Producers Resolve Dispute Over ‘Great Comet’ Billing

Great Comet dispute resolved
Gretjen Helene Photography

The dispute between the commercial producers of Broadway musical “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” and the not-for-profit theater where the project originated has arrived at a resolution, according to a spokesperson for the show.


Natasha Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812 lawsuit

‘Great Comet’ Lawsuit Spotlights Broadway Tensions Between Producers, Nonprofits

The conflict had arisen over the billing for the nonprofit, Ars Nova, in the playbill of the musical’s commercial Broadway staging, backed by a team of producers led by Howard and Janet Kagan. Based on Ars Nova’s original contract with the Kagans, the organization expected to be given prominent credit in the Broadway playbill as the originators of the project, but found the company listed with the other producers involved in the new staging. The dispute eventually boiled over in the press, and litigation followed.

The new agreement, which both sides have opted to keep private, sees Ars Nova given more prominent credit with the lawsuit dropped in recompense.

The dust-up gets at the heart of the tensions that can underlie the increasingly close relationship between commercial producers and not-for-profit organizations. The issue of credit can be enormously important both for a not-for-profit, which gets a boost in prestige and prominence from a successful Broadway transfer, and for the commercial producers, eager to be credited for their own contributions in moving the show on to a future life.

In the case of “Great Comet,” the show was commissioned and developed by Ars Nova, where composer-creator Dave Malloy was artist-in-residence. Following its premiere there in 2012, the Kagans produced the show in a 2013 commercial staging at a different venue, and then took the show to American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass. last year. Over the course of those subsequent iterations, the physical production shifted from an immersive, environmental staging to one that more easily fits into a proscenium space like the one at the Imperial Theater, where the show is currently in previews.

Despite the resolution of the conflict, backstage resentments seemingly linger. But both sides can console themselves with the box office performance of the musical, which has grossed more than $1 million per week from each of its first two weeks on the boards. The show, headlined by Josh Groban, opens Nov. 14.


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