Review: Pippin

Pippin 1946

I really enjoyed the circus acts that populate director Diane Paulus’s revival of Pippin. They did nothing, however, to make me reevaluate my lukewarm feeling toward the show as a whole.

Pippin is definitely an important show – it was the first American musical to successfully combine pop-rock with traditional musical comedy structure (the earlier Hair had a looser, more experimental format). And composer Stephen Schwartz’s score is exceptionally tuneful and memorable.

However, I just can’t get behind the show’s message that becoming part of a heterosexual nuclear family (albeit an adoptive one) is ultimately more satisfying than chasing big dreams. A very conservative message for a show that looks adventurous on the surface.

In Pippin, a mysterious group of performers tell the story of Charlemagne’s heir Pippin, spurring the performer playing him to find his “corner of the sky.” Paulus certainly did a terrific job of casting her troupe. As the troupe’s Leading Player, Patina Miller is sexy in a tough and brawny way, although she tends to let the character’s angsty side take a little too much prominence, not only in emotionally wrought scenes, but throughout. In the title role, the lithe Michael James Thomas is appropriately winsome and naïve, and his pale svelte form will no doubt have its share of admirers.

The real news here is Andrea Martin as Pippin’s grandmother – I have never seen somebody truly stop the show with thunderous applause the way she does with her big number “No Time At All”. This performance alone makes this entire production worthwhile, and is worth the price of admission all by itself. It’s that good; it’s legendary, in fact.

Gypsy Snider’s Montreal-based Les 7 doigts de le main circus troupe provides the circus acts, and they are a great choice – their performers project quirky personality in addition to their specialties, which dovetails nicely with the skill sets of the musical theatre actors. All in all, a spectacular and largely entertaining evening of musical theatre.

For tickets, click here.

To learn about Jonathan Warman’s directing work, see jonathanwarman.com.

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