BWW Review: Ritzs PIPPIN beckons Come Join the Circus
A medieval fable that makes a giddy hodge-podge mix of bulging sexy circus acts, magic tricks, tuneful early-'70s pop-rock songs and comedy that runs the gamut from goofy and campy through grotesque and bawdy, Pippin shouldn't work, but it does.
Pippin is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Roger O. Hirson. Bob Fosse, who directed the original Broadway production, also contributed to the libretto. While many interpretations of Pippin have risen since its debut, there is no single correct explanation of the musical's meaning. The musical uses the premise of a mysterious performance troupe, led by a Leading Player, to tell the story of Pippin, a young prince on his search for meaning and significance.
In this production the protagonist Pippin (Blaze Dalio) and his father Charlemagne (Matthew Weil) are characters derived from two real-life individuals of the early Middle Ages, though the plot presents no historical accuracy regarding either. Leading the pack of ensemble players are Joanne Mullin McBride (Fastrada), Ellen Sheinkin as Bertha, Colin Rivell as Theo, Lauren Parsons (Catherine) and Andy Spinosi as Lewis. All are outstanding in their respective roles. Franklin Anthony slithers and dazzles as the "Fossesque " Leading Player.
The ensemble cast tells the story of Pippin, a young prince who longs to find passion and adventure in his life. To prove his loyalty to his distracted father, King Charles, Pippin goes to war. But when the Leading Player convinces the prince to fight tyranny, Pippin kills Charles and takes over the throne.
Artistic Director Bruce Curless seemingly has a ball conjuring up this troupe of circus performers teasing out the wandering nature of the mysterious players and focuses on the physicality of the story. Pippin Director and Choreographer Brian Rivell shows incredible creativity while also managing to connect the intricate dance styles of the late Fosse. Sets designed also by Curless lend themselves to a dark mysterious back alley of a bawdy burlesque and sideshow.
Schwartz's score is spellbinding to Pippin followers and somewhat a mystery to others featuring the "Corner of the Sky" which becomes Pippin's story theme. Other fine offering are "Magic To Do", "Glory", "No Time At All". The talented 6 piece live pit musicians are beautifully up for the challenge as well. Sound and Lighting by Matthew Gallagher and Jen Donsky respectively is spot on and costumes by Tina Marie Heinze are superb!
PIPPIN plays at the Ritz Theatre, Haddon Township, NJ through November 19th. For ticket s and more information visit www.ritztheatreco.org or call 856.858.5230
Photos By Chris Miller