|The cast. Photo: Chad Batka|
By Dave Malloy
Adapted from War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Choreography by Sam Pinkleton
Direction and Musical Staging by Rachel Chavkin
Kazino (West 13th Street and Washington Street)
What's It All About?
This recipient of the 2013 Richard Rodgers Award for Musical Theater is a mixed cocktail of romance, war, operetta, literature and vodka. The scandalous romance of Natasha (Phillipa Soo) and womanizer Anatole (Lucas Steele) is sliced from the pages of Tolstoy's classic tale of war and peace just before Napoleon's invasion of Russia.
Designer Mimi Lien sets the show as a dinner theater in a Russian club, Kazino -- Off, Off-Broadway in the heart of the meatpacking district. The show is staged in a tent lined with red drapery, framed portraits and paintings reflecting the lights of elegant light fixtures. The mood is further enhanced by aristocratic costumes from the early 19th-century designed by Paloma Young. Your ticket includes a Russian meal, right down to the borscht with food service before curtain and during a break separating parts one through three from four and five (this is, after all, War and Peace-- run time is about two hours and 40 minutes).
The tone is anything but serious, however, and the tongue-in-cheek prologue, where writer Dave Malloy (who plays Pierre) deftly introduces all of the major and minor characters, while instructing the audience to read the information in their programs, is a quick who's who and a hoot to boot. Here's a snippet:
"This is a complicated Russian novel; everyone has nine different names.... Hélène is a slut; Anatole is hot; Marya is old school; Sonya is good; Natasha is young; And Andrey isn’t here."
An eight-member band accompanies the vocalists from various stations throughout the house, continuing an interactive theme that might well find a character sitting down at your table or sharing your glass of vodka.
What are the Highlights?
Vodka with a twist -- it's entertaining and engaging with catchy, memorable tunes. The ensemble is good. The vegetables are very tasty.
What are the Lowlights?
Sorry, I am not a fan of shared food at tables with people I don't know. The hors d'oeuvres-type food (vegetables, pierogies, bread, shrimp, fish and chicken) is served family style and without serving utensils. My companion told me I am too concerned about such things, but a woman arriving at our table right at curtain started foraging around for food in the dark. She used her fork to spear what she thought was an round appetizer, took a large bite, then RETURNED IT TO THE DISH declaring that it was just butter. Call me Monk, but eeeeeew.
But the biggest lowlight was that I had to leave before the end to catch a train. I might just go back to enjoy the experience fully.
Food service begins about an hour before the how. http://kazinonyc.com/. You can listen to some music here:
Notes: bathrooms are sort of glorified portable toilets.
I would say this is for adults.