The stars already are beginning to align for next season on Broadway. Producers Howard and Janet Kagan, with Paula Marie Black, announced today that they have signed pop crooner Josh Groban to top-line the musical Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet Of 1812. They plan to open next September.
“I’m honored and excited to join the Great Comet family as it lands on the Great White Way,” said Groban in the announcement. “I’ve admired this brilliant piece of work and its creators for a long time. It’s an imaginative and immersive show and a role that is fascinating to me on many levels. I’m thrilled to call it my first on Broadway and I hope everyone will join us.”
If the show’s odd name has a familiar ring, that’s because it had two previous, celebrated off-Broadway runs beginning in 2012, first at originating company Ars Nova and then in tents in the Meatpacking District and in a Theatre District parking lot. Based on a long section from Tolstoy’s War And Peace, the eclectically pan-rock-semi-operatic work conceived, written and scored by Dave Malloy, featured an environmental set that placed theatergoers in the middle of a whirling, multi-character Moscow love story — and included the presentation of an elaborate meal as part of the program.
Dinner will not be served on Broadway. A revised version of the show, currently running at the American Repertory Theatre in Cambridge, MA, retains many of the environmental elements but has been adapted for a more traditional theater setting. That’s the version heading for Broadway, to an as-yet unnamed house. The original director, Rachel Chavkin, and designer, Mimi Lien, have continued through every iteration of the show, as they will for Broadway.
The Kagans proved their devotion to risk-taking work last season, when they brought a sensational revival of the Leonard Bernstein-Betty Comden-Adolph Green musical On The Town to one of Broadway’s biggest theaters last year. The show won the hearts of critics but not audiences as the Kagans plowed money and resources in it to keep the $8.5 million revival running. Groban, a multiple platinum album recording and sometime film star, should help fill the gap between critics and ticket-buyers.