Sunday, April 21, 2013

Pippin ****

(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
Seeing Diane Paulus's imaginative revival of Stephen Schwartz's 1972 musical about the coming of age of Charlemagne's son is almost like getting two shows for the price of one. She has cleverly chosen to enhance -- or, in the opinion of some, to distract from -- Roger D. Hirson's book by setting the action in a circus milieu, adding the prodigious talents of Les 7 Doigts de la main, a Montreal-based troupe similar to Cirque de Soleil. The circus sequences are breathtaking and are, for the most part, well-integrated into the book. The dance numbers choreographed by Chet Walker "in the style of Bob Fosse" are terrific, although they sometimes seem unrelated to the action. The cast is strong. Patina Miller has the unenviable job of following in Ben Vereen's footsteps as the Leading Player, but she is up to the task. British actor Matthew James Thomas is excellent in the title role. Charlotte d'Amboise, Terrence Mann and Rachel Bay Jones are all fine, but Andrea Martin steals the show as Berthe, Pippin's spritely grandmother. (She looks so great that it's almost impossible to believe that she's 66.) Scott Pask's set design and Dominique Lemieux's costumes are wonderful. The audience seemed largely composed of avid Pippin fans who burst into wild applause at every opportunity. Most of it was well-deserved. I had a good time. Running time: 2 hours, 30 minutes including intermission.

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