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Actor Spotlight: Lucas Steele of ‘The Great Comet'

Category Actor Spotlight

|by Jeryl Brunner |

Lucas Steele stars as Anatole in the highly immersive production of ‘Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812’

Lucas Steele stars as Anatole in the brilliantly inventive Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre, & the Great Comet of 1812 now playing at the Imperial Theatre. The show was written by Dave Malloy, directed by Rachel Chavkin and also stars Josh Groban and Denée Benton. 

lucas steele

Lucas Steele stars in ‘Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812’ (Photo: Suzanne Fiore)

Why do you love playing Anatole? 
Lucas Steele:
I have never experienced a character quite like him. Anatole can be whatever he wants. He can say whatever he wants. He doesn't need to subscribe to the standard behavior of characters from the time period and furthermore, he's actually more effective when he doesn't. He is like an alien. Literally, he emerges from the fog backed by a wall of light. With that kind of reveal, I think it's safe to say he can do whatever he wants, however he wants to do it. 

What is cool about Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812?
The entire cast of this show is the most talented group of "unicorns" you will ever see gathered on a single stage at the same time. Every single person in this show is an artist in their own right. This is the kind of ensemble it takes to pull off a score as eclectic and refined as what Dave Malloy has written. His genius of molding so many styles into one piece, yet having all of it feel cohesive, is matched by no other composer (I currently know) who is writing for musical theater. Honoring his work to its fullest potential takes a cast that are more than just technicians. They must be artists. And to me, that is pretty damn cool.

If someone said, why should I see this show, what would you tell them? 
You must see it because nothing has ever been done like this on Broadway before. Regardless of whether you love it or not – if you miss it, you are missing out on history.

You have been with the production since its early days when you were cast in the Ars Nova developmental reading/workshop. When you first heard about the show and its concept, what went through your mind? (Note: This specific answer is a condensed version from the essay Lucas Steele wrote and is available in full context in the coffee table book The Great Comet: The Journey Of A New Musical To Broadway'.)
LS: *I had spent most of my New York career working in tiny theaters downtown. I was used to shows with long and and interesting titles, but this one surprised even me. Nonetheless, when my agent called and told me I had an appointment to audition for Ars Nova, I confirmed the appointment and took a look at the sides for the audition. The breakdown for the role referenced the character as having a David Bowie-like quality. The music they sent to learn was on the weirder side of things. No real verse or chorus. No rhyme. Just singing as a form of communication.

I had been bouncing back and forth between Europe and America working on a commercial electro/rock/pop album. I had written and produced the entire album while also serving as the lead artist. Conceptually, it was a throwback to Ziggy Stardust. I watched endless hours of David Bowie on Youtube as inspiration.

When I walked in the audition room I made a split second decision. I asked if I could play for myself. They said yes. I walked over to the piano, sat down and did my thing. When I finished they were silent for a moment.

’Would you mind singing through Natasha and Anatole?' Rachel asked.

That was the name of the song I had been sent to learn from the show. I sang through it, hoping to prove I was capable of handling the harmonically complicated, recitative style of this particular song. Dave seemed appeased. Rachel then asked if I would sing it again, but this time using our casting director Henry as Natasha. By now I had played enough roles in my career, varied love interests of both men and women to know that I was capable of having chemistry with a tin can if need be. Bring it on Henry! I stared at my scene partner Henry for 6 measures. I looked him straight in the eye for about 10 seconds. Then, I slightly cocked my head and flashed him a smile. He and the entire table laughed in unison.

I got the offer the next day.

When did you know you had to be an actor?
LS: When I was 12, I saw the original production of Into The Woods on PBS. It sealed the deal. 

Both Dave Malloy and Josh Groan have played Pierre. How are they different? 
LS: Josh is quite ferocious as Pierre. To me, his Pierre is obsessed with his philosophical beliefs and they are the core of what propel him to come to terms with his emotional life. There is a laser-like focus to his acting that is almost tangible as his scene partner. Dave's Pierre is the reverse of that. He is a gentle Pierre; a man whose emotional struggles lead him into his philosophical search for answers. His focus is all encompassing, which in retrospect, makes sense because he has written the entire piece. The lyrics, the music, the orchestrations. He is all around you when he is onstage. I have no idea if these are conscious choices they have made individually. I have never discussed this with either one of them. I am simply speaking in relation to what it feels like to be playing opposite them onstage.

What is your dream role?
It hasn't been written yet. I'm working on it though! 

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