BWW Interview: Actor Brian Flores Talks PIPPIN
Broadway musical revival PIPPIN is about one young man's search for his place in life. The song and dance show is based on two real life individuals, Charlemagne and his illegitimate son Pippin, but it is not necessarily historically accurate. Quite frankly, it is historically inaccurate. But that's not the point. We are all descendants of Charlemagne and, like Pippin, we are all his illegitimate sons. (Yes, that metaphor stretched me like taffy, but the point is valid. PIPPIN is a coming-of-age tale that relates to us all.) Plus, the re-imagined PIPPIN is a four-time Tony Award-winner that features choreography by the legendary Bob Fosse, circus acts, and a new emotionally satisfying ending that scintillates audiences just as much as the daring, high-flying stuntwork performed by the talented cast.
BroadwayWorld.com talks to actor Brian Flores, Pippin in the flesh. Fresh out of school himself, the young actor schools us on Pippin and PIPPIN.
BroadwayWorld.com: How's the run going? How are audiences responding to the show so far?
Brian Flores: It's great. PIPPIN is set apart from something like THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA or THE LION KING because not many people know the story. They're familiar with PIPPIN. They know it is a musical from the 70s. And maybe they know that it's Bob Fosse. But they don't know what the story of PIPPIN is about. So when they come to the show and see this new, reimagined concept with the circus and all the spectacle, then also experience the story that is PIPPIN and just go on the journey with us, I think that they're surprised. It's something that they didn't expect.
I read that this is your professional theatre debut and you graduated this past May. How surreal is that?
Oh my gosh! It's crazy. I still have to take a step back every now and then to just appreciate where I am. I'm so incredibly grateful. We had a layoff a couple of weeks ago, and I was in New York visiting with a bunch of my [former] classmates. I heard a lot of: "It's the dream!" "It's so amazing!" It is. But it's also pretty intense.
I had three weeks to learn the show and then we were go, go, go, go, go every other week non-stop. I didn't have time to really appreciate everything that I'd learned. So it's totally surreal. And it's a once in a lifetime opportunity. It has, and it's going to sound so cliche, but it has taught me so much about myself. I am almost exactly in that place where Pippin is at the beginning of the show--he is fresh home from school and wants to conquer the world. And he is ready--I know, cliche.
It's not cliche at all. It's a coming-of-age story.
Yes! He's ready to find that corner of the sky. He's ready to find what he's meant to do, his place in the world, his meaning and fulfillment. Playing Pippin is definitely not easy but tapping into the character, I can relate. I just graduated school and I'm still trying to find who I really am. It's pretty close to home.
How different is it being in a professional Broadway tour versus training at theatre school?
It's surprisingly similar. I took so much of what I learned at school, the University of Michigan School of Music, Theatre & Dance, especially in the rehearsal process. My music theory. And I'd never taken a dance class before I went to Michigan, so when I had to dance I was clinging to all the dance classes trying to go back into my memory and remember everything. [Laughs]
In terms of being in the show, I think there are certain things, in doing a show like this, that you just can't teach in college--like 8 shows a week. You can't do 8 shows a week in college. That's a whole other beast. That's something that you don't think about in school. Even when you're growing up saying, "I want to be on Broadway," you don't realize--I didn't realize until I started--that you need to focus on longevity.
A castmate who started at the same time as me just said last night, "I counted how many shows we've done. We've done 61 so far." And we have however many hundred to go.
You have to learn how to navigate that and keep it super fresh and stay in the moment. There are a lot of people who pay to see the show and, if you're not feeling well, that's just part of the job. You can't phone it in. You have to give your 100 percent every single performance. That's something, I think, you can't teach in college.
That's a very nuanced answer and I think it's encouraging to a lot of theatre majors. They'll use their training even though professional theater is a step up or there are levels --
Absolutely. If you're going into theatre and if you're passionate about it, the next step is just another learning experience. Doing different shows is like doing different classes for school. You're learning and learning and you'll never stop learning.
OK, so I have one more question--there might be a few audience members on the fence. Why don't you tell them a few of your favorite things (about PIPPIN)?
If you're looking for a classic musical with a great story, wonderful plot and amazing characters--PIPPIN has that. But this production also has this added element of circus and spectacle that you can't understand until you go to a performance and see it. Once the Kabuki curtain drops and you see the picture of all of these acrobats flying through the air on trapezes, hula hooping and juggling, it's spectacular.
So if you're looking for a night of theatre that is incredibly entertaining, you're going to get that. But you're also going to leave the theatre feeling inspired and like you've just seen a great piece of theatre.
PIPPIN runs October 20-25 at The Hobby Center. For more information, please visit houston.broadway.com/.