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The PIPPIN Thread

Who has seen it? It sounds absolutely stunning and brilliant.

Diane Paulus is clearly the next Julie Taymor (pre-Spiderman).

Thoughts?

by Anonymousreply 1704/27/2013

The Times gave it a very mixed review.

Said it has always been a flimsy show that needs a cast busy distracting you from that fact.

by Anonymousreply 104/26/2013

Can someone cut and paste the Times review? I ran out of free articles this month and still haven't forgiven them for Judith Miller.

by Anonymousreply 204/26/2013

I saw it on the 14th of March. It was lots of fun, very 'circusy', some nice eye candy, but overall....it fell flat....especially the uneventful ending. The over-the-top gymnastics were, as r1 said, distractions .... Distractions from the show's lack of soul.

Their were a couple of dance routines that were ridiculously silly and trite. There were some outrageously wonderful numbers too. Too much talent to merit only 6/10.

by Anonymousreply 304/26/2013

USA Today gives it four stars:

Diane Paulus and her gifted cast offer thrills, chills and poignance in this exuberant revival ... a combination of epic theater, burlesque and soulful spectacle that recaptures the show's shiny allure and its poignance while making it seem entirely fresh.

by Anonymousreply 404/26/2013

[quote]Who has seen it? It sounds absolutely stunning and brilliant. Diane Paulus is clearly the next Julie Taymor (pre-Spiderman). Thoughts?

That you work in their publicity office?

by Anonymousreply 504/26/2013

What do I have to do to make you love me?

This plea throbs as a subtext in every musical that’s made it to Broadway. That is, after all, the impulse that gets actors out of bed in the morning. But the question has seldom been posed as nakedly and aggressively as it is in Diane Paulus’s revival of “Pippin,” which opened on Thursday night at the Music Box Theater.

Perhaps you’re tired of the plain old song and dance that many big-ticket shows give you. The performers in this hard-driving production of Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson’s 1973 musical fable can of course sing and dance (and “in the style of Bob Fosse,” to boot, as the program puts it).

They also hang by their toes from perilous heights, fly through the air, balance on wobbly towers of cylinders, vault over long rows of medicine balls and, oh, lots of other courage- and agility-testing things. These folks will jump through hoops for you, literally, and the hoops keep getting higher and higher.

As for the 99-pound musical that’s at the center of this muscle-bound circus — the one about the starry-eyed son of Charlemagne who has a bad case of a Middle Ages identity crisis — it’s there, too, if you choose to look for it. And if you choose not to, that’s fine. You can just sit back and let this exhaustingly energetic team work you over until you’re either all tingly or all numb.

With its bubbly pop score and a young title character (played here by Matthew James Thomas) in earnest search of his place in the world, “Pippin” has become a natural favorite of community and school theaters. Yet it was originally perceived, rightly, as a work in need of camouflage, a skeleton that requires savvy stagecraft to give it flesh. Reviewing the show in The New York Times four decades ago, Clive Barnes described it as “a trite and uninteresting story with aspirations to a seriousness that it never for one moment fulfills.”

And yet Barnes, like countless New Yorkers (and a teenage tourist who became this critic), loved the show. That’s because “Pippin” had met its ideal, galvanizing Dr. Frankenstein in the director and choreographer Bob Fosse. Just how Fosse turned “Pippin” into a hit has since become the subject of endless lore and analysis. Few productions have been so completely stamped with one man’s custom-made seal.

This imprimatur didn’t come exclusively from the sinuous yet angular dancing that made Fosse the most easily identified choreographer of his day. It was also shaped by his love-hate relationship with showbiz, and his vast knowledge of the tricks of the trade.

This was a man who described performers as attention-starved whores and grifters. But how he admired the art of the scam, when it was executed to perfection. Led by Ben Vereen, Fosse’s “Pippin” was a hot and seriously cool seduction of an audience. Barnes said of his staging, “It takes a painfully ordinary little show and launches it into space.”

Theatrical space launchings require heavier equipment these days. Ms. Paulus’s “Pippin” is in its way a natural extension of Fosse’s, pushing the musical from seduction into sensory assault. This is a “Pippin” for the 21st century, when it takes more than style to hold the attention of a restless, sensation-hungry audience.

