A couple weeks ago I heard that Onegin, a musical by Veda Hille and Amiel Gladstone, was going to make its US premiere in Stoneham. My love for the Pushkin novel and Tchaikovsky opera is deep and real, as anyone who’s met me knows, so this new iteration definitely had my interest. I downloaded the 2016 album of songs from the musical to prepare myself, and saw the show yesterday afternoon. I recommend it.
The musical hews pretty close to the opera in the way the scenes are structured and the story is told, and borrows a couple of musical motifs from it. The rest of the score is a little rock and a little Broadway. There are similarities to Hamilton (there are only so many ways you can write a duel) and a mambo that threw me a little. The cast of seven were excellent and I enjoyed their performances, especially Sarah Pothier as Tatyana. Her letter song, “Let Me Die,” almost made me cry.
Comparisons to Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 are inevitable and probably unfair. Both are rock operas about sad Russians in the 19th century. Both open with songs that identify the characters; both feature instrumental performances by the actors and a band on stage in plain sight. And as with the first time I saw Comet on Broadway, I was seated on the stage with the actors. Comet offered us pierogies, Onegin vodka (seriously). On Broadway, though, I wasn’t invited to dance during the second act.
I had a really good time at the show, and I hope more people get to see it before it’s gone. I’m also glad I found the theater. I’ll have to keep an eye on what the company does going forward.
And a bonus: before the show started, my husband and I took a walk down the street and discovered The Book Oasis, a new and used book shop. I was happy to see that they had a copy of C.J. Cherryh’s Rusalka, which I’ve sought for a while. It seems my Russian fantasy kick isn’t over yet.