Sunday, February 22, 2015

"Pippin" is Full of Magic

The beloved musical gives audiences a taste of theater at both extremes

Photo Courtesy of Hennepin Theater Trust

I don't know about you, but when I see live theater (especially musical theater), I want to be blown away by magic.

There's something about watching Mary Poppins "fly" over an audience, or a Beast change into a Prince before your eyes, that brings a little more wonder into the world, and it's something we could all use more of.

Pippin delivers plenty of wonder, told through the story of a boy finding his way in the world. Pippin fights in the crusades, murders his father and wanders the earth, desperately searching for the key to happiness. What will bring Pippin satisfaction? It's not lust, war, or glory; instead, contentment is found in a life of working with one's hands, caring for others, and otherwise focusing on simple things. By making light of extraordinarily dark subject matter (crusades? patricide? elitism?), Pippin gently guides us an actual happy ending; it may not be what we expected, but it's better for that.

The number of spectacular effects to be found in Pippin is too large to list here; instead I can say that although this story sounds ordinary, the cast goes out of its way to bring (literal) magic to us all. Pippin is also remarkable for allowing audiences a glimpse behind the masque; the show ends with the illusion of theater being stripped away, and all we see is a theaterfull of possibility.

Photo Courtesy of Hennepin Theater Trust
There are some spectacular voices among the cast members, in particular Sasha Allen (a former competitor on The Voice). Allen could carry any show, but her lithely acrobatic singing really pushes Pippin forward; she is of a rare caliber and beyond worth going to see. Her work in "Glory" and "On the Right Track" is chilling in the best way.

Another standout is Minnesota native Kristine Reese (formerly seen here on stage in Wicked). Reese has a surprising voice, and lends charm to a role that otherwise could be relatively uninteresting.

Priscilla Lopez is an audience favorite as Pippin's grandmother Berthe. The sneakiest star, however, is John Rubinstein as King Charles; not only is he fabulous in the role of the powerful king, but he is also the original Pippin from the show's first run in 1972. He's wonderful and I only wish he were a more present part of the second act.

Costumes and sets strike a balance between a Holy Grail and burlesque circus show vibe. It shouldn't work, but it does; there is so much to look at, so much surprising detail that you can't help but get caught up in it all. I would recommend trying to get seats in the center of the theater if you can so you can see all of the action, but it's a spectacular show either way.

Photo Courtesy of Hennepin Theater Trust

A little Monty Python, a little Gilbert and Sullivan, a little Cirque du Soleil, and a whole lot of heart, Pippin is a spectacular revival and I highly recommend it. People of any age can enjoy it, but I think it's especially fit for those who have lost their wonder and need a little help with inspiration. Click here for more information about the show and buying tickets.