Introduce Yourself(ie): 10 Questions with Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 Star Brittain Ashford
March 29th, 2017
by Brittain Ashford
Brittain Ashford stops the show at the new musical Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812 with her haunting solo "Sonya Alone". Brittain makes her Broadway debut playing Sonya Rostova , the sweet, young cousin to the title Natasha, in this hit War and Peace adaptation. Like co-star Lucas Steele, she has starred in all three pre-Broadway productions of The Great Comet and received a Lortel nomination for her performance off-Broadway. Brittain is also an accomplished musician, fronting the band Prairie Empire. Scroll on to get to know her a bit better.
1. Before I step onstage to sing “Sonya Alone”, I think:
Generally I'm already deep in the Sonya moment, since I've been on stage and have just come from the big fight with Natasha that fuels the emotional arc of Sonya Alone. If I'm thinking about anything else other than what I must do to save my friend... I'm probably in trouble.
2. My favorite thing to do when I’m alone:
Clean and work on music. Occasionally at the same time.
3. If I had to describe Grace McLean as a cocktail, she would be:
Grace is def something boozey and sweet, served with a cherry on top. I'd say an Old Fashioned, sweet and bourbon heavy, but served in a fancy glass.
4. If I had to describe my stage cousin, Denée Benton, as a cocktail, she would be:
Denée I can imagine as a Sazerac: absinth and congac with the orange peel the bartender lights on fire before serving. Equal parts flashy and delicious.
5. My pre-show ritual for Great Comet includes:
Taking a little time for myself, mostly. I don't feel any superstitious need to do anything in particular.
6. The voice that really moves me when I listen to it:
There are so many! The ones that have really stuck with me are Sam Beam of the band Iron and Wine and Justin Vernon of Bon Iver. Both have a way with phrasing and nuance, and I can still listen to their records years down the road and get lost in their work.
7. The biggest difference in dynamics between a cast and a band is:
I'll preface this by saying I think Comet is an exceptionally unique cast. In general, being part of a cast and show means performing everything in a very specific manner to stay true to the vision of the director and composition of the writers. This cast makes that pretty darn easy; everyone is super kind and gracious and willing to give what needs to be given to make an amazing show happen every single time. And almost always it feels very good and safe to be a part of that machine.
Being in a band is different, specifically leading a band. Things don't have to be the same every night. We can decide we don't have the energy or range to play a specific song, or we can decide we want to radically change the tempo or arrangement. Or if something goes tremendously awry, I know I can look to my band mates and we can figure it out. Or stop the song. Tell a joke, start in the correct key. I feel a similar comradery in Comet, sharing a knowing glance with my cast mates when something doesn't quite go as planned.
8. If someone wanted to listen to one Prairie Empire song as an introduction:
I’d say start with the title track off the new album, The Salt. I also just really love the video, made by Manual Cinema out of Chicago. A close second would be "Circles".
9. I feel most inspired to create when:
My brain isn't tired and cluttered with necessary work/life garbage.
10. An album I absolutely wore out in high school:
Elliott Smith's Either/Or.
Don't miss Brittain Ashford's heartbreaking performance as Sonya in 'Natasha, Pierre & The Great Comet of 1812' at Broadway's Imperial Theatre.