She Flies Through the Air With the Greatest of Ease — Tony Winner Andrea Martin Talks About Singing from a Trapeze in Pippin

By Blake Ross
14 Jul 2013

Andrea Martin
Photo by Joan Marcus
Martin's Berthe is very different than the quirky dowager Irene Ryan played in 1972 in Bob Fosse's original Pippin. Today's Berthe is very much a player in the acrobatic wonderworld Paulus has created with Gypsy Snider of the circus troupe Les 7 doigts de la main. Once inside Pippin's big top, audiences are welcomed to a circus frenzy of knife throwers, silk swingers, tightrope walkers and fire jugglers. Other players in the Pippin extravaganza include Tony winner Patina Miller, Matthew James Thomas, and fellow Broadway veterans Terrence Mann and Charlotte d'Amboise.

Martin has made a name for herself on Broadway as a first-rate comedienne with an uncanny ability to infuse shows with jolts of energy and laughs in a matter of minutes. For her Broadway debut in 1993's My Favorite Year, it was the number "Professional Showbizness Comedy," that helped earn her a Tony for Best Featured Actress in a Musical. She has since gone on to be nominated four more times in the category, more than any other actress.

For Pippin, the show stopping moment is Martin's "No Time at All" — her only solo of the night — and it is often followed by the rare midshow standing ovation. She delivers half of it upside down from a trapeze. Critic David Rooney writing for the Hollywood Reporter labeled it "the most joyously exhilarating five minutes of stage time on Broadway right now." Tony voters agreed. Martin walked away with her second Tony at June's award ceremony.

"I really wanted this piece to be a traditional circus piece. I didn't want it to be contemporary with wires or with silks, I wanted you to look at it like I was an authentic circus performer from when I was younger, so that would have been 40, even 50 years ago. One day [Gypsy] came back and she said, 'I have an idea. I think you should be on a stationary trapeze and I want you to do it with a partner.'"

The rousing number also has her leading the audience in a sing-a-long that implores them that it's "time to start livin'/Time to take a little from this world we're given."

"It's kind of a perfect storm of a fabulous song, of the audiences wanting to be inspired and believe that they can live a long and healthy life and there is no reason why they can't," Martin explains. "I think it's so joyful, and I love doing it. I have two sons of my own, and talking to Pippin, I feel really deeply connected to him. I think there is just an underlying truth that people connect to. I honestly don't think that it's just about the physicality of the trapeze. I think, I hope, it's everything.

"I knew that I wanted to reimagine [the part]. I wanted to experiment with the song in a way that is impactful for me at my age. I don't feel like my life is over and I feel everyday is a time to start living."