Review: Pippin

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"Pippin" is an awesome theatrical extravaganza on TPAC's Jackson Hall stage March 10 - 15.

Pippin (March 10 – 15; Ages 14 and older)
TPAC’s Broadway Series at Jackson Hall
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
782-4040 • tpac.org
Show times: Tue – Thu 7:30 p.m., Fri 8 p.m., Sat 2 and 8 p.m., Sun 1 and 6:30 p.m.
Tickets: $42.50 – $82.50

A fabulous feat of musical theater is alive on TPAC’s Jackson Hall stage this week with the current Broadway touring production of Pippin. The tour is based on the 2013 revival of the Tony Award-winning musical that first hit the Great White Way in 1972, featuring music/lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (whose other big musical hits include Godspell and Wicked) and a book by Roger O. Hirson.

Director Diane Paulus orchestrates an amazing work of epic theater that includes memorable music, magical acts, acrobatics and cirque elements … thanks to the contributions of Choreographer Chet Walker (a Bob Fosse protege) and Gypsy Snider (of the Montreal-based troupe Les 7 doigts de la main; Snider’s contribution is the show’s circus element).

The dazzling show’s spectacular staging includes exquisite costumes by Dominque Lemieux and a colorful scenic design courtesy of Scott Pask. An extremely talented and spry cast of “Players” includes aerial artists and acrobats who deliver several jaw-dropping “WOW!” moments all throughout the show, adding lots of unforgettable moments alongside the talented cast of actors.

The actors come with a bevy of collective Broadway credentials, including John Rubinstein who delightfully portrays Pippin’s father, Charles. A fascinating note about Rubinstein: he originated the title role of Pippin in the show’s original Broadway production in 1972! As Charles, Rubinstein brings a lot of energy and humor to the stage.

Sam Lips as Pippin.

Sam Lips as Pippin.

In this production of Pippin, Sam Lips is in the lead role, and his youthful charm perfectly captures the perplexities of his character’s dynamic in seeking purpose in life. Despite a couple of pitch problems in musical numbers, Lips is a robust tenor, and his talent is evident in songs like “Corner of the Sky” and “Extraordinary.”

An interesting component of Pippin is that it does something rare in a theatrical show — it breaks the fourth wall, meaning members of the cast speak to the audience directly as a way of invitation. Sasha Allen does this right from the start in her role as Leading Player with the catchy opening number, “Magic to Do.” As the Leading Player who “directs” the troupe’s activities on stage, Allen is a remarkable talent in this arena with a powerful stage presence that includes a dynamic vocal prowess and precise movement in carrying out the Fosse-inspired choreography. If her name sounds familiar, it’s because she made it to the Top 5 in Season 4 of NBC’s The Voice, and she made her Broadway debut as Dionne in Hair.

Other standout performances include Sabrina Harper as the limber Fastrada; Kristine Reese who infuses a lot of passion and powerhouse vocals to her role as Catherine; young Lucas Schultz as Catherine’s son, Theo; and Priscilla Lopez as Pippin’s effervescent, feisty grandmother, Berthe. This 67-year-old Tony Award winner (Best Featured Actress in 1980 for her role in A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine) shows no signs of slowing down given her show-stopping performance of “No Time at All,” complete with her own impressive aerial acrobatics!

At the center of this awesome theatrical extravaganza is the heartfelt story of Pippin’s quest to find fulfillment in a life that he envisions should be something grandiose. By the end, he realizes that a seemingly plain, ordinary life filled with love is, in fact, quite extraordinary.

Parents, keep in mind the ages and sensitivities of your kids if you’re considering an outing to see Pippin. There’s a good bit of overtly sexual themes that vividly play out in a couple of scenes, hence the suggestion that this one’s best suited for ages 14 and older.

 

Chad Young is the managing editor and arts/entertainment editor for this publication.

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