Zoy Frangos and Jules Pendrith talk the Great Comet of 1812
Step into the mesmerizing world of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 as we sit down with Zoy Frangos and Jules Pendrith, the talented actors behind the roles of Anatole and Pierre, in an exclusive conversation. This Australian premiere of the Tony Award® nominated electro-pop opera, based on a scandalous slice of Tolstoy's War and Peace, promises an unforgettable theatrical experience.
The Australian premiere of Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 masterfully balances historical context with contemporary sensibilities. Tolstoy's timeless exploration of the human condition ensures the relatability of the characters and conflicts, even 211 years after the original setting. Audiences can expect a visual and auditory feast, with cutting-edge sound and visual designs enhancing the grandeur and drama of 1812 Russia.
Read the full conversation with Jules Pendrith and Zoy Frangos below as they provide fascinating insights into their portrayals of Anatole and Pierre in Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. Experience the electrifying fusion of music, storytelling, and immersive theatre that awaits you at Darlinghurst Theatre Company by heading to https://www.darlinghursttheatre.com/thegreatcomet now. You can stay connected with us on Theatre Thoughts Australia's Instagram account @theatrethoughtsaus.
How does the unique blend of musical styles in Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 contribute to the storytelling and character development of your characters?
Zoy: It is a really eclectic mix of music and each has a specific style to fit with the vibe of the character. For example, Anatole brings in the electro and real rock elements whereas Pierre is a bit more traditional music theatre.
Jules: This show plays with its sense of time and place constantly, not least of all through its score. There is no set genre or style of music; electronica, folk, rock - expect all of it. Each character has their own distinct genre and vocal style, which means when the characters come together, those genres get to battle it out. There is so much innovative storytelling just through the composition. Dave Malloy is a masterful composer and even though none of this should work, it does, and it’s thrilling.
Josh Groban and the Broadway cast of Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. Photograph: Chad Batka/AP
Can you share some insights into the process of preparing for your respective roles? How did you approach portraying the complexities and conflicts of Pierre and Anatole?
Zoy: For my preparation I researched War and Peace and the themes and full journey of Pierre. Even though comet is only part of his story, it’s important to understand his experience and relationships to justify his choices and mindset. I also draw on my own experience of existentialism and philosophy. However it’s really important to connect to the text and music and to not over complicate it let it take me on a journey every night.
Jules: A lot of my preparation for Anatole has been figuring out his physicality - he’s described as having a distinct swagger to him. I’ve been watching a lot of clips of Prince. I think the most important thing I’ve understood about Anatole so far is that, although he could be considered a villain in this story, he’s not an unworldly type of evil - on the contrary, he’s an extraordinarily regular type of evil. He’s just selfish. He doesn’t actively seek to hurt, but it also won’t stop him from going after what he wants. For him, it’s all a game. And this complete disregard for others, although not intending any harm, has the power to completely shatter lives. I think we all know people like this - they might be charming, fun, magnetic even, but when it comes down to it, their own desires eclipse all else. He’s just a regular, entitled guy who wants to be free and have fun - with severe consequences.
The musical is set in 1812, but it incorporates elements of modernity and innovation. How do you balance the historical context with the contemporary sensibilities of the production? And how does this contribute to the overall experience for the audience?
Zoy: In the end it’s a rather simple story. But the themes of love, passion, betrayal, manipulation, existentialism are all still relevant today. Adding in the modern musical aspects and queerness highlight these themes through a contemporary lens.
Jules: I think it all balances because the story itself is timeless. Tolstoy was always fixated on the human condition, and as a result these characters and conflicts have remained relatable, despite being 211 years past the original setting. The audience will be getting all the glamour, grandeur, and whirlwind drama of 1812 Russia, but will also get to experience cutting-edge sound and visual designs through the score, set and costumes. This show is a far cry from a “period piece” in any sense.
Denée Benton and Lucas Steele in “Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812.”GRETJEN HELENE
Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 has been critically acclaimed for its innovative staging and immersive theatre experience. Should audiences expect much of the same from this Australian debut?
Zoy: In a short answer yes. But don’t confuse Darlo’s production with the broadway one, this is exciting brand new staging by Dean Drieberg and Brendan Yeates with orchestrations by Claire Healy. It’s absolutely wild and amazing, there will be performers roaming through the audience and people who purchase the onstage tickets will experience specific audience participation moments, which I won’t spoil for you now.
Jules: They sure should! The set design is unreal, the staging is fully immersive - and if you’re extra brave, the VIP experience has audience members right on the main stage in the middle of all the action (and sometimes helping out with it). Honorary cast members, just for the night.
NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812
6 July - 20 August
Tickets: https://www.darlinghursttheatre.com/thegreatcomet Previews: 6 - 8 July Season: 9 July - 20 August Tuesdays - Saturdays: 7.30pm Saturday matinee: 2pm Sunday: 1pm & 6.30pm Run time: 2 hours 20 minutes (including 20 minute interval)
NATASHA, PIERRE & THE GREAT COMET OF 1812 is presented by arrangement with Concord Theatricals.
This performance contains gun shots, alcohol and adult themes including references to violence, addiction, mental illness, self-harm, and a suicide attempt; depictions of racism and xenophobia, and a derogatory term for Romani people is used.