A flare-up is happening on the faltering Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812. The show is an immersive take on Tolstoy’s excerpt from War and Peace.
Ever since Josh Groban, who starred as Pierre, departed the show on July 2, the box office seemed to be a little shaky. The producers then lined up his replacement to take over the pivotal figure. Pity the actor who had to follow a superstar like Josh Groban!
Okieriete Onaodowan, or nicknamed simply “Oak”, a Hamilton alum who played James Madison, was announced as the designated replacement. His schedule was to run from July 3 through September 3.
But not so fast Oak, said the producers! They did a sudden adjustment to the cast and quickly thrusted the original actor and composer of the musical, Dave Malloy, back into playing the role for another week. Suspiciously, the show needed more time to get ready for Oak’s appearance. Maybe his pants ripped?
Since Oak’s delayed turn as Pierre on July 11, the grosses were dipping drastically. The producers probably did not realize that a succeeding actor to follow Josh Groban would have been a huge undertaking. So they were a seeking an infusion of star injection.
Enter star name Mandy Patinkin. It was proclaimed earlier this week that he would be filling Pierre’s shoes beginning August 15 until September 3. Just a brief 3-week stint before resuming his filming for “Homeland”. And Oak would graciously step aside to make way for Mandy? I don’t believe he had a choice in this matter. This quickly escalated into a racial controversy where white actors would supersede black actors.
The new turn of events with these casting decisions spurred a racial backlash and possible ill-will towards the Great Comet producers. Just one day after it was announced, Mandy Patinkin has decided to withdraw from the musical and will no longer appear as intended on August 15.
In a statement, Patinkin says, “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 and I will, therefore, not be appearing in the show.”
Oak has also stated that he would not be appearing further or returning at a later time as strategized by the producers. According to his post on Twitter, his final performance will be August 13th.
With dearthly sales beyond August and a lack of actors, I fear that the Great Comet will ultimately fall soon.