If one were to ask me for a word that could describe Broadway In Chicago’s latest entry to their season, “Pippin”, that word would have to be SPECTACLE!. Maybe a few additional exclamation points to highlight just how special this new version of an old musical is. “Pippin” is an award winning show , a Tony Award winning show that is forty years old. It has been described as a “jaw-dropping” “Visually Stunning”, “Eye-popping” show, filled with magic, and surprises galore. The score by Stephen Schwartz (“Wicked” and “Godspell”) is not anything great, or even memorable, but for some eerie reason, as presented in this version, worked!
The book by Roger O. Hirson is the tale of a young Prince, “Pippin” (Sam Lips, who is an amazing multi-talented young man) is searching for a meaning to his existence. That is what our journey becomes for two and a half hours of music and mayhem. Will he find what he is seeking? Will the path he takes lead him to what one might call a hum-drum life? A happy life? Or will he have just one glorious moment and then be gone? Directed by Diane Paulus with unbelievable choreography by Chet Walker (who utilizes the stylings of Chicagoan Bob Fosse to perfection). Our story is told by the amazing Sasha Allen as she introduces us to all of the characters in a blaze of circus happenings- magic, tumbling, acrobatics, juggling, silks, trapeze and just about everything you might find at a Cirque Soliel performance (thanks to the works of one Gypsy Snider of the Montreal based company Les 7 doigts de la main , also known as 7 fingers).
This is performance Arts taken to a higher level. Yes, there is a story. One that is silly or inane, but one that allows us to sit for over two hours and never get bored. That is no easy task. The set is a circus tent filled with all types of circus tricks; knife throwing, disappearing people, people chopped in parts (during a battle scene) and countless other sight gags as well as magical moments. The songs such as “Love Song”, “Morning Glow”, “Glory”, “Magic To Do” all fit into the story line and yet only “Glory” is one that you might be familiar with. Near the end of the first act, you will join in on a sing along with Pippin’s grandmother, Berthe (remember Adrienne Barbeau from TV’s “Maude”, she is unreal in this performance getting a standing ovation for “No Time At All”)- WOW!.
Speaking of old time TV players, if you were a follower of the show “Family” you might remember John Rubenstein. Wait until you see this comedic actor sing and dance the role of Charles, Pippin’s dad! Another WOW! (even bigger as this is a far cry from what we are used to seeing him do). His wife is played by the lovely Sabrina Harper and her son, Pippin’s step-brother, Lewis is played by Erik Altemus. Catherine, the woman who might or might not change Pippin’s life ( I will not tell you where it goes) is handled by the sweet and lovely Kristine Reese and her son, Theo by Stephen Sayegh /alternate performances- Jake Berman.
A show like this, filled with circus performances and lots of quick changes is one where the ensemble is a key to the show being smooth as silk. This ensemble is up to the task: Andalousi, Bradley Benjamin, Dmitrious Bistrevsky, Kevin Langlois Boucher, Mark Burrell, Matthew DeGuzman, Sammy Dinneen, Henry Gottfried, Anna Kachalova, Lisa Karlin,Olga Karmansky Alan Kelly, Anna Schnaitter, Katie Smith, Kate Wesler and Boris York- solid talent with a variety of skills and abilities. If I were to rate this production based on the talent that appeared on the stage at The Cadillac Palace Theatre alone, it would have been a definite, but the overall story brings it down. I thank Broadway in Chicago as well for keeping the ticket prices affordable. They range from $27- $105 which is far less than people paid to see this show in New York. The production will continue through August 9th with performances as follows:
Wednesdays 7:30 p.m.
Thursdays at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Fridays 7:30 p.m.
Saturdays 2 and 8 p.m.
Sundays at 2 and 7:30 p.m.
Hard to believe that these performers can do what they do twice in one day- the energy level they had tonight was as high as I have ever seen on an opening night. And that of the audience was the same!
To purchase your tickets visit any of the Broadway In Chicago box offices, call the Broadway In Chicago Ticketline at 1-800-775-2000 or online at www.BroadwayInChicago.com. You can also follow the company on the road by visiting www.PippinTheMusical.com
To see what others are saying, visit www.theatreinchicago.com, go to Review Round-up and click at “Pippin”