Front Row Reviewers

May 11, 2024 | Reviews

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 Shines on the Stage of the Pioneer Theatre Company

Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers

By Eliza Een

Based on an excerpt of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Dave Malloy’s musical Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 follows members of elite Russian society who stumble through love and romance in the backdrop of a war. This is a unique theater production with electropop opera juxtaposed with classic historical literature. The opening number of the show, “Prologue,” is a fun, self-aware introduction to the characters that features some fourth wall breaks and direct conversations with the audience. This sung character list gives the audience members context for the story. 

Titular character Pierre is often accused of being boring, but Kevin Earley’s portrayal is anything but. Earley’s lovely, rich voice is an excellent fit for the role, and he shines in “Dust and Ashes.” As Pierre’s relationships with the rest of the characters frequently drive the plot, it’s great to see Early’s romantic, friendly, or combative chemistry with the rest of the cast.  

Our female star and this society’s “It girl” is Ali Ewoldt as Natasha, the young and beautiful countess. Natasha may have given her heart away to Andrey, a prince currently fighting in the war, but Ewoldt’s lively performance wins the hearts of the audience members. Her innocence draws the audience in, which adds to the comedy of some of her narration, the shallow motivations and naivete for her character. Looking out for Natasha’s best interests are Marya D (Mary Fanning Driggs) and Sonya (Melanie Fernandez). Driggs is wonderful as the loud but loving and level-headed chaperone, and she has a shining moment as protector that had me rooting for her. Fernandez is perfect as the sweet cousin and confidante for Natasha, harmonizing beautifully with Ewoldt’s performance—in many ways. Speaking of harmonies, the discordant notes shared by Ewoldt and Lucy Anders (Princess Mary, Opera Singer) in “Natasha and Bolkonskys” are so well done, and it heightens the tension of the scene in the most interesting and unexpected way. 

The handsome rogue Anatole is brought to life by Aleks Pevec, who leans into the self-absorbed rascal with great comedic timing and passion. He whips the ensemble into a frenzy in “Balaga” and “The Abduction,” making the merry ride burst with Roma color and light. Throughout the show, the ensemble brings life to the scenes, from dancing in the aisles to hosting a meta opera scene (featuring Anders and Bennett Chew). I couldn’t talk about the show without raising a toast to the orchestra and their conductor, Phil Reno. Their energy and costume helped extend the action onstage, while music also invaded the stage as several members of the ensemble doubled as roving musicians. 

Scenic Designer Jo Winiarski did a beautiful job with the opulent set, creating an atmosphere that worked well for every scene of the show. Paul Miller’s lighting design lets the actors shine and feel vibrant. The shift in lighting and set for the final number “The Great Comet of 1812” brings new color for the finale, which is a masterstroke for bringing closure to the audience. Continuing with the visual decadence onstage, the costumes designed by Patrick Holt include rich and luscious gowns and gold-embroidered uniforms. It is the final play of the season, and the Pioneer Theatre Company’s director and choreographer, Karen Azenberg, has pulled out all the stops in the performance and production of this unique play.

This story is only a small sliver of the 361-chapter novel that is the source material, and even those who are unfamiliar with War and Peace will be able to follow the show. The highly narrative component of the show and its experimental music style set it apart from traditional musical theater fare, and this is the show’s premiere in Utah. So come to the Pioneer Theatre Company’s Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 for an immersive and stand-alone experience.  

Pioneer Theatre Company presents Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812, By  Dave Malloy, Adapted from War and Peace by  Leo Tolstoy.
Simmons Pioneer Memorial Theatre, 300 S 1400 E, Salt Lake City, UT, 84112
May 10—25, 2024
Monday – Thursday, 7:00 PM, Friday and Saturday, 7:30 PM, Saturday, 2:00 PM
Tickets: $55 – $79 in advance; $5 more when purchased on day of show
Students K – 12 or ages 5-18 are half-price Monday – Thursday
Box Office: 801-581-6961
Open 10:00 AM – 6:00 PM, Monday – Friday
PTC Website
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Front Row Reviewers

Front Row Reviewers


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