×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Why Mandy Patinkin Exited Broadway’s ‘Great Comet’ Before He Even Started

Mandy Patinkin has decided to drop out of Broadway’s “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” just days after he was announced to join the cast, and before he even set foot on stage — leaving the show struggling to remain open without a big-name star, and its producers apologizing for inciting the social media storm that prompted Patinkin’s departure.

Patinkin has something of a reputation for exiting projects unexpectedly (“Chicago Hope,” “Criminal Minds”). This time, the decision came after an outcry arose over the fact that his casting seemed to shortchange the work of the actor Okieriete Onaodowan (“Hamilton”), whose own run in the show was cut short in order to make room for Patinkin to play the role of Pierre.

“My understanding of the show’s request that I step into the show is not as it has been portrayed,” Patinkin said over a series of tweets, “and I would never accept a role knowing it would harm another actor. I hear what members of the community have said and I agree with them. I am a huge fan of Oak [as Onaodowan is known along Broadway] and I will, therefore, not be appearing in the show.”

The quickie addition of Patinkin to the cast, spurred by producers’ concerns over the financial stability of the production following the departure of headliner Josh Groban, was perceived as a slight to Onaodowan, whose nine-week run in the musical was abruptly cut short. Patinkin, a Tony winner for “Evita” and considered one of Broadway’s biggest names, would certainly have been a much more potent box office draw than Onaodowan, best known for his standout performance as two supporting characters in “Hamilton.” But in a Broadway community acutely tuned to issues of diversity, the move was read as an expression of disrespect for an African-American actor in favor of a white actor.

The ensuing, vocal criticism prompted the show’s producers — led by first-time lead producers Howard and Janet Kagan — to issue a statement of apology. “As part of our sincere efforts to keep ‘Comet’ running for the benefit of its cast, creative team, crew, investors and everyone else involved, we arranged for Mandy Patinkin to play Pierre,” they said in a statement. “However, we had the wrong impression of how Oak felt about the casting announcement and how it would be received by members of the theater community, which we appreciate is deeply invested in the success of actors of color – as are we – and to whom we are grateful for bringing this to our attention. We regret our mistake deeply, and wish to express our apologies to everyone who felt hurt and betrayed by these actions.”

The controversial recasting came as producers struggled to keep the show on the boards after the departure of Groban, whose name of marquee regularly fueled grosses of more than $1 million per week. The addition of musician Ingrid Michaelson helped the production stay afloat, but as the show’s creator and sometime star Dave Malloy noted on Twitter, the production’s prospects after Michaelson’s exit look grim. “The show was in desperate shape; sales after Ingrid leaving Aug. 13 were catastrophically low,” he said. “Show would have closed.”

Onaodowan, for his part, offered comment on his exit on social media. Although producers had said he might return after Patinkin’s three-week stint in the show, Onaodowan said his last performance would be Aug. 13.

With Patinkin out and no box office star on the docket, the lifespan of “Great Comet” is seemingly jeopardized. “I am not sure that the show has a future now,” Malloy said in a tweet.

More Legit

  • By the Way Meet Vera Stark

    Off Broadway Review: 'By the Way, Meet Vera Stark' by Lynn Nottage

    After writing two harrowing Pulitzer Prize-winning plays, “Sweat” and “Ruined,” Lynn Nottage is entitled to have a little fun. But while this revival of her new play, “By the Way, Meet Vera Stark,” walks and talks like a screwball comedy, it has a real brain in its head. Before we get too serious, let’s meet [...]

  • Merrily We Roll AlongRoundabout Theatre CompanyMERRILY

    Off Broadway Review: 'Merrily We Roll Along'

    Like the optimistic youths at the end — or is it the beginning? — of “Merrily We Roll Along,” creatives keep going back to this problematic Stephen Sondheim-George Furth musical, re-imagining the show in the hope that the end results will be different this time around. They’re not. But disappointments are often off-set by new [...]

  • My Fair Lady Laura Benanti

    Listen: Laura Benanti on 'My Fair Lady' and the Secret to Her Melania Trump Impersonation

    Laura Benanti is now playing her dream role on Broadway. At the same time, the Tony winner (“Gypsy”) is also playing her toughest part ever. Listen to this week’s podcast below: “It’s the most demanding part I think I’ll probably play,” said Benanti, now appearing as Eliza Doolittle in Lincoln Center Theater’s well-received revival of [...]

  • Hamilton West End Production.

    'Hamilton' Panic Over Mistaken Reports of Gunfire Injures Three in San Francisco

    Three people were injured after mistaken reports of an active shooter at a San Francisco production of “Hamilton” caused attendees to flee the theater. CNN reported that a woman experienced a medical emergency — later determined to be a heart attack — during a scene in Lin-Manuel Miranda’s play wherein Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is shot on [...]

  • The American Clock review

    London Theater Review: 'The American Clock'

    Time is money. Money is time. Both come unstuck in “The American Clock.” Arthur Miller’s kaleidoscopic account of the Great Depression, part autobiography, part social history, crawls through the decade after the Wall Street crash, dishing up snapshots of daily life. In the Old Vic’s classy revival, director Rachel Chavkin (“Hadestown”) tunes into the play’s [...]

  • Jake Gyllenhaal

    Off Broadway Review: Jake Gyllenhaal in 'Sea Wall/A Life'

    Comfy? Okay, let’s talk Death: sudden death, painful death, lingering death, accidental death, and whatever other kinds of death happen to come into the receptive minds of playwrights Simon Stephens (“Sea Wall”) and Nick Payne (“A Life”). The writing in these separate monologues — playing together on a double bill at the Public Theater — [...]

  • Michael Jackson Estate Cancels Musical Test-Run

    Michael Jackson Estate Cancels Musical Test-Run

    With an HBO documentary that places strong allegations of abuse against Michael Jackson premiering in two weeks, the late singer’s estate announced Thursday that it’s canceling a scheduled Chicago test run of a jukebox musical about him. The estate and its producing partner in the musical, Columbia Live Stage, said that they’re setting their sights on going [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content