The Brilliant Comet of 1812

I'll let you in on a little secret here at The Theatrical Board: we LOVE Comet! Of course, I can't speak for all our members but I can say a majority saw it as the true best musical of it's season, of something that really did push boundaries and portrayed us in the ways we wanted to be portrayed. In fact, Rebecca, a member of this board I've been friends with for years, and I actually met over our shared love of Comet.

Since this is technically my site, I own it and I pay for it, I have access to the analytics for it, and since the character in theatre who best portrays my anxiety is Gretchen, I've been constantly checking them. The single statistic that surprised me the most was that we had one on-site search for "the great comet". The reason this was so surprising was because I hadn't set up a search bar yet.

But whoever you are, magical searcher of uncharted realams, this one's for you!

So, let's talk about Comet.

Comet was the first show I saw on Broadway and I went onto see it four more times. I saw Denée Benton as Natasha all five times, Josh Groban once, Scott Stangland once, Dave Malloy once, and Okieriete Onaodowan twice. I also saw Brittain Ashford three times, Ingrid Michaelson once, and Ashley Pérez Flanagan once. (Other fun facts, saw two different Lulu Falls and at least three different Lauren Zakrins.)

To be fair, it was not by mistake that Comet was the first show I saw. Brittain Ashford told me if I sent her my copy of War and Peace, she would get it signed by Dave Malloy and give it back to me at the stage door. Truly living up to her character, she got the entire original Broadway cast (including Mr. Groban) to sign it. And while that might be the story of how I got there, it's not why I went back, time and time again.

Between the first and second time I saw it, I moved states. The state I reside in now has not been kind to me. It's given me almost no friends, a mass of maladies, and most of all, I haven't felt like I belonged anywhere. Comet gave me a sense of belonging- of course what I have at Anastasia now makes it pale in comparison- but the cast started to recognize me in ways I could tell from a wink on stage, reaching over someone else to give me a letter, or a big hug at the stage door. And I didn't just get to watch the show, I got to actually see the faces of the people I was sharing this experience with- watching The Opera for the first time is cool, but watching the faces of the other people at your table becoming progressively more confused like a stop motion book? Priceless.

And because I was living so far away and had to save up to come see the show, it often felt like they were the only friendly faces and looking forward to getting to see them got me through into many a long, dark night. I have not gone back to the Imperial since it closed, not just because I do not care for Carousel at all, but because my Imperial was draped in red and gold with chandeliers and a majestic and agreeable spectacle. As long as I don't actually enter the Imperial, I can pretend it still lives on in there.

Now, there is a lot to be said about Comet, particularly it's closing, that I will save for one of my writers of color, who might see things that I don't. But I can say this much about it- every single character made me want to be a better version of myself.

Natasha wanted me to actually see the sky and stars and feel at one with the universe. Sonya made me want to be a better friend. Marya made me want to hold down a fort even half as well as her. Héléne made me want to walk tall and with confidence. Anatole made me want to live freely for just a moment, without everything else that weighs me down. I could go on. Hell, the show made me want to read the entirity of War and Peace in four days. Is that really relevant? No, but I want to brag about it.

And I think there's a reason that this misfit felt at home there... because I think it was a home for misfits. Because Brittain Ashford has such a distinctive voice and was told she couldn't be Éponine because she didn't have the voice and Dave wrote a part just for her. Because Phillipa Soo didn't particularly like the song Dave wrote her so she read War and Peace and found the parts that she felt really highlighted her character and he wrote her a new one. Because no one else would write Gelsey Bell a piece that lets her do that thing with her voice. Because Josh Groban was joining, so he wrote a six minute powerhouse piece that changes our understanding of Pierre completely.

Dave Malloy wrote a love letter to all the misfits... and at least this misfit is writing one back. Thank you, Dave. Thank you for writing something that united us, that I could share with my mother, that was so precious that it hurt to lose. May the star Rebecca and I bought you always twinkle overhead and lead us all into a new life.

(Photo by Alex Gibson)