Thursday, December 15, 2016

Revisiting "Natasha, Pierre . . . " - Josh Groban Shines Like A Bright Comet!

A few weeks ago I saw and reviewed "Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812." The performance that I witnessed featured a very fine performance by Scott Strangland in the role of Pierre, since Josh Groban was out with an illness.

Original White Rhino Report Review of "Natasha . . . "

I wanted to return to see Mr. Groban in the role of Pierre, and I did so on Tuesday evening. I must admit that when I first learned that Josh Groban had been cast in the challenging role of Pierre, I wondered if this acclaimed singer, whose voice I adore, would have the acting chops to carry a show like this one. I need not have worried. He is astonishing. I am aware that Mr. Groban put himself through the equivalent of a boot camp to prepare for this daunting Broadway debut. He spent months preparing himself for this role, working with a coach to "dirty up" his gorgeous singing voice to fit the dipsomaniacal Pierre who is slowly drinking himself to death. He bought an accordion and took it with him on the road, teaching himself to play the instrument.  He even practiced putting the instrument on and taking it off - something that Pierre is called upon to do several times during each performance. No detail of preparation was too trivial.

This assiduous attention to detailed preparation has paid off, for his performance in this role is stellar and exquisitely satisfying. Groban takes Pierre through an arc that goes from cynical nihilism to unexpected hope. He had been living in a loveless marriage to a self-proclaimed slut and then finds himself suddenly alive emotionally when he offers forgiveness and friendship to the disgraced Natasha. His emotional reawakening reminded me of one of C.S. Lewis' titles: "Surprised By Joy."
His modulated vocals are shown to their greatest effect in the prolonged song that he sings as he is recovering from a duel: "Dust and Ashes." In this song, he asks the existential question "Is This How I Die?" He is backed up by the majestic sound of the ensemble. The audience roared its approbation and appreciation of this vocal tour de force. As the play comes to its climax, he addresses with wonder the Great Comet of 1812, wondering what it may portend, as the strains of the finale rise and fall and the extraordinary lighting matches Pierre's mood.

Josh Groban as Pierre
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Imperial Theatre
Mr. Groban acts through his singing, and silences any who may have doubted his ability to take his protean talents to a new kind of stage. Do not miss seeing him in this role.  He has committed to staying in the role of Pierre until July 2, 2017.



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