Why do I think the natasha, pierre, and the great comet of 1812 should have won a TONY for the best Musical OF 2017? I can sum it up in two words: DAVE MALLOY.
OK, I only saw three musicals in May when I was in NYC. But one stood out as a unique and breathtaking production for these reasons:
- Imaginative adaptation of a tiny section War and Peace conceived of by Dave Malloy
- Entertaining, touching, and quirky script written by Dave Malloy
- Lilting music that gets the adrenaline flowing and makes you want to get up and move (or cry) by Dave Malloy
- Delightful and anachronistic lyrics by Dave Malloy
- Quirky and haunting orchestrations by Dave Malloy
- Phenomenal and sometimes breathtaking lighting designed by Bradley King
- Innovative staging involving the audience by director Rachel Chavkin.
As I told someone the next day, I could have sat in the Imperial Theatre for twelve hours if the production had lasted that long. I felt like I was inside the most exciting world I could imagine—better than being in the middle of a Cirque de Soleil performance, because the story was so ingratiating.
As an audience member, I (and all the rest of the 1400 ticket holders) saw it from the inside out— the immersive experience put performers all around me in the mezzanine—and with wonderfully costumed precision, they played their instruments, danced, and sang. Sometimes they interacted with the audience, but never in a squirmy kind of way—a way that was fresh but not embarrassing.
The star draw of the great comet was Josh Groban. The night I saw it, he was off—but in his place as Pierre was Dave Malloy, himself! Some audience-goers complained bitterly; they wanted to see Groban! It’s written into the script that Pierre plays the piano in some of the numbers, so we saw Malloy—the man who totally conceived of the work—not just acting and singing, but also playing the piano! I loved seeing the creator of this extraordinary work take on a role and perform it with the ensemble. It was as if I got to see Wolfgang Mozart singing the part of Figaro in “The Marriage of Figaro,” while playing the cello! And, by the way, I have no doubt that Denée Benton’s Natasha would have won Best Actress in a Musical if she hadn’t been up against Bette Middler for the award.
The 2017 Best Musical TONY went to dear evan hansen. Don’t get me wrong; I loved dear evan hansen, and if anyone else had won the top award for best actor in a musical, I never would have watched the TONYs again, ever! Ben Platt was phenomenal in the role of Evan Hansen, and the work itself is exquisite. But in this woman’s opinion, natasha, pierre, and the great comet of 1812 represented the best of the best in 2017.