Sunday, June 11, 2017

Color by "The Great Comet of 1812" Numbers - A Musical

The delicate art of rendering a complex or abstract idea into a simpler pattern or thought, particularly for a more simple-minded public audience, has been an ever-present part of the dynamics of storytelling since the dawn of time where hieroglyphic drawings on cave walls told (or attempted to tell) the story of the age of early man (and his early struggles with the wheel and the mastodon.)

Of course, some stories are easier to tell than others; children's stories and simple parables, for example, are straightforward and follow a discernible tho childlike thought line (save for those by Japanese animation director Hayao Miyazaki, whose work is beyond many higher budgeted feature films).

Others tales are much more complex; trying to detail and explain credit default swaps perhaps to a neophyte of finance would tax even the best of yarn spinners (and remarkably Michael Lewis seemed perfectly up to the task.)

Thusly every few Broadway seasons there springs forth a idea that defies the common conception of what is and what can be. In the 2016 season "Hamilton" was just such a tour de force. Reading the dense biography of Alexander Hamilton can not be immediately thought of as the obvious catalyst for a Hip-Hop Musical involving the history of these United States AND touch upon modern day issues such as Immigration and Racism. 

And yet the genius of Lin-Manuel Miranda did just that.

This year, 2017, has brought us the interpretation of a (thankfully) small sliver of Leo Tolstoy's epic novel 'War and Peace'- which hardly explodes with the idea that there is surely a musical buried within its pages (and perhaps 'novel' is being too kind....tome is more apt, and likely the longest, densest 'tome' ever written).

The Napoleonic invasion of Russia might not imbue a sense of 'Musical' to mind - tho no one foresaw the power of "Les Miserables" in the pages of Victor Hugo at first glance either. 

Pure and true genius, even if it is only temporary genius, is that ability to SEE what others do not and doing so LONG before anyone else does. And let it be stated plainly that simple act of  envisioning ANY Broadway production is a perilous feat of derring-do long left for the stout of heart and thickness of wallet. 

With vast teams of interlocking assemblages, all must work in perfect balance to have even a glimmer of hope towards pulling off a successful production and ALSO satisfy the whims of an ever more fickle theater going public. (See "The Front Page")

The 200 page love story found within War and Peace
had quite the number of intricacy webs.
Follow the numbers
We shan't dissect here the story of Natasha, Pierre, and The Great Comet of 1812, for that is a task left for the other dot connectors among us. Suffice it to be said however that a Playbill with a legend of Who's Who in the production is tricky enough but one need not additionally be repeatedly beaten over the head in an "I Don't Know Why She Swallowed The Fly" manner with these very connections. 

The production attributes - Stage, Costumes, Theater Design, Lighting - all stellar! Tho for all the glory and pomp built into the spectacle of this production, not to mention the addition of world class tenor and 'shooting star' Josh Groban as its lead - perhaps an enticement to bring in a younger, less "Tolstoy-esque' crowd, the wonderment of what might have been pervades throughout.

A stage set that involves audience members as well as the mezzanine and balcony participants evokes memories of Starlight Express, equally as welcomed on Broadway.

In the end this musical has that very 'Color by Numbers' or 'Connect the Dots' ambiance to it that ultimately dooms the ensemble, however high it's visions of grandeur might have been.