Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan, who played Hercules Mulligan and James Madison in the Broadway hit Hamilton, is set to replace Josh Groban in the new musical Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812.
Onaodowan will play Pierre, a wealthy aristocrat going through an existential crisis. Groban will depart the show on July 2, and Onaodowan will replace him the day afterward and stay until September 4. This will be his fourth Broadway show after Cyrano de Bergerac, Rocky, and Hamilton.
The musical, often called simply Great Comet, is an electropop adaptation of a seventy-page portion of War and Peace. Onaodowan, the son of Nigerian immigrants, will play opposite Denée Benton as Natasha, so the two leads will be played by black actors despite the show taking place in nineteenth-century Russia.
“Having the opportunity to have two black actors star is, to me, irrefutably huge,” Benton said to the New York Times about the casting choice. “Actors of color definitely feel the limitation to have to tell the stories the world has decided are your own, when if you look at the breadth of characters handsome white males can play, they’re given access to the whole range. It’s exciting to have that same opportunity.”
Onaodowan, who is known for his range and versatility as an actor, will have to learn to play the accordion and focus more on singing than rapping, giving audiences a chance to see more of his skills. “It’s very different from what I’ve done before–there’s a lot to dig into,” he said.