Okieriete Onaodowan (L) and Mandy Patinkin (Getty Images)

Okieriete Onaodowan (L) and Mandy Patinkin

*The Broadway musical “Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812” will close Sept. 3, following several weeks of controversy that saw the casting of a famous white actor to replace the previously-announced black lead, an attempt by producers to boost box office sales.

According to Variety, word of the production’s financial struggle surfaced during the backlash that arose after “Homeland” star and Broadway veteran Mandy Patinkin was cast for a three-week run in “Great Comet,” effectively cutting short the announced 9-week engagement of Okieriete Onaodowan in the role of Pierre.

Producers felt Patinkin would strengthen sales following the July 2 exit of Josh Groban, whose 8½-month stint had kept the show earning more than $1 million a week for the majority of its run, Variety reported:

Patinkin, a musical-theater legend who doesn’t show up on Broadway often these days, would have been a significantly bigger box office draw than Onaodowan, best known for his standout turn in a supporting role in “Hamilton.” But the move to cut short a run by a young African-American actor in favor of an older white performer raised a social-media firestorm over questions of diversity and representation.

Days after the controversy broke, Patinkin pulled out of “Great Comet” — leaving the show without a star to drive sales.


As the musical’s creator, Dave Malloy, noted on Twitter, the production’s advance sales following the Aug. 13 exit of singer-songwriter Ingrid Michaelson looked grim, threatening a closure.


“Great Comet” is a musical adaptation of a segment of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace written by composer/lyricist Malloy and directed by Rachel Chavkin. It’s based on Volume 2, Part 5 of the novel, focusing on Natasha’s affair with Anatole and Pierre’s search for meaning in his life.

“Great Comet” led the Tony nominations list with 12 nods and walked away with awards for set and lighting design.

Okieriete Onaodowan

Okieriete Onaodowan as Pierre in The Great Comet

Okieriete Onaodowan as Pierre in The Great Comet

Okieriete Onaodowan as Pierre in The Great Comet

Onaodowan’s run in “Great Comet” finishes Aug. 13, which would have been his final performance before Patinkin started his run. Scott Stangland will play Pierre Aug. 15-20, with Malloy, who originated the role of Pierre in the musical’s Off Broadway premiere, stepping into the part for the final run of performances Aug. 22-Sept. 3.