Evaluation: Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 a likelihood to glimpse two capturing stars in its Canadian premiere at Crow’s Theatre

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Natasha, Pierre and the Fantastic Comet at Crow’s Theatre.DAHLIA KATZ/Crow’s Theatre

  • Title: Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812
  • Composer, librettist, orchestrator: Dave Malloy
  • Director: Chris Abraham
  • Actors: Hailey Gillis, Evan Buliung
  • Organization: Crow’s Theatre and the Musical Phase Business
  • Venue: Guloien Theatre at the Streetcar Crowsnest
  • Town: Toronto
  • Year: Operates to Jan. 28, 2024

Natasha, Pierre and the Terrific Comet of 1812 absolutely has a terrific Natasha and a fantastic Pierre in its Canadian premiere at Toronto’s Crow’s Theatre in co-creation with the Musical Stage Firm.

As the titular protagonists of Dave Malloy’s idiosyncratic musical adaptation of a piece of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace, Hailey Gillis and Evan Buliung are the celestial phenomena you just can’t tear your eyes or ears away from. Better than their counterparts in the authentic 2016 Broadway creation, in my opinion.

The two act the heck out of this complicated materials, finding all the humanity and the humour in Malloy’s mouth-cluttering lyrics, mainly tailored from Aylmer and Louise Maude’s 1922 English translation of Tolstoy’s fantastic Russian novel established for the duration of the Napoleonic Wars.

Gillis, a darling of Toronto’s musical theatre scene, provides her most luminous, layered efficiency nonetheless as Countess Natasha. The 19-yr-outdated, engaged to a soldier named Andre who is off fighting Napoleon, goes to Moscow to remain a spell with her godmother Marya (Louise Pitre).

She offers a masterclass in mining the psychological complexity and locating the narrative arc in a song with no sacrificing musicality in her rendition of the early ear-pleaser No Just one Else. This tune, in which the teenager simply wanders by the snow, staring at the moon, lost in enjoy and comprehensive of daily life, had me in tears with its bittersweet elegance.

Natasha’s contentment does not past lengthy: She swiftly falls for the charming, handsome and key-hiding Anatole (George Krissa) following environment eyes on him at the opera. As the character is torn in between the man in entrance of her and the guy at the entrance, Gillis’s effectiveness in no way leans on ingenue tropes but veers from starvation to hauntedness, providing a portrait of practically feral femininity that feels equally incredibly right now and really Tolstoy.

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(l-r back) Evan Buliung, Andrew Penner (l-r entrance) George Krissa, Brendan Wall, Lawrence Libor in Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet at Crow’s Theatre.DAHLIA KATZ/Crow’s Theatre

Much of The Fantastic Comet’s plot problems Natasha and her interactions with her cold prospective sister-in-regulation (Heeyun Park, a wry standout), her really like-despise friendship with nosy cousin Sonya (Camille Eanga-Selenge) and all the intrigue surrounding a attainable elopement.

So what about Pierre? Effectively, the unhappily married older gentleman spends most of the clearly show in his study wherever he, for every a letter he writes in the banger that opens the next act, beverages and reads and drinks and reads and beverages. He’s an early-19th-century model of today’s doomscrollers, falling down a rabbit gap of conspiracy theories about Napoleon. (Malloy, unsurprisingly, went on to write a wonderful chamber musical about World-wide-web addiction referred to as Octet.)

In his depiction of this alcoholic’s mid-existence crisis, a floundering search for meaning, Buliung provides to the stage a entirely Chekhovian fool – comical and cringeworthy and in the end loveable. He chews the lyrics when cranky, then conjures a deeply soulful audio when Pierre allows out his yearning for a little something much more. He at some point finds a grand gesture and redemption not in a duel or in heroic rescue, but in basically talking a number of words of kindness in a harsh earth.

Malloy’s musical is weird in lots of strategies. His sung-by way of score romps from Japanese European people to electro-pop his lyrics are in the design and style of storytelling theatre, with people singing both equally speech and narration. There are passages in it that thrill in each and every single way and make you feel like you’re witnessing genius – and stretches that seem to be like overlong recitative.

It requirements resourceful staging to arrive alive outdoors of a recording – its initial series of immersive New York productions were motivated by Russian supper clubs.

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(l-r) Divine Brown, Camille Eanga-Selenge, Hailey Gillis (back) George Krissa in Natasha, Pierre and the Fantastic Comet at Crow’s Theatre.DAHLIA KATZ/Crow’s Theatre

In the Crow’s Theatre main room, director Chris Abraham follows in all those footsteps on a established co-intended by Julie Fox and Joshua Quinlan – a smallish rotating square of a stage, surrounded by stairs that guide to catwalks. Some of the audience sits ideal up close to the motion at cabaret tables and on bar stools, and person attendees once in a while get pulled into the action by figures in a way that can be a little bit goofy but is usually enjoyable.

There are frustrations to the staging, nevertheless: From my perch in additional classic ahead-struggling with seats, the physical actions of the actors were being often challenging to comply with, with times exactly where I craned my neck to check out to seem at the performer who was singing, or times when they dipped out of sight completely.

Abraham’s way also includes considerably speeding about and up and down that felt unnecessary and perplexed the storytelling, which could also use a clearer distinction when actors are in character, narrating or getting aspect of the ensemble.

Ray Hogg’s choreography, much too, is a hit-or-overlook blend of present-day dance moves from the club and Russian people dancing. There were being moments of pleasurable anachronism and other people the place movements seemed weird or out of put.

Like a comet, both equally Malloy’s musical and this manufacturing are streaky. Like a comet, you will not want to skip it.