The brilliant new production of "Pippin," a 1972 coming-of-age tale, boasts everything you could dream of in a musical - including Stephen Schwartz's terrifically tuneful songs - and a few things you couldn't even imagine.
PIPPIN Broadway Reviews
Reviews of Pippin on Broadway. See what all the critics had to say and see all the ratings for Pippin including the New York Times and More...
Ladies and gentlemen, step right up to the greatest show of the Broadway season: Diane Paulus's sensational cirque-noir revival of Pippin. Here, in all its grand and dubious glory, is musical-theater showmanship at its best, a thrilling evening of art and craftiness spiked with ambivalence about the nature of enthrallment. Chet Walker's dances, which retain the pelvic thrust of Bob Fosse's original choreography, are a viciously precise mockery of showbiz bump and grind, enacted by a sexy, sinister, improbably limber ensemble...Circus elements created by Gypsy Snider...build momentum toward what the ringmaster assures us is "a climax you will remember for the rest of your lives." That just might be true. 5 stars
It's been said that a musical has to have at least three 'wow" moments to really grab an audience. Well, the Diane Paulus-directed revival of the 1972 musical Pippin has at least seven. The tale of a medieval lad searching for significance--dotted with both earnestness and shtick, like so many of composer Stephen Schwartz's shows--is done here with a circus theme that makes the work come to vivid, acrobatic life. The look of the piece is ambient, the physical stunts are eye-popping, and Chet Walker has deftly choreographed in the style of the original's Bob Fosse.
The tone is set by Patina Miller (Sister Act), who brings a feline slinkiness to the Leading Player that can turn outright catty when the troupe seems to stray too far from the supposed script. Matthew James Thomas (Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark) displays a bashful, aw-shucks charm in the title role, and Charlotte D'Amboise vamps playfully as his scheming stepmom. But the unlikely showstopper is 66-year-old SCTV alum Andrea Martin...Dangling high above the stage, she embodies this utterly delightful revival's big-top message: No matter our age, we need never outgrow the capacity for wonder. Jazz hands, though, are strictly optional. A
Talk about going out with a bang! Broadway's ending its season with a sensational revival of "Pippin" - a thrilling piece of eye-popping razzle dazzle filled with daredevil acrobatics.
The result is 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...The flawless company is led by Patina Miller as the Leading Player...and Matthew James Thomas as Pippin. The young stars work beautifully as both partners and foils: Miller, with her lithe body and megawatt smile, makes the Player both temptress and confidante, guiding Pippin with her siren's voice and sharp, sinuous dancing through a string of seductive but finally unfulfilling life choices. Thomas brings to his part a sweetly robust tenor and an earnestness befitting a naif with vague ambitions but little idea of what he truly wants.
Diane Paulus...offers a stunning, circus-themed production that seamlessly combines dance choreography in the trademark Fosse style with countless acrobatic feats...Patina Miller ("Sister Act") delivers an absolutely sensational, thoroughly sexy and authoritative performance...But there is a weak link to this staging, namely Matthew James Thomas' lifeless performance as Pippin. He mars the production with his hollow acting and weak singing. Nevertheless, this production has an incredible amount of "Magic to Do." 3.5 stars
These people all have magic to do, and over the course of two and a half hours, they deliver in relentless, surprising and cathartic ways. This revival, choreographed by Chet Walker "in the style" of original director Bob Fosse, is Fosse by way of the Flying Wallendas...Miller makes for a charismatic guide as the Leading Player, locking eyes with audience members throughout the evening...My advice is to judge this "Pippin" based on how it makes you feel, once you've separated that from all the delightful noise. It left me ecstatic and spent, and feeling like it's time to attend trapeze school.
There are shows that revive aging material through revisionism. And there are productions that prefer to celebrate the pull of nostalgia, especially when the songs are great. "Pippin," the brilliant Diane Paulus revival of the fantastically playful musical by Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson, with a special place in the theater-loving hearts of many, somehow combines the best of those two approaches, at once re-energizing this 40-year-old musical with freshness, vitality and eye-popping exuberance without ever making it feel like the crucial sweetness and naivete of the piece has been undermined or exploited.
With its lively pop score by Stephen Schwartz, "Pippin" was one of the big Broadway musicals of the 1970s, running for nearly five years. It's hard to believe, though, that the production could have been better than the dynamic revival that opened Thursday night at the Music Box Theatre. With the addition of beautifully integrated circus acts, the show is an eye-catchingly physical, as well as song-and-dance, treat.
