Magic to Do
Full disclosure: Pippin is one of my favorite musicals. Having said that, seeing a much-loved musical can be problematic. Shows are sometimes stale. Expectations for Broadway revivals are high. And I am sick of critics bashing Pippin. Pippin is often somewhat snidely referred to as a minor musical. I disagree! I think the songs are memorable and the lyrics fun and witty. The story may be a little hackneyed, with Pippin in search of the meaning of life, but, hey, aren’t we all in search of the meaning of life to some degree?
The producer, Diane Paulus, had the inspired idea to stage Pippin under the big top of a circus. The metaphor of life as a circus works perfectly with the musical’s story and theme. The players are all acrobats, replete with fire, trapeze, high wire acts, and astonishing acts of strength, coordination and balance. “Magic to Do” and “Morning Glow” in particular are spectacular. Pippin soars.
The performances are all excellent, particularly the women: Andrea Martin as the show-stealing Granny, Patina Miller as the lead player, and Rachel Bay Jones as Catherine. It is a great idea to cast a woman as the lead player instead of a man because any male would be unfavorably compared to Ben Vereen, who originated the role. Miller is a wonderful singer, dancer and acrobat, with amazing upper arms. The role of Catherine the widow is tricky, since the character is slightly annoying. Jones is awkward and funny and vulnerable all at the same time. With amazing music, truly unforgettable staging, strong performances, and distinctive costumes, Pippin is practically perfect. Pippin is hands down the best Broadway musical I have seen in years. Go.
Rating: **** (out of ****)
P.S. Star sighting! On the way out, I saw Harry Hamlin (wearing his the glasses he sports this season on Mad Men) and Lisa Rinna (she of proudly artificially plumped lips).