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"Pippin" Is Revived at The Music Box
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"Pippin" Is Revived at The Music Box

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Barry and Fran Weissler, Howard and Janet Kagan
et al.
Present:

The American Repertory Theater production of
Pippin
(Pippin Website)
Book by Roger O. Hirson
Music & Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

Starring:
Matthew James Thomas, Stephanie Pope
Terrence Mann, Charlotte D’Amboise, Rachel Bay Jones
And
Andrea Martin

And an ensemble of actors, singers, dancers

Directed by Diane Paulus
Choreography by Chet Walker, in style of Bob Fosse

At
The Music Box
239 West 45th Street
A Shubert Organization Theatre
212.239.6200

Circus Creation by Gypsy Snider
Music Supervision & Arrangements by Nadia DiGiallonardo
Orchestrations by Larry Hochman

Scenic Design: Scott Pask
Costume Design: Dominique Lemieux
Lighting Design: Kenneth Posner
Sound Design: Jonathan Deans and Garth Helm
Illusions: Paul Kieve
Fire Effects: Chic Silber
Flying Effects: ZFX, Inc.
Technical Supervisor: Jake Bell
Design Supervisor: Edward Pierce
Advertising: SpotCo
Music Director: Charlie Alterman
Music Coordinator: John Miller
Casting: Duncan Stewart/Benton Whitley
Assoc. Producer: James L. Simon
Press Representatives: Boneau/Bryan-Brown
Assoc. Director/Production Stage Manager: Nancy Harrington
Company Manager: Jeff Klein
Exec. Producer: Alecia Parker
General Manager: BJ Holt

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
May 2, 2013


I vaguely remembered Ben Vereen as the early 70’s Leading Player in Pippin, and I was looking forward to Patina Miller, who wowed the audience in Sister Act, but, as it happens on Broadway, Stephanie Pope was Leading Player tonight, due to Ms. Miller’s injury. Ms. Pope was transfixing and compelling, in her all-black, skin-tight stretch pants and muscle-framing costume. She was all seriousness in this expansive fantasy show, produced inside a circus tent. This was like Cirque du Soleil with a bit more depth and a lot more dance. In fact, this Pippin is a family styled show with magical, mesmerizing, monumental tricks of astounding proportions. Thanks to Gypsy Snider and Les 7 Doigts de la Main, acrobats join the actors in solo, ensemble, and combination feats of climbing and balancing on rolling stacks of barrels, hanging from pointed feet, en air, lots of tumbling into hoops, jumping on shoulders, and much more that happened too quickly on a busy stage to describe. A couple of plots are threaded into the action, with Matthew James Thomas as Pippin, who stabs his own father, King Charles (Terrence Mann), aka Charlemagne, in Medieval madness, to take over the Kingdom. A plotting Queen, Fastrada (Charlotte D’Amboise), adds edge.

Adding to the family mayhem is Pippin’s grandmother, Berthe (Andrea Martin), who has one show-stopping number, “No Time At All”, that has her shedding the wig and hanging in muscle-bound delight from the circus ropes. She sings all the while, but it’s her miraculous athleticism that steals the stage. Another tightly inserted story, inside this big tent spectacle, involves the poignant romantic coupling of Pippin and Catherine (Rachel Bay Jones). Catherine, a widow, lives with a child, Theo, who wants a father, and Pippin is finally drawn in. But, what the audience awaits and what the audience cheers for are the many minutes of sheer acrobatics, peppered with pop-driven vocals. Fastrada’s “Spread a Little Sunshine” was a memorable number, as well as Pippin’s “Corner of the Sky”. Pippin and Catherine’s “Love Song” was also eloquent. Yet, it was Ms. Martin’s theatrically showcased song that sizzled most. Stephen Schwartz wrote music and lyrics. Roger Hirson’s book is thin and sketchy, but, in this American Repertory Theater production, it worked fine. What worked more than fine was the estimable Bob Fosse’s stylized choreography, re-created by Chet Walker. It’s not the ensemble dance that I left with, as the stage was filled with ropes and landings, but Ms. Pope’s solo dance, so powerful, so brimming with pizzazz. That hat, that cane, those legs, that gaze. Ms. Pope was a star born in the moment.

Diane Paulus meshed music, storyline, and mind-boggling circus acts in seamless sensation. She directed for dynamic, propulsive effect. This show was like the Macy’s July 4th Fireworks, if they could sing and talk. Scott Pask’s circus tent, all midnight blue and black with yellow lights and a big open top, dazzled, and his Act II romantic abode for Catherine and Pippin was enchanting. Kenneth Posner’s lighting maximized the magic of Paul Kieve’s illusions. Dominique Lemieux’s costumes were resplendent, especially Ms. Martin’s, for her sparkly, show-stopping scene. Chic Silber created some gripping fire effects, and ZFX, Inc. created the flying effects. Larry Hochman’s orchestrations and Nadia DiGiallonardo’s arrangements filled the eye-catching antics with melody. The ensemble of circus-styled athletes was wildly entertaining, pulling off dazzling and daring en air feats. This production of Pippin is robust and rousing. The stage actors and plot are ornamental to the merriment. Kudos to Bob Fosse, whose incomparable inspiration is inherent throughout.









For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at zlokower@bestweb.net