This pop opera is adapted from a section of War and Peace—and it’s such a good time

Why you should see Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 at the American Repertory Theatre. December 18, 2015 | 4:14 PM

Gretjen Helene/American Repertory Theater

The American Repertory Theater has transformed their theater into a Napoleonic-era Moscow nightclub for their staging of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. This pop opera is adapted from a small section of War and Peace and contains all of the intrigue and melodrama you’d expect from a Russian novel. (And Josh Groban will make his Broadway debut in it in September 2016.)

But is it worth your time? Should you see it or skip it? Here are the best arguments on either side.

See it!

Set designer Mimi Lien won a MacArurthur ‘Genius Grant’ for her work on interactive theater spaces, and she’s done amazing things with ART’s space. Some ticketholders sit at tables at the center of the performance space, and platforms that serve as secondary stages are scattered throughout the theater. At any moment, a character might sit down next to you or ask you to silently participate in a scene.

Evgenia Eliseeva/American Repertory Theater

See it!

The cast is first-rate. Denée Benton plays Natasha. She has a gorgeous voice and is a pleasure throughout. Gelsey Bell covers multiple roles and is captivating. The entire ensemble is filled with fine, energetic singers who double as instrumentalists and dancers. As a group, they’re incredibly fun to watch.

See it!

When the energy is high, Natasha is thrilling. In the second act, there’s a going-away party for one of the main characters. I’ve never been to a party half as fun as this. A number of scenes left me grinning.

Gretjen Helene/American Repertory Theater

Skip it!

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, with music and lyrics by David Malloy, doesn’t have the strongest score. I won’t be looking for the cast recording on Spotify any time soon.

See it!

Boston won’t receive anything like Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 for a long time. It’s an unbelievably good time. As of this writing, there are still tickets, but I can’t imagine that’s going to last.

The verdict: See it!

Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 will be at the American Repertory Theatre through January 3.

Evgenia Eliseeva/American Repertory Theater
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