I now blog over at The Eyre Guide! This blog is an archive of my past posts.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Pippin: the Musical

Posted by Charlene // Tags: , ,
I feel like this show is really popular with the hardcore musical fans, but I've never seen it or heard the music (except for a couple songs)... until now.  I saw it on tour in LA, twice now and I have to say, it's a fantastic show.  Comparing some clips from the original 1972 production to this new revival version, they really brightened it up and made it more of a spectacle which means it's a great show to see live. There are actual circus performers and some really cool acrobatics.  Oh yeah, and magic tricks!  This show is pretty much unlike anything I've ever seen - the concept is so unique, and the execution is brilliant.

Pippin starts out as a story being presented by a circus troupe, with the Leading Player setting the stage and the actors occasionally breaking the fourth wall.  And in one case, there is a sing a long with lyrics projected - so that definitely broke the fourth wall.  While I absolutely love the idea of such a stylized coming of age story being presented in a Brechtian manner (we're always aware that this is a show), I think the message of the show got a little muddled for me.  Pippin is a naive, unsophisticated youth, even though he is a prince, and throughout the show he's searching for some bigger meaning for himself.  And when he does find something special, he doesn't recognize it until the end because it's not extraordinary like he was hoping.  And him finally appreciating the ordinary I can completely agree with, but there is this underlying sense that he's giving up a lot to be 'ordinary', that he's "trapped but happy" and the Leading Player really looks down on him for it.  And that made me feel a little sad.  The show managed to end on a high note, but I still couldn't stop thinking that this show is a journey of self discovery with so many wonderful possibilities and Pippin kinda settles if he doesn't feel that what he has isn't extraordinary to himself.  Though seeing it the second time, I think it's a fitting ending for such a lavish show and I suppose that mirrors how the audience feels though, since after such a fantastic show, it's back to reality by the end.  This show has layers!

The L.A. tour featured two special performers - Andrea Martin (a legend!) who originated the Broadway revival role of Berthe and who was just fantastic.  She's a comedic genius, but also she's in amazing shape and performed some really difficult looking aerial acrobatics.  She's 67 years old guys.   And John Rubinstein played the father, King Charlemagne - and John originated the role of Pippin in 1972.  So cool! I was also thrilled that the original Pippin from the recent revival was in the role again because it's so great that both original Pippins are in the show!

The music is the highlight for me in this show - perfect, tuneful melodies - I'm obsessed with a handful of songs from the show now, but I'll only mention a couple here - "With You" which is a gorgeous romantic ballad with a satirical side that is not evident in the music and lyrics - it's only evident if you watch the show - but I completely disregard that side, because the music and lyrics are so sweepingly lovely, and I want to dwell on the romance of it.

Another song I want to mention is the opening number "Magic to Do" which is a wonderful piece.  Just from the opening chords there's this excitement brewing, and the energy of the number promises and delivers on that excitement.  The Tony Awards performance ends with their rendition of "Magic to Do" - after a performance of "Corner of the Sky" which is another fantastic song!  Oh my goodness, I'm obsessed with this show!  It's so funny and memorable and surprising and just plain exciting, and I love that that energy is put out there to be absorbed in a theatre.


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