Rachel Chavkin's "Great Comet" Lands on Broadway

November 21, 2016

Rachel Chavkin ’08 directs Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. The show opened on Broadway with this week with a rave review from Christopher Isherwood at The New York Times.
“Under the astute eye of the director, Rachel Chavkin — one of the most gifted working today — the show remains a witty, inventive enchantment from rousing start to mournful finish,” Isherwood writes. “It is both the most innovative and the best new musical to open on Broadway since Hamilton.”
The Great Comet is a collaboration across genres. The story is adapted from 70 pages of Tolstoy’s War and Peace, while the music’s lyrics and orchestrations, done by Dave Malloy, draw on a wide range of influences, from Slavic folk to electronica. The bold musical choices are matched by a strong theatrical style that allows performers to interact with the audience and immerses the spectators in the action.
Chavkin and Malloy developed the show with Ars Nova. The original production took place at the Ars Nova theatre space in the fall of 2012. That production was then transferred to a custom-built space in New York’s meatpacking district in 2013. One of the greatest challenges in transferring the show to Broadway was in how to continue to deconstruct the divide between performers and audience. According to Isherwood, the decision to use onstage seating and a winding path through the orchestra hit the mark. “With a show this intoxicatingly good,” he wrote. “There’s probably no such thing as a bum seat.”
"I mean, I love chaos — honestly," Chavkin said in an interview with NPR. "So what I'm interested in is creating a really rigorous environment, in terms of every nook and cranny of it being in the world of the world, helping to tell the story of the play; whether that's the narrative or the culture of the play, in some way. But then, at the same time, leaving space to watch the world spin."
While The Great Comet marks Chavkin’s directorial debut on Broadway, she is a two-time Obie-award winner and Drama Desk nominee, as well as the founding Artistic Director of the TEAM. Her directorial credits include Hadestown at New York Theatre Workshop; Small Mouth Sounds at Ars Nova and at the Pershing Square Signature Center; Rick Burkhardt, Alec Duffy, and Dave Malloy’s Three Pianos; and collaborations with playwright/performer/activist Taylor Mac, including Act II of his extravaganza The Lily’s Revenge.