The very successful Tony Award winning revival of 1973’s Broadway smash Pippen has taken to the road and is easily one of this season’s best offerings.
In the first ten minutes you will understand why Pippin won Best Revival of a Musical. I have to admit I was a bit nervous. Several shows in my recent memory have started with an amazing opening only to never regain the momentum of that opening number again (Priscilla, queen of the Dessert). But Pippin never loses steam.
The show is seemingly based on life of Middle Ages King Charlemagne and his son Pippin, however, the similarity pretty much ends with their names. Pippin is about so much more. It is not really about Charlemagne or his war against anyone that was not Christian. Though that is covered. Pippin is about the son of the King who is looking for something more, his purpose if I can borrow from Avenue Q.
Pippin one of 2015's very best - Photo by Terry-Shapiro.
While the first act is heavy on variety show entertainment and light on story act two brings the story home brilliantly. Pippin wants to do more, to be more. Pippin is a tale about the search for a life of meaning and all the trappings we think will give us purpose, but somehow never do. In the end and in quite dramatic fashion Pippin and we the audience are asked to examine a life without all the trappings, a life without all the things that we think make it better. We are asked to think about the real value of all of these things vs. our perception of their value to us on the path to being more.
Pippin was nominated for 11 Tony’s its inaugural year on Broadway taking home five some forty years ago. The revival of Pippin in 2013 was nominated for ten and took home four. Music and Lyrics by Steven Schwartz whose credits include Godspell, Rags & Wicked among many others tend to be reminiscent of seventies pop music at times and that is not a bad thing. The music is light and fun. Bob Fosse who directed the original Broadway incarnation is constantly present in the incredible choreography.
Sasha Allen Shines in Pippin.
Sasha Allen who made it into the top 5 in Season 4 of The Voice is incomparable as the lead player. She is the ring master of this circus if you will. Oh, did I forget to mention that Pippin’s entire life takes place in a circus big top complete with some incredible Cirque Du Soleil type performances.
Allen as the ring leader is on stage more often than not and while she dominates when she sings or speaks, she also seamlessly can move into the background while never leaving the stage allowing others in the cast to have their moment. Her voice is powerful whether she is singing or speaking. Allen is a powerhouse entertainer and an amazing triple threat. Allen breaks the forth wall as she periodically will speak with the audience about what is taking place on stage.
Sam Lips is playing Pippin in the Metroplex run of the show and while his voice was incomparable I found his pippin a bit hammy, though that maybe what he was going for. This show plays a bit silly at times, reminding me a bit of Spamalot. He was covering for Matthew James Thomas who will return to the role after the DFW run.
Adrienne Barbeau in Pippin - Photo by Sara Hanna.
Also filling in for the North Texas run is Maude’s Adrienne Barbeau. While her part as Pippin’s Grandmother is not a huge part Barbeau is a show highpoint performing “No Time at All’ while performing acrobatics dangly often upside down from a trapeze some thirty feet above the stage. This role will be played by Lucy Arnaz again after the North Texas run and by original Broadway cast member Andrea Martin when the tour lands in California.
Pippin is a must see. The precision of Bob Fosse’s choreography, the stunning stunts and acrobatics of the cast and the incredible talents of Lead Player Sasha Allen and the amazing performance by Adrienne Barbeau are not to be missed.
Pippin Plays Fort Worth’s Bass Hall through Sunday. Tickets are $44.-110 and are available at http://www.basshall.com/ Also, grab tickets now for Kinky Boots in October and Book of Mormon in December. Together with Pippin they round out my top three of 2015.
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