Four time Tony Award winner, Pippin’ is making a splashy comeback 40 years after it opened on Broadway. With book by Roger O. Hirson and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz it traces the coming of age fantasy trip by young Prince Pippin to find the meaning of…his existence.
“Pippin” was the 31st longest running Broadway show. It opened on Broadway in 1972, ran from 1972 to 1977 and was performed over nineteen hundred times. It is now here in San Diego through Aug. 30th.
The story goes thusly: After Pippin leaves school at the University of Padua, he yearns to make his life more meaningful and ultimately, extraordinary. “I want my life to be something more than long.” “I’m afraid what I’m looking for can’t be found in books”.
The tall tale is simple enough; it just takes a too long a while for Pippin to get where he needs to be in his quest to find significance in his life. ‘I promise not to waste my life on commonplace, ordinary pursuits. You see I know there is something…’
For Pippin, the meaning of life is just beyond his grasp and he always seems in utter despair and depression over it. “I want my life to be something more than long.” (‘My Corner of The Sky’)
His father, (John Rubinstein) with whom he has had a strained relationship at best doesn’t know how to treat the boy. He is bent on handing over the reigns to his stepson Lewis, (Erik Altemus), who plays the dumbed down son against the scholarly one.
Historically, Charlemagne did have a son Pippin who tried to kill him. This is where fiction and fact go their separate ways.
Pippin is helped on his quest by a troupe of circus players led by the wonderfully engaging and extremely talented Gabrielle McClinton as the Leading Player. McClinton last performed this role on Broadway.
She promises (at the start) magic, intrigue, humor, romance and excitement. (‘Magic To Do’) She delivers on her promise. Before our eyes an eye popping colorful giant circus tent rises from the stage. Complete with multitalented circus performers as part of the cast we are whisked away into fantasy. (Credit Scott Pask for set design and Kenneth Posner for lighting)
Pippin heads out and take several paths on his way to finding his greatness like war and politics, sex and lust, art and religion, charity and compassion but to no avail. Most of these encounters go almost unnoticed by the fan fair surrounding the circus players. In fact, oft times the circus takes center stage to the story.
Roger O. Hirson’s book is long on a series of failed wanna do’s. It’s also left wanting of a meaty story. What it does have is a modicum of humor and lots of ‘roads not taken’.
His scheming stepmother Fastrada (a wonderfully nuances Sabrina Harper) nudges Pippin to kill his father for ulterior motives. ‘Intrigue, plots to bring disaster’. Harper also played Cassie in Fosse’s ‘A Chorus Line’
Priscilla Lopez plays the cunning and perceptive grandmother Berthe. Lopez, who also played this role in the Broadway production, is nothing less than spectacular in her agility to do tricks; some half her age wouldn’t try.
The show still has the razzle-dazzle of Bob Fosse’s choreography led by choreographer and Tony Award nominee Chet Walker. But what sets this show apart are the breathtaking acrobatics by Gypsy Snyder of the Montreal based company Les 7dogits de la main (also known as 7 fingers). It’s like being in a Cirque du Soleil Show.
One would be remiss if one did not rave about the character of The King jovially played with panache by Rubinstein. He was the original Pippin when the show opened on Broadway.
Still showing his suppleness, he is like an eager beaver running in and out, around and through cast members and not shy about the magic that comes his way.
This new extravaganza truly has the WOW factor. Hirson’s book however is still weak especially in the second act when things start to go down hill and, while Pippin might have found his answers, we are left in the dark to figure it out.
This production is here for a limited engagement. If you’ve never seen ‘Pippin’ this new under The Big Top production will knock your socks off.
See you at the theatre.
Dates: Through Aug. 30th
Organization: Broadway San Diego
Production Type: Musical
Where: 3rd and B Street Downtown San Diego
Ticket Prices: Check with Box office
Venue: San Diego Civic Theatre