So when she reinvented the show for the Americ

by Anonymousreply 604/26/2013

R5 = douchebag

by Anonymousreply 704/26/2013

R5 = truthteller

by Anonymousreply 804/26/2013

Kathie Lee & Hoda saw it & loved it.

by Anonymousreply 904/26/2013

Truthteller, R8? Right. OP must be working in a publicity office because he asked a question. That makes tons of sense.

by Anonymousreply 1004/26/2013

R9, they must work at the Publicity Office.

by Anonymousreply 1104/26/2013

thanks, r6!

by Anonymousreply 1204/26/2013

[quote]Kathie Lee & Hoda saw it & loved it.

Kathie Lee liking any theater is the kiss of death to me.

by Anonymousreply 1304/26/2013

Sorry, R5, I do not work in the publicity office. I'm on the other coast, in fact. I will confess that I've worked with Diane (and Julie, too), and am excited by her recent successes.

I'm just cheering from the sidelines.

by Anonymousreply 1404/26/2013

Bette got raves. What about the show Ann? How is it doing?

by Anonymousreply 1504/26/2013

So when she reinvented the show for the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., where she is the artistic director, Ms. Paulus decided to add awe-inspiring gymnastics, overseen by Gypsy Snider, of the Montreal circus troupe Les 7 Doigts de la Main. To best show off the antics of Ms. Snider’s acrobats — who are, by the way, pretty astonishing — the show has been given a busy big-top setting (by Scott Pask, with lighting by Kenneth Posner) and costumes (by Dominique Lemieux) that emphasize muscle tone. This is also a “Pippin” for the age of the gym bunny.

Fosse’s original dancing is evoked, largely stripped of its sensuality, by the choreographer Chet Walker. Even when it’s executed by a body as supple and sexy as that of Charlotte d’Amboise, it’s not the main event. And the connection between storytelling and style, between performer and self-expression, is only occasionally in evidence.

Ms. Paulus’s “Pippin” is often fun (with an exclamation point), but it’s almost never stirring in the way her Tony-winning revival of “Hair” was. Only one moment, centered on Andrea Martin as the title character’s grandmother, achieves that kind of transcendence. And I would argue that in courting its audience, this “Pippin” is ultimately more cynical than Fosse’s.

Consider, for example the Leading Player, who guides us through the show-within-the-show portraying Pippin’s coming of age. As played by Patina Miller (the star of “Sister Act”), she’s a pretty cold customer, deeply proficient and as hard and shiny as Lucite. Her smile is more confrontational than invitational, and we never glimpse the likable, fallible human beneath the polish, as we did with Mr. Vereen.

It’s nice to see the real-life husband and wife team Terrence Mann (as Pippin’s father, Charlemagne) and Ms. d’Amboise (as the scheming queen Fastrada) enjoying themselves together onstage. But whether cracking (deliberately) hoary jokes or shimmying Fosse-style, they’re pushing a little too hard at this point.

First played by John Rubinstein as a hippie without a cause, Pippin has been reconceived as a more contemporary, though still passive, emblem of innocence. Mr. Thomas — who has the face, haircut and voice of a tween-dream boy-band singer — suggests Pippin as Bieber in Wonderland. He’s likable, though, in part because he so often looks overwhelmed, and it’s easy for the audience to empathize.

Rachel Bay Jones is Catherine, the young widow (and the not-so-young actress who plays her), who sets her cap at Pippin in the second act. She gives heart to the show-within-the-show shtick, and she creates a two-level character that you root for and care about.

Of all the cast members who aren’t acrobats, though, it’s the veteran comic actress Ms. Martin who truly scales the heights. Berthe, Pippin’s foxy granny, has only one big song and scene to call her own, but, boy does she own it. And while it would be a rotten spoiler to describe how she does it, I can say that her scene is the one that best combines Ms. Paulus’s dazzling big-top concept with Fosse’s more intimate sense of showbiz troupers making love to an audience.

Did you know, by the way, that there was another, much earlier show called “Pippin”? It opened in 1870 at Niblo’s Garden, with the subtitle “The King of the Gold Mines.” Otherwise, at least according to the genre classification given by the Internet Broadway Database, it sounds awfully familiar. It is described not just as a mere musical but as a “burlesque, extravaganza, spectacle.”

Maybe I was rash in describing Ms. Paulus’s production as a “Pippin” for the 21st century. Its MO is as old as that of Niblo’s Garden or for that matter the bread and circuses of the Roman Colosseum, crowd-pleasing show business as usual.

by Anonymousreply 1604/26/2013

BB = douchebag

by Anonymousreply 1704/27/2013
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