Mr. Darcy recently took his beloved, Emma Bovary, to see Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 on Broadway. Because being plucked out of his novel and placed into modern life (you can read all about this in the novel Jane Eyre Gets Real) has forced him to suffer reduced circumstances, they didn’t sit on the stage, where the audience interacts with the cast. They had to settle for the mezzanine; luckily the show is staged in a circus-like way with action going on all over the theater. A bit of a mash-up like Hamilton–and like Jane Eyre Gets Real–the play takes scenes from War & Peace, primarily those focusing on Natasha cheating on her betrothed, Andrey, a heroic soldier off fighting Napoleon, and sets them to music which ranges from soul and folk all the way to electronic-Russian-gypsy-fusion-funk.
When Natasha is found out she becomes the greatest drawing room pariah since Anna Karenina. But she has one champion–Pierre, a nobleman/scholar/semi-recluse who happens to be Andrey’s best friend, and who is desperately seeking peace in his own life. Having married a beautiful but shallow (in fact, depraved) woman who constantly humiliates him, Pierre is no stranger to despair. His sympathy for Natasha, who is forsaken by everyone else including Andrey, leads to a gentle love developing between them. Though this is not shown in the musical, readers of War and Peace know that upon Andrey’s death (from wounds incurred in battle), Pierre and Natasha ultimately wed: two scarred souls who have made mistakes but find redemption in each other.
Emma Bovary loved Natasha (played by Denée Benton) and her elegant white gowns. But she agreed with Mr. Darcy that the soul of the show is Josh Groban as Pierre. While foot-stomping dances, buoyant instrumentals, and strobing lights comprise much of the show, the ending is pure. When Josh Groban sings about how the historical comet portends a new blossoming in his hitherto stagnant life, the brightest light that shines is his voice.
Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813. Darcy would have been a young man in 1812, watching the historic comet blaze across Regency skies. Sitting in the Broadway theater, so far from home and from his past, he couldn’t help but quiver with the memory.