×

Broadway’s ‘Great Comet’ Will Close in Wake of Casting Controversy

The Broadway musical “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” will close Sept. 3, following a turbulent couple of weeks that saw the show engulfed in a controversy over a last-minute recasting of one of the title roles.

The production’s shaky financial straits came to light in the outcry that arose after Mandy Patinkin was cast for a three-week run in “Great Comet,” effectively cutting off the previously announced engagement of Okieriete Onaodowan in the role of Pierre. Producers had attempted to hustle Patinkin into the part in an effort to shore up the production’s sales following the July 2 exit of Josh Groban, whose 8½-month engagement had kept the show earning more than $1 million a week for the majority of its run.

Patinkin, a musical-theater legend who doesn’t show up on Broadway often these days, would have been a significantly bigger box office draw than Onaodowan, best known for his standout turn in a supporting role in “Hamilton.” But the move to cut short a run by a young African-American actor in favor of an older white performer raised a social-media firestorm over questions of diversity and representation.

Days after the controversy broke, Patinkin pulled out of “Great Comet” — leaving the show without a star to drive sales. As the musical’s creator, Dave Malloy, noted on Twitter, the production’s advance sales following the Aug. 13 exit of singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson looked grim, threatening a closure.

“Great Comet” was always something of a risky bet for Broadway, given its downtown aesthetic, quirky electropop score and an immersive staging that required a pricey reconfiguration of the Imperial Theater. But Groban’s long run in the show ensured the production never had an unprofitable week while he was in it, and it was hoped the attention he’d brought to the title could help the production establish a firmer foothold. Publicity during the run-up to the Tony Awards, along with a well-received production number on the Tony telecast, seem like they also might have helped bring in curious theatergoers. “Great Comet” led the Tony nominations list with 12 nods, and walked away with trophies for set and lighting design.

Some industry observers wonder how a show that’s never had an unprofitable week could prove to be in such a dire financial situation. The show’s producers, led by Howard and Janet Kagan, offered no comment on the closing.

Onaodowan’s run in “Great Comet” finishes Aug. 13, which would have been his final performance before Patinkin started his run. Scott Stangland will play Pierre Aug. 15-20, with Malloy, who originated the role of Pierre in the musical’s Off Broadway premiere, stepping into the part for the final run of performances Aug. 22-Sept. 3.

 

More Legit

  • Frozen review Broadway

    Broadway Musicians Earn Largest Wage Increase in Two Decades

    Broadway musicians have succeeded in earning their largest wage increase in over two decades. Announced on Wednesday, the Associated Musicians of Greater New York, Local 802 AFM said in a statement that after over four months of deliberations, they have secured a three-year collective bargaining agreement with the Broadway League and Coordinated Bargaining Partners to [...]

  • The Kilroys The List

    Listen: New List, New Leaders as the Kilroys Push for Parity

    The collective of writers and producers known as the Kilroys has been pushing for gender parity in the theater for five years now. With the launch last week of the latest edition of the List — the group’s annual round-up (inspired by Hollywood’s Black List) of plays by women, trans and non-binary writers — members [...]

  • Annette Bening

    Star-Studded Cast to Perform Live Reading of the Mueller Report

    Haven’t perused the Mueller report yet? A star-studded cast, including Annette Bening, Kevin Kline, and John Lithgow, can read it to you. For one night only on Monday, June 24, stars will perform a live reading of passages from the Mueller report for “The Investigation: A Search for the Truth in Ten Acts,” Robert Schenkkan’s [...]

  • Paula Vogel Never Expected 'Indecent' to

    Paula Vogel Never Expected 'Indecent' to Be This Timely

    When Paula Vogel began writing “Indecent” in 2010, she had no idea how resonant its exploration of immigration woes, anti-Semitism and homophobia in the past century would become in the current political climate. The Tony-nominated play, running until July 7 at L.A.’s Ahmanson Theater, traces the theatrical history of 1907 Yiddish play “God of Vengeance” [...]

  • Bitter Wheat review

    West End Review: John Malkovich in David Mamet's 'Bitter Wheat'

    How soon is too soon? Hardly a year had passed since allegations against Harvey Weinstein were made public before David Mamet announced that his satire on the subject, “Bitter Wheat,” was set to star John Malkovich in the West End. Six months later, we’re sat watching a corpulent, super-rich movie mogul — Barney Fein (cough, [...]

  • Batman Julia Roberts Spike Lee

    Batman, Julia Roberts, Spike Lee Among 2020 Walk of Fame Honorees

    Batman, Julia Roberts and Spike Lee are among the names selected to be inducted into the 2020 Walk of Fame. The full list of honorees was announced by the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce’s Walk of Fame Selection Committee via an exclusive livestream by Variety. Chosen from hundreds of nominees during a selection meeting in June, [...]

  • Tracy Letts

    Tracy Letts' Comedy 'The Minutes' to Hit Broadway in 2020

    Playwright Tracy Letts’ comedy “The Minutes” will hit the Broadway stage in Feb. 2020. “The Minutes,” written by actor, producer and playwright Letts, is a comedy taking a look at the current state of American politics through the lens of a small, fictional town called Big Cherry. The play is set in a city council [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content