To say that the national tour of the Tony Award-winning Broadway musical “Pippin” is magical would be an understatement. This electrifying musical combines color, acrobatics and the captivating essence of live theater all in one show.
The original 1972 production of “Pippin,” directed by Bob Fosse and written by Roger Hirson with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, has been transformed into a circus-inspired revival.
“Pippin” tells the story of a young prince, following him through his journey to find his “corner of the sky,” or the meaning of his existence.
The national tour features Sasha Allen, one of the top five finalists from the fourth season of NBC’s “The Voice,” as the charismatic Leading Player. Sam Lips, understudy for Prince Topher in Rodgers and Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” on Broadway, as Pippin.
John Rubinstein, who originated the role of Pippin in the 1972 original Broadway production, joins the national tour playing King Charles, Pippin’s father. Priscilla Lopez, another original “Pippin” veteran who played Fastrada in the 1973 production, returns to play the role of Berthe, Pippin’s granny. Also, Kristine Reese, from the national tour of “Wicked,” plays Catherine, Pippin’s love interest.
From the opening number “Magic to Do,” as a single spotlight enlarges the silhouette of the Leading Player and the ensemble sings “oohs” harmoniously, audiences are welcomed to join the Leading Player and her circus troupe as they help tell the story of Pippin.
As acrobats fly, flip and are thrown across the stage, you immediately begin to feel like you are watching a Cirque du Soleil performance. No matter which corner of the stage your eye gravitates toward, there is a different trick or stunt being performed.
Allen, filling the same shoes of Tony Award winner Patina Miller for her portrayal as the Leading Player in the Broadway revival production, meets all expectations, using her powerhouse vocals and fierce characteristics to sell the role of such a manipulative character. From her captivating entrance in “Magic to Do” to her raspy tone in “Glory,” Allen’s vocal range and talent gave her character a strong presence. In particular, Allen’s performance in “On the Right Track” showed off both her dance skills and her impressive singing voice.
Rubinstein made King Charles a humorous character, providing comedic relief throughout Act One. Lopez shocked audiences during “No Time at All” with her ability to not only sing and dance, but to successfully master the trapeze, while also singing upside down.
However, Lips’ portrayal as Pippin wasn’t completely up to par with his supporting cast members. Although there were many moments throughout the show that Lips managed to hit insanely high notes and stay true to his character, there were some moments in which he vocally struggled and occasionally overacted.
The acrobatic ensemble members clearly impressed the audience with gravity defying tricks and stunts. From hand balancers and contortionists to hula hoop tricks and trapeze artists, the amount of acrobatic talent from the ensemble members was unbelievable.
A couple of JCU students, who attended a performance of “Pippin,” shared their thoughts and opinions on the show.
Sophomore Emily Koritzer said, “Allen did a fantastic job as the Leading Player. I was on the edge of my seat for the entire show. The acrobatics were breathtaking and the ongoing activity onstage made the show incredibly entertaining.”
The most talked about aspect of “Pippin” among the audience was the finale. Although this may be a spoiler alert for those who have not yet seen the show, the finale is unlike any other musical ending, adding thematic depth and raw emotion to the show. The genius behind completely stripping the stage down to absolutely nothing served as a bold statement to the underlying moral of the story.
“I am very happy that Theo [Catherine’s son] stayed to create his own extraordinary life with the troupe,” said sophomore Brian Holler. “It was very touching that even though Pippin wasn’t sure of what life had in store at the beginning of the show, he realized that love is what can make one’s life rewarding. Overall, the show had an interesting ending with a good message.”
Particularly in the finale, the theme that materialism, wealth and fame may serve as appealing facets in life is overthrown by the simple joys of a realistic lifestyle without costumes, lights and magic.