattan, he stopped and asked a cop how to get to Port Authority. Then a few blocks later, he stopped the bus and asked us, the passengers. 

Now this is one of the few instances where saying “YOU HAVE ONE JOB” actually applies. The bus driver had one job, literally. It was to get us to Port Authority. After we, the paying customers, told him how to get to our destination, he proceeded to drive down Broadway at 5 miles an hour, getting about 2 blocks between each light change. 

Between a tiny bit of traffic, his absolutely cluelessness regarding New York City, and his incompetence in driving a bus all together, we arrived at Port Authority just before 8:30pm. 

Our bus was due into Port Authority at 6:30pm.

He was 50% late. If that’s acceptable to you, you need to close up shop. 

I was offered a $20 credit today. This is unacceptable as I will not be taking your buses ever again. Given that your bus was 50% late, I would like at least 50% of my money back – in American US currency. 

The bus number was 86151. I don’t know who the driver was and quite frankly, I don’t care, because he was ill equipped to be driving a bus and in New York City. 

Sometimes awesome stuff happens.

Like when my friend texted me at 6pm last night and asked if I was free because he had an extra ticket in one of the suites at Yankee Stadium. He knows I am repulsed by the Yankees beyond words, and they’re weren’t playing a team I’d actually root for instead (Texas Rangers). But once he says there’s free food involved and air conditioning, I turned my computer off and peaced out of the office. 

Side note: I stopped at home first to change into my team’s shirt (San Francisco Giants – I don’t care if they weren’t play in the stadium, they were playing somewhere that night!) and then headed up. I took a B uptown to my apartment but 15 minutes later, there were no more B trains to be found. This has happened to me more than once. So I took the C to 145th and then cabbed it over to the stadium (I directed the driver via Apple Maps on my phone – seriously, what cab driver in Manhattan doesn’t know how to get to Yankee Stadium??). 

The Yankees were up, then the Rangers were up and stayed up. I gorged on salad, roasted brussel sprouts, shrimp, brocoli rabe, and a couple slices of steak, with chocolate mousse for dessert. 

We were also watching the scores that were on the board from the other games being played that night and man, Boston massacred Toronto (14-1) and the Giants beat (I forget who) 7-4. 

My friend took the above photo right after Derek Jeter was struck out (after my friend emphasized how super-duper-awesomesauce he was). I also got to catch up with my friend, who I don’t see nearly as often as we’d both like. 

My team won, the Red Sox won, the Yankees lost, and I ate on the Yankees’ dime. It was a good night.

I was lucky enough to be able to see a preview performance of All the Way a couple of weeks ago which opened a week ago tonight. It’s a new drama by Robert Schenkkan that received ridiculous reviews at A.R.T. in Boston. A drama about LBJ’s first year or so in office trying to get the Civil Rights Bill of 1964 passed starring Bryan Cranston as LBJ.

I love history plays so I loved this one. It was an era that I’d not known the exact details of. The violence, the struggle, the bargaining behind closed doors. It reminded me of the movie Lincoln if only because it reflected what’s going on today in government and how nothing really ever changes. Wash, rinse, repeat.

I’ve seen Cranston in a couple of movies, but not Breaking Bad (give me five years). But I was thoroughly impressed by his acting chops onstage. He conveyed to the audience his inner struggles excellently. I also really enjoyed Betsy Aidem as Lady Bird Johnson. Other noteables in the cast were John McMartin (duh) as Senative Richard Russell, Michael McKean as J. Edgar Hoover, and James Eckhouse as Martin Luther King Hr. 

That said, every person in the cast was fantastic. The lighting (Jane Cox) and sound designs (Peter Fitzgerald) were also notable and effective.

Was All the Way long? Oh yes. Clocking in at a few minutes under 3 hours, it was longer than your usual Broadway play. But did I care? Not for one second. Bryan Cranston was just that good.

Tickets provided by the production. All opinions are my own.