Diane Paulus’ reworked version of the musical “Pippin” is a visually appealing production that combines Cirque du Soleil/Big Top inspired theatrics along side Bob Fosse flavored choreography by Chet Walker. Originally directed and choreographed by the great Bob Fosse, Diane Paulus’ version won 4 Tony’s in 2013 including Best Musical Revival.
Pippin is a play within a play about a traveling theater company whose players tell the story of Prince Pippin (played by Brian Flores), son of Charlemagne (played by John Rubenstein, the original Pippin), who is trying to find meaning and purpose and desperately wants to live an extraordinary life.
Pippin’s search leads him down pointless paths. Wars, orgies, power, none of them satisfies his need to find the purpose he so desperately is looking for. Eventually ending up being nursed back to physical and mental health by a lovely young widow sweetly played by Bradley Benjamin (who Leading Player reminds is getting too old to keep playing that part) Pippin comes to realizations about what exactly is an extraordinary life.
The comedy is burlesque-like and the players have the camp and abilities to play it well. Gabrielle McClinton, as Leading Player, was strong and confident and wove the acts of the play within the play together. Flores (Pippin) as the inexperienced actor given the lead role of “Pippin” in the traveling theater company did a good job and was entertaining.
The other actors and supporting players played their parts incredibly well. The acrobatics choreographed by Les 7 doigts de la main (The 7 Fingers) are an amazing addition to this revamped play. Not only do the actors have to act, sing, and dance, at any given moment they may be performing a feat of balance that gives the audience a thrill and surprise. There were some incredible illusions and much to entertain. The choreography was great. Updated, sexy, humorous, but still keeping the same vibe that Bob Fosse originally gave the play.
The best moment of the evening went to Priscilla Lopez as Berthe, Pippin’s Grandmother. (Lopez was also a member of the original Pippin cast) Her turn in the spotlight during her song “No Time at All” was campy, energetic, ribald, and audience engaging. Her aerial skills were impressive and the act was hilarious. The audience loved moments when her character was on stage and involved.
This production is a great revival of the original play. Fosse would smile and say “It’s showtime, folks!”