You will be amazed, surprised and thrilled. You will laugh. You will sing along. You will come under the spell of the magic created by some of the best creative minds and performers on Broadway.
And if you haven’t already, you will realize how talented and smart Stephen Schwartz is – the man behind the excellent and most pleasing score – music and lyrics. After all he is the wizard behind WICKED.
PIPPIN – a production of the American Repertory Theater (Cambridge MA) is brilliantly directed by Diane Paulus, and along with Stephen Schwartz and book writer Roger O. Hirson have hit pay dirt with this spectacular circus setting by Scott Pask and circus creation by Gypsy Snider of the Montreal-based troupe Les 7 doigts de la main and equally spectacular costumes by Dominique Lemieux (from Cirque du Soleil) all lit dramatically by Kenneth Posner.
This definitive production utilizes every trick, illusion and special effect – juggling, acrobats, hoops, bouncing balls, flying bodies, pole dancing, trapeze artistry and more to make this production outstanding. Everything moves the story along while amazing us every two seconds by its ingenuity. And I haven’t even gotten to the cast.
And what an exceptional cast it is to tell the simple story of a boy looking for his rightful place in life – his “corner of the sky”. It’s a coming of age story told within the framework of a group of circus performers headed by the Leading Player (Patina Miller) somewhat influenced by Fellini and Fosse – the original director/choreographer. Chet Walker has reinterpreted Bob Fosse’s moves with its trademark hands and sinuous, sensual gyrating hips faithfully and added his own razzle dazzle.
The boy is Pippin (an adorable sweet voiced and strong matinee idol Matthew James Thomas), son of Charlemagne (Terrence Mann) and his conniving stepmother Fastrada (Charlotte d’Amboise) who wants her dim-witted son Lewis (Erik Altemus) on the throne.
Throughout his journey Pippin deals with war and sex and politics and a love that he shares with Catherine (a stellar, poignant Rachael Bay Jones) a simple widow and her son Theo (Andrew Cekala). Will Pippin finally discover that a simple life with his new chosen family is what matters most or will he succumb to the taunts of the circus people to jump into the fire of the finale?
Pippin also has a feisty, still very attractive grandmother – Berthe – played by the feisty and still very attractive and very funny Andrea Martin who stops the show midway through the first act getting a standing ovation for her incredible fearless and seemingly effortless performance of “No Time at All” aloft on a trapeze and hanging upside down while getting the audience to sing along. It is the best performance on Broadway and will be one of the many moments that you will remember from this PIPPIN including a talking decapitated head (Colin Cunliffe).
Ben Vereen became a star with his original portrayal of the Leading Player. The gender has been changed but the star power remains. Patina Miller has stepped into the role making it her own with her incandescent smile and in control spunk, belting out her numbers with an edgy cynical meanness caressed with charm.
You will have the best time ever at this extraordinary production of PIPPIN now at The Music Box on 45th Street. You may even want to run away and join a circus.
www.PippinTheMusical.com Photos: Joan Marcus
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