Friday, April 26, 2013

Pippin @ The Music Box Theatre


                 Just over 40 years after its original run, Pippin makes a colorful return to Broadway for 2013, with a fresh new look. Set in a circus tent, the production takes a magical new twist to the classic musical. With illusions, tricks, stunts, and acrobatics throughout the show, it is an experience that feels both relevant and modern. This new production pays homage to its roots, with choreographer Chet Walker (a cast member  of the 1972 production) recreating Fosse's original choreography. However it still feels fresh, current, and original with the addition of circus director Gypsy Snider's phenomenal visual feats. The Players are made of equal parts dancers and acrobats, so there is always something incredible and beautiful to look at onstage. It wouldn't be Pippin without the signature "Fosse style" of dance, which now almost looks like it was made to go alongside trapeze artists and contortionists.  "The Manson Trio," one of Fosse's most well known pieces of choreography, is recreated in its entirety, but now instead using male dancers behind the Leading Player. Every single moment contains outstanding visuals, with Players performing amazing acts unlike those seen on the Broadway stage before. Trapeze work, Aerial Silks, lifts, and flips are woven into the classic choreography to create beautiful imagery for the stage.   

               Pippin's main cast, made of both Broadway Mainstays and Newcomers, are what brings the production together as a whole. Matthew James Thomas(Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) is an extremely likable Pippin. He brings a humble quirkiness to the character that makes one fall in love with him almost immediately, and  his pop-style vocals give an unique twist to Stephen Schwartz's score. He is just awkward enough that it is endearing, stumbling and stammering his way through the first act, and the audience bursts into cheers once Thomas reveals serious dance skills early in Act Two.  Although it is not a new concept, Patina Miller(Sister Act) shines as the Leader Player, a role usually portrayed by a man. She commands the stages from the moment the words "Join us" leave her lips at the top of the show. Miller's ease onstage is reminiscent of Ben Vereen's portrayal, with a graceful feminine twist as the circus' Ringmaster. She makes the perfect opposite to Thomas; the two work off of one another to create moments that are both humorous and intriguing, especially in the Act Two opener "On the Right Track." Husband-and-Wife Broadway veteran team Terrence Mann(Beauty and the Beast) and Christine d'Amboise(Carrie) portray King and Queen duo Charles and Fastrada. Mann brings wit to the usually dry role, and d'Amboise's dancing is captivating. Andrea Martin(Young Frankenstein) as Berthe is the stand out of the veteran cast; she steals the show during her song "No Time at All," bringing both some laughs as well as few surprises (which you need to see to believe!).

            What this revival achieves, and what sets it apart from most other productions, is that it has successfully made the entire show both enjoyable and entertaining. Songs that are usually not as favored by audiences, like "Extraordinary"  are now show-stoppers.  "Morning Glow," the Act One Finale, is more powerful than ever before. Each new song outdoes the last, which is no easy task. From the colorful set and costumes, to the strength of its cast, to Schwartz's classic score, Pippin is a production that is meant to be seen by all audiences, both young and old. It is a spectacle, to say the very least. Pippin is the kind of production that will make young audiences fall in love with live theatre, as well as remind seasoned theatergoers why they fell in love so long ago.

Review By: Kelcie Kosberg

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