PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Pippin—Make That 'Big-Top Pippin'

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26 Apr 2013

Matthew James Thomas; guests Ben Vereen, Jane Krakowski and Ricky Martin
Matthew James Thomas; guests Ben Vereen, Jane Krakowski and Ricky Martin
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

Meet the first-nighters at the Broadway opening of Pippin. Diane Paulus, Patina Miller, Matthew James Thomas and Andrea Martin were there - so was Playbill.

A five-star, three-ring pip of a Pippin bowed April 25 at the Music Box and officially brought the 2012-13 Broadway season to a end with a buoyant, joyful bounce.

The unseen ringmistress of the evening was the innovative Diane Paulus, artistic director of Cambridge's American Repertory Theatre (A.R.T.), who tends to win Best Revival Tony Awards on Broadway for rethinking classic American musicals—Hair and Porgy and Bess, to date. Now comes her new contender, Pippin, Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson's Fossefied 1972 fantasy about Charlemagne's first born, who yearns for the simple life and finds it in the second act.

Paulus has plenty of magic to do for A.R.T.'s sake, and her chief collaborator in revisualizing the show is Gypsy Snider, herself an artistic director of a bouncy band of Montreal acrobats named Les 7 doigts. These magnificent seven have subtly infiltrated the ranks of the Broadway brand of gypsies and featured players—and voila! The late Bob Fosse's "Show time!" has, like magic, turned into "Circus time."

"Bob loved circuses, and he loved clowns," recalled Chet Walker, who was an 18-year-old peasant member of the original show 40 years ago and has now stepped up to move the new company through much the same Fosse moves. "In fact, if you look at our first original logo that Tony Walton did, it's made of acrobats and clowns."

Paulus, it turns out, is not so inventive that she can't sometimes think inside the box as well, and she believed it essential her revival have that unforgettable Fosse feel.

"Looking at what it is that we started with and what we ended with is amazing to me because it is kind of seamless," admitted Walker. "I mean, I don't think we know where one thing begins and the other thing ends—although we do keep the 'Manson Trio' intact. When you look at the other things we did, there are Fossisms, there are Walkerism, there are Gypsy Sniderisms, there are Diane Paulusisms."


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