On “War and Peace” going Broadway


The President of Russian American Foundation is not just a successful businesswoman and art connoisseur; she is also a long time friend. But when Marina Kovalyov called me up and said that I must drop all my plans and run to see some musical in Times Square, I decided she did not know me well yet.

I was born to a family of pianists. My parents and I shared a ten square metered room in a communal apartment with one bathroom for all seven families. For the first six years of my life I slept on our baby grand piano - there was no room for a crib. Far from a show, that was the reality of the country known at the time as the Soviet Union. Classical music was my habitat; it taught me how to travel in time and space without visas. Musicals, though, were not just muzak to me, they were a part of the soviet system of mind control. A no-go.

But I cannot say no to Marina, so I go. Fortunately, a meeting in Times Square gave me an excuse for running late. By the time I entered a bubble named Casino, 45th and 8th, the first act was already under way.    

Imagine an ellipse shaped room with five stages on its perimeter. Walls covered with early 19th century paraphernalia. A dozen tables scattered about.

I landed on the first available chair prepared to meditate. It’s a perfect time killer.

Leo Tolstoy’s “Vojna I mir” was a mandatory read in my school years. Now, in a Twitterized world, few can accomplish such a feat. And what’s the point if even the title itself is lost in translation? “Vojna” is the Russian for war, okay. But “mir” translates equally well as peace or world. The world has changed. Leo, face the new muzak. That was my predisposition.  

Saying that, I immediately got carried away with the performance, no stretching. The transition was smooth and pleasant. First, a dancing and singing pretty thing fluttered down next to my chair addressing me and only me. I could smell her breath. It was pleasing. The music was also explosively mine. Regardless of which cast member took the lead, it was not a communal experience.      

Perhaps the playbill named it a musical for the simple absence of a more accurate term. With the music in constant development and no refrains, Wagneriana’d might have donebetter as a description. Very contemporary. Leo, you would be proud.

Even the lights’ focusing on actors would not separate them from one another, they moved on all stages and among public like Brown’s molecules organized into a monolithic body of performance.

In the second act I got to my seat set aside for the Russian media crowd. Behind me on the wall I discovered a picture of Stalin addressing the delegates of some congress. That used to be a world to us Russians, and now we live in peace, making more love than war.

Natasha was a real drama queen in it’s original term [Tolstoy's original], no irony. The only incongruous bit was the Brittain Ashford’s (Natasha)writing a letter with her left hand.... Back in the day, the lefties got cured into the right ones.      

The cast is outrageously young and multitalented. Being able to move, talk, sing and play various musical instruments with such ease plants a seed of envy.

My conclusion: Marina was right, the show is a must to see. Last Sunday I was not late for the first act.

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