Broadway's 'Great Comet' Musical to Close After Casting Controversy

Chad Batka
Josh Groban and Denee Benton in 'Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812'

The electro-pop opera, which is currently planning a national tour, will play its final performance on Sept. 3.

Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 will soon become dust and ashes on Broadway.

The critically-acclaimed new musical — which led this year's Tony Awards race with 12 nominations — will play its final performance at the Imperial Theatre on Sept. 3. It will have played 32 previews and 336 regular performances. Plans for a national tour are currently underway, with an expected launch in 2019.

The immersive electro-pop opera, which is based on a 70-page section of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace and won two Tonys, announces its closure after recently making headlines for its controversial casting moves. Following the exit of marquee-name lead Josh Groban at the end of his contracted run, Okieriete Onaodowan was recruited to take over the role of Pierre, in the hope that his profile as an original Hamilton principal would help sell tickets. Yet weekly grosses have dropped in recent weeks to around $900,000 (in comparison to around $1.2 million a week throughout Groban's run) and while that figure is still more than respectable by most shows' standards, the producers and creator Dave Malloy had indicated that the show's ongoing financial forecast was bleak. "It’s apparently a weird show. Turns out it needs a name to sell it," tweeted Malloy.

Producers then announced that Onaodowan, an African-American actor, would close out his scheduled nine-week engagement early, with Tony winner Mandy Patinkin stepping in to replace him for the final three weeks. The move prompted an uproar in a community that is vigilant about fair and inclusive racial representation, especially after the show was widely lauded for the racial inclusiveness of its ensemble. Patinkin then withdrew from his commitment to join the musical, and despite the producers' apologies, Onaodowan added that he would still leave on Aug. 13, when he was scheduled to make way for Patinkin.

After Onaodowan's departure, the lead role of Pierre will be played by Scott Stangland on Aug. 15-20, and then by Malloy from Aug. 22 through Sept. 3. Brittain Ashford will return to the role of Sonya (currently played by Ingrid Michaelson) for performances on Aug. 15 through Sept. 3.

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