Mandy Patinkin is withdrawing from a planned run in the Broadway musical Natasha, Pierre & the Great Comet of 1812 after the announcement of his casting was met with backlash over the fact Patinkin was being brought in to replace the show’s current star, Hamilton alum Okieriete “Oak” Onaodowan, who is black.
“My understanding of the show’s request that I step into the show is not as it has been portrayed and I would never accept a role knowing it would harm another actor,” Mr. Patinkin said in a statement emailed Friday to The New York Times. “I hear what members of the community have said and I agree with them. I am a huge fan of Oak and I will, therefore, not be appearing in the show.”
Producers of the musical confirmed Patinkin’s departure in a statement obtained by EW. “As part of our sincere efforts to keep Comet running for the benefit of its cast, creative team, crew, investors and everyone else involved, we arranged for Mandy Patinkin to play Pierre. However, we had the wrong impression of how Oak felt about the casting announcement and how it would be received by members of the theater community, which we appreciate is deeply invested in the success of actors of color – as are we – and to whom we are grateful for bringing this to our attention,” the statement said. “We regret our mistake deeply, and wish to express our apologies to everyone who felt hurt and betrayed by these actions.”
Patinkin’s casting in the Broadway production as Pierre — a role originated by Josh Groban, who received a Tony nomination for his work — was announced on Wednesday. His appearance was set as a limited run beginning Aug. 15, but that timing cut short Onaodowan’s previously-announced tenure, which was due to continue through Sept. 3.
Members of the Broadway community, including Tony winner Cynthia Erivo, were among those who criticized the show’s decision. “Mandy is a wonderful man, Oak is a wonderful man, this has been handled badly. Ticket sales shouldn’t override a person doing his job,” she tweeted, adding, “The disrespect of both actors is highly concerning.”
Great Comet composer Dave Malloy wrote on Twitter Friday that sales for the show were “catastrophically low” after singer Ingrid Michaelson’s departure next month, and the show asked Patinkin “to come in asap because we were on the brink of closing.”
“Please don’t give Mandy grief, he’s devastated,” Malloy added. “I am not sure that the show has a future now.”
Onaodowan addressed the news earlier Friday ahead of Patinkin’s withdrawal, saying his final day in the show would be Aug. 13 and writing on Instagram, “In spite of everything, I am grateful to have had the time to bring this character to life with a remarkable cast that truly make the Imperial Theater a sacred place every night.”