Magazine article Variety

A Rippin' 'Pippin'

Magazine article Variety

A Rippin' 'Pippin'

Article excerpt

A rippin' 'Pippin'

LEGIT: PIPPIN

Director: Diane Paulus; Cast Matthew James Thomas, Patina Milter, Andrea Martin

Loeb Drama Center. Cambridge. Mass.; 556 seats; $95 top

The long journey to create a successful revival of the '70s hit musical "Pippin" seemed as endless as the title character's meandering search for his life's purpose in a wicked world. But Diane Paulus' Cirque du Showbiz production preeming at American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., is fresh, lively and in many ways extraordinary - and sure to create positive buzz prior to its justannounced spring perch at the Rialto's Music Box Theater. The time for "Pippin" has finally come.

Paulus ("Porgy and Bess"), who created Cirque du Soleil outing "Amaluna" last year, presents the tuner as part pageant, part caravan show and part one-ring circus, with the latter element elegantly integrated into the production by Gypsy Snider of Montreal-based cirque troupe Les 7 Doigts de la Main (Off Broadway's "Traces") and performed by impressive, theater-sawy players.

The story centers on Pippin (Matthew James Thomas), the oh-so-sensitive son of 8th-century King Charlemagne as the prince seeks to find his life's fulfillment and live an extraordinary life. It's a thin and sometimes tiresome narrative with a central character who's bland and self-indulgent, although he's ultimately enlightened and transformed.

It's a long trek until this morality play has concluded, and found its heart and its recyclable life lesson. But until then, there are diversions aplenty with colorful characters, razzle-dazzle staging and a rich and tuneful Stephen Schwartz score, here with new arrangements by Larry Hochman. Chet Walker choreographs "in the style of Bob Fosse" with all its slink and sensuality, but minus the jazz-hands opener.

Thematically, it's an epic struggle between finding fulfillment in celebrity or pursuing more ordinary, human concerns.

For most of the show, the cards are stacked toward the colorful and cynical, most notably represented by the Leading Player, portrayed by Patina Miller ("Sister Act"). Miller is charismatic, vocally arresting and in command as the troupe's high-hatted ringmaster, insinuating and seducing with devilish intent. …

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