Tony-nominated scenic designer Mimi Lien knocked down walls, built staircases, and transformed the entire Imperial Theatre into a lush Russian vodka den for the 12-time Tony-nominated musical Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812. Tony-nominated director Rachel Chavkin places the audience in the action of Tony nominee Dave Malloy’s rock opera for a theatrical experience unlike anything else on Broadway.
In a completely immersive staging, all of the actors (and some of the musicians) migrate throughout the theatre to tell the 19-century Moscow-set story. Ensemblists dance in the aisles and on runway platforms snaking through the audience. The cast sprints up and down staircases and interacts with the audience—the third scene partner—as the story fills the entire Imperial Theatre.
And, while other Broadway shows have dabbled with onstage seating, The Great Comet takes it to the next level with orchestra level cocktail tables, onstage table seats, and onstage banquette stadium seating. Every seat is a singular view, and it can be a challenge to decide where you want to sit. Playbill saw the show from four different sections (Front Mezzanine, Orchestra, Onstage Tavern Table, and Banquette) to guide you and let you in on what you’ll see if you go back more than once.
SEAT LOCATION: FRONT MEZZANINE, ROW A, 5
Whole scenes are played in what used to be the mezzanine and balcony—and are visible only to those seated in those spaces, though invisible to those seated in the orchestra section. To be fair, orchestra audiences also get to see things that those upstairs can’t, but mezzanine seats are the place to take in the full scope of the sweeping musical.
Highlights: During Act 2’s “Balaga,” the most raucous number in the show, the mad Russian troika driver who gives the song its name performs a wild solo from the balcony. The company executes a high-kicking Cossack dance with some of the most acrobatic choreography taking place in the mezzanine, until they collapse with exhaustion in the aisles. You’ll definitely have the best view of this moment from here. The mezzanine is also a great spot to experience “The Opera” (especially if you’re in the rear mezzanine and can see the Opera action orchestra audiences miss). But the show’s climax includes a lighting effect to suggest a starry sky dominated by the starburst appearance of the titular Great Comet itself. Because the ceiling of the theatre is used as the sky, only those seated in the upper tier get the full effect of the sky filling with points of light on massive chandeliers, as the comet swells to full brightness. It’s a panorama moment exclusive to these seats.
Close-up moment: In the Act 2 “Letters” scene, Natasha gets her love letter from Anatole downstairs, but she carries it up to the mezzanine and you can watch her passionate reaction as she reads it. That was the moment when her love—and her doom—were sealed, and we got to see it best.
Best for: Audiences who want a bird’s eye view of the action with a smattering of up-close moments by the supporting cast.
SEAT LOCATION: ORCHESTRA, ROW E, 101
While the show isn’t staged like a typical proscenium play, the majority of the action does take place on what would be the stage, and you’ll have a perfect vantage point of that space. Plus, being on the aisle, you still feel embedded in the action.
Highlights: Though you won’t get as close to the principals in this seat, and you miss some of the upstairs action, you can see the whites of the actors’ eyes for some of the most meaningful interactions in the show. Sitting house left, Sonya sings her solo ballad downstage right with a single lightbulb lit over her head; you’ll feel like she is singing directly to you.
Close-up moments: Starting at pre-show, the ensemble gets up close and personal, which helps you let your guard down and prepare for the type of show you are about to witness. Any moment involving the full company—the big dance sequences, “The Ball,” “Letters,” “Balaga,” “The abduction”—the ensemble and mobile instrumentalists play right up in your face. They dance in the aisles or down the center platform, lean against your seat, stare you down, drop you a letter, hand you an egg shaker, and more. But, there aren’t any moments when principals get too close.
Best for: Audiences who want to watch more conventionally. You might miss some action in the mezzanine, but you’ll still feel the excitement of the immersive show, and you’ll be able to follow it more like other nights at the theatre.
SEAT LOCATION: REAR STAGE RIGHT BANQUETTES, ROW BB, 1
Highlights: Natasha’s Act 1 aria “No One Else,” during which she gazes at the stars, is particularly moving from this seat. Lights dropped from the ceiling above the stage and in the house and, because of the raised banquette seating, you feel among the stars. The view also creates a beautiful tableau during “Sonya Alone:” At one moment Natasha in the mezzanine aligns perfectly with Sonya onstage, and you see the distance in the lyrics play out between them. It’s a moment you’ll only capture here.
Close-up moments: From an aisle seat in the banquette, there was a lot of commotion on the staircase, but rarely do characters stop and interact in that space. It is still exciting to feel the wind when someone rushes by, or hear the gathering of props just behind the curtain. You may have less interaction with the company, but it’s a good way to feel part of the party in a more ringside way. You have perfect sightlines for Helene’s “Charming,” and for the facial expressions of audience members at tables, which is an added dimension to the show itself.
Best for: Audiences who want to get close, but not that close, and want to be privy to the backstage theatre magic.
SEAT LOCATION: UPPER STAGE LEFT SUNKEN TAVERN, ROW TM, 1
If you want to feel part of the crazy Russian bash at Great Comet, this seat is for you. The sunken orchestra pit is the axis of the show—the calm eye of the hurricane. This seat is one ring outside of that and on the aisle to a mainstage staircase. It’s a busy intersection for the cast of 31, and you’ll feel them whoosh by you constantly; it’s likely the best seat to feel the frantic energy of the vodka den. You’ll sit six inches from members of the cast. Tony nominee Denée Benton will stare you right in the eye during the Act II opener “Letters.” From this vantage point, you also have a view of the entire space—as ensemblists dance in the orchestra aisles, principals climb staircases into the mezzanine, and musicians play in the mezzanine doorways.
Highlights: While you won’t be able to see Josh Groban’s face as he sings and plays the piano during his first song, “Pierre,” it’s worth the sacrifice when you have the best seat in the house for “Dust and Ashes.” He sings the most powerful moment from the center stage platform, where you have a perfect sightline to watch his tortured emotion, plus you can look out into the orchestra and mezzanine where the company stands still in flickering candlelight during one of the most poignant moments in the show.
Close-up moments: This is the seat if you want a front row to Anatole’s near breakdown during “Pierre and Anatole” or the wrenching sadness of Marya (all snot and tears) during “Pierre and Andrey.”
Best for: Audiences who want to have an experience, but might miss some big-picture moments in the flurry of the action and emotion.