A medieval fable that makes a giddy hodge-podge out of Candide and Faust, bulging with sexy circus acts, magic tricks, tuneful early-'70s pop-rock songs, elementary existentialism and comedy that runs the gamut from goofy and campy through grotesque and bawdy, Pippin shouldn't work, but it does. Up to a point. Diane Paulus' Broadway revival of the 1972 musical is massively, almost overwhelmingly entertaining, even if its audacious razzle-dazzle doesn't mask the limitations of its book. Still, fans of this much-loved show couldn't ask for a more energized production.
No matter how one feels about Stephen Schwartz's sappy 1972 hit, this production pumps up the facile material with nonstop, fearless brainstorms. These are by Paulus (who braved more sacred icons when she took on "Hair" and "The Gershwins' Porgy & Bess") and "circus creator" Gypsy Snider, founder of Canada's circus troupe Les 7 doigts de la main.
Paulus has transformed the players into a troupe of circus performers, and it's a stroke of genius. It allows for a Big Top theme - think fire jugglers, teeterboards, knife throwing and contortionists - but also teases out the wandering nature of the mysterious players and zooms up the physicality of the story...She's also managed to tease out the connection between the intricate dance style of the late Fosse - Chet Walker choreographs this in the master's style - with the equally meticulous needs of acrobatics...Miller has got a manic grin on her face, sings with power and has a menacing air. She proves perfectly suited to Fosse's complicated footwork...Matthew James Thomas...announces himself as a new Broadway leading man. He's got the looks, the lungs and the abs, all of which the audience gets to enjoy multiple times.
The opening moments of "Pippin" are the most thrilling since the humans and beasts of "TheLion King" spilled down the aisles to the onstage savannah more than 15 years ago... Paulus's "Pippin" is G-rated, frisky rather than sexy, the slick sweat of lust replaced by dazzling but vague innocence. That makes it a visual treat, but eye candy takes you only so far...Thomas has boyish charm, but Pippin hasn't changed by the time he chooses to settle down at the closing...Gorgeous Patina Miller...seems robotic here, another victim of the leeching of sex from the show. There's little here of what we need to feel in the gut from a musical. Only Andrea Martin's open-hearted turn resonates long enough to transport us, however briefly, way beyond the razzle-dazzle.
This is a "Pippin" for the 21st century, when it takes more than style to hold the attention of a restless, sensation-hungry audience...Fosse's original dancing is evoked, largely stripped of its sensuality, by the choreographer Chet Walker...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.
Does it come off? Up to a point. The circus performers are sensational, but their antics overwhelm Mr. Walker's dances, which are in any case devoid of Mr. Fosse's sly wit. Patina Miller, lately of "Sister Act," is the Leading Player, a role created four decades ago by Ben Vereen, and her in-your-face performance sets the tone for Ms. Paulus's relentlessly aggressive staging, which is big, noisy and mostly humorless, a "Pippin" that looks as if it had been born not in Cambridge but Las Vegas.
Still, distraction, even when it's enchanting and absolutely necessary, is not itself a viable dramaturgy. If Paulus has succeeded, against the odds, in shaping a satisfying modern Broadway spectacle from material that's fairly empty...it's because she must have realized that the other thing she needed was an actor who could definitively cut through the dreck. Enter Andrea Martin as Pippin's feisty grandma, Berthe. A ham's ham but one with total discipline, Martin is both warm and demanding; she knows when to let out some line and when to snap it back...The somewhat stiff, presentational style of the other actors (Patina Miller as the Leading Player is awesome but not exactly mellow) relaxes, and so does the audience, now confident of getting what it came for.
For all of their evident excellence as circus troupers and dancers, the company in general appears to be working much too hard to entertain the audience. More than anyone, Patina Miller needs to relax into her key role as the Leading Player. Ceaselessly grinning, quivering with energy, singing at full throttle, Miller is impressive but so relentless in her triple-threat attack that she becomes somewhat tiresome...As the ringmaster of this bustling production, Paulus perhaps has been cracking her whip too often for the show's good. With a little more ease, the revival might be a tad more genuinely charming than this nonstop whirl of entertainment that at times seems more distracting than diverting.
Buy Tickets to Pippin