Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812
Shotgun Players: Ashby Stage. Berkeley, CA
From November 12, 2022-January, 2023
Have you tried reading “War and Peace” and can’t remember when?
Did you read the first 100 pages and then realized there were 11,900 more to go?
It’s OK. Just take yourself to the Ashby Stage in the next two months and you’ll catch up and be delighted with the production. It’s based on “War and Peace”!
Patrick Dooley (Director) and Erin Mei-Ling Stuart (Co-director, Choreographer) have brought together a remarkable group of actors, musical talent, and production staff to remodel part of the Ashby Stage Theater as “club”. The stage area is complete with places to sit as is the space alongside the ‘ramp’ that extends the stage space. The audience in that area can bring drinks, sit on comfortable chairs and enjoy the show.
Dooley suggests he and the staff have created a 19th century Russian dinner club – 21st century NewYork night club atmosphere. Arrive in costume for a free drink!
What a show! It is part musical theater, part extravagant story telling and all along it enacts some complex events in the lives of Pierre (Albert Hodge), Natasha (Jacqueline Dennis), Sonya (Veronica Renner), Anatole, (Nick Rodrigue) and Michelle Ianiro (Marye), as well as many other star performers who enact the plot, sing the songs, dance the dances and entertain us with a wide variety of acts and events. Wow!
As a choreographer, this reviewer was particularly impressed with the complex stage maneuvers the cast conquered moving from the stage space down the ‘ramp’ through the audience seating. The ensemble and precision was exact and delightful as was the singing throughout, Two “opera singers” have a special mime ‘bit’ as an opera visit is enacted. Sara Elizabeth and Weston Scott are the two singers whose remarkable talent include rolling into the ‘ramp’ curling and opening like two cats and skilled dancers!
Great praise is due for music director Daniel Alley and his “band”: Carolyn Walter, Flora Espinoza, Brietta Gregor, Tania Johnson, Myra Chachkin and Rod Varette. Although they are not always seen, we hear and delight in their musical talent.
It is not often that theater provides its audience with sheer fun and delight. Give thanks to Leo Tolstoy for “War and Peace” but get over to the Ashby Stage for a joyous treat.