A week ago, we asked “Will Patinkin Casting Row Cause “Great Comet” Flame-out?”. Now, just over a week later, Variety.com answers with their piece, “Broadway’s ‘Great Comet’ Will Close in Wake of Casting Controversy”, a resounding yes.
It seems the lapse in judgement by the production team in the re-casting of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 has been the final downfall in the show’s rocky run at the Imperial Theater. Trouble began when famed singer, songwriter, and overall heartthrob Josh Groban announced his departure from the show at the start of last month. Given his celebrity status, it’s fair to say that he was the driving force of audiences to an otherwise little-known show.
In an attempt to re-boost falling ticket sales, the show’s producers re-cast the starring role of Pierre from Hamilton newcomer Okierite “Oak” Onaodowan with Broadway vet and Tony Award winner Mandy Patinkin. The popularity of Patinkin would certainly be a bigger draw, and so producers cut off their engagement with Onaodowan to accommodate the three-week run they’d gotten Patinkin to agree to- but with no hard feelings because that’s show business, right?
Wrong. Show business is no exception for the growing demand for diversity in opportunity and representation. After cutting short the starring role’s performance by a young, up-and-coming black performer in favor of an old and already widely successful white one, The Great Comet producers faced a whirlwind of backlash. Before Onaodowan could even speak for himself, social media spoke up for him- a lot.
I am not at all angry with Mandy and I know that ticket sales for Great Comet are in rough shape. I’m angry that Oak needed to “make room”.
— Kenzie Power (@DarkCloud_1) July 28, 2017
I saw Oak in 'Great Comet.' He was sensational. Why cut his run short? Also was best musical/cast I've ever seen. https://t.co/dElE0UAxBD
— Blake Rutherford (@blakerutherford) July 29, 2017
@ people blaming actors of colour who spoke out against the treatment of Oak for The Great Comet being in danger of closing: pic.twitter.com/4dVmeUN3IO
— Olivia Fricot (@livfricot) July 28, 2017
the great comet doesn't deserve oak
— rebecca (@paramoredodie) July 28, 2017
The last two Twitter fans were correct: The Great Comet did not deserve Oak, and so he announced his departure from the show- but not before Mandy Patinkin announced he would not be performing the role of Pierre, either. And so the tumultuous story of Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Casting Scandal of 2017 comes to an end, as does the show on September 3. Oak’s last show will be August 13, Scott Stangland will play Pierre Aug. 15-20, and Dave Malloy, the musical’s creator and original star, will close out the Aug. 22-Sep. 3 run.
Act fast to see the musical before its close, and act faster to catch Oak’s final performances of Pierre in Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 at the Imperial Theater. Get cheap tickets with no fees at TicketClub.com.