By Matthew Blank
06 May 2013
This new incarnation of Roger O. Hirson and Schwartz's dark and groovy coming-of-age musical premiered at the American Repertory Theater, where Tony-nominated director Diane Paulus (Hair, Porgy and Bess) is artistic director, last fall. The staging incorporates circus choreography and acrobatics by Gypsy Snider of the Montreal-based circus company Les 7 doigts de la main (7 Fingers). Broadway previews began March 23, prior to an official opening April 25, at the Music Box Theatre.
Pippin retains much of Bob Fosse's iconic moves thanks to Chet Walker, who choreographs in Fosse's original style. Pippin has a score by Academy Award winner and Tony nominee Schwartz (Wicked, Godspell, "The Prince of Egypt") and a book by Tony nominee Hirson.
"I knew I couldn't do the revival until I understood how to do the physical production, and I was very determined to have the Fosse [choreography] be part of that just because it was so inextricably linked to the original," Paulus said in an interview with Playbill.com. "But I didn't want to do a museum replica — that's not who I am as an artist — and I was searching: 'Who are the players?'"
"Pippin is about a troupe of players," she continued. "Who are they? Who are these mysterious people who come to town and plunk down and tell the story to the audience? I started thinking about circus and that mystery of a circus troupe that comes to town and pitches a tent. They kind of invite you in, they dare you to enter that tent, and then you see things you've never seen before. All of a sudden I started thinking about that invitation to join us, which is the signature song, 'Magic to Do.' When I talked to Gypsy Snyder of Les 7 doigts de la main, she said, 'You know, the life of an acrobat is how far we go to be extraordinary' — which is the theme of Pippin — and when I talked to Chet Walker, who said Bob Fosse loved Fellini and was thinking about circus when he made Pippin, I was like, 'Okay! Light bulb!' Here's this way to blend all of them and make this world of Pippin feel really rich and really detailed."
British actor Matthew James Thomas, who is no stranger to high-flying stunts on Broadway, having starred as the Peter Parker alternate in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, takes on the title role in the modern classic.
"I know I'm surrounded by these incredible circus performers, so I always feel safe, but there is danger involved in these [circus stunts]. Going up on that trapeze and climbing that pole — if I make any self-error, that's it. It's the end," Thomas told Playbill.com. "There's no wires or anything. People [ask], 'How does this compare to Spider-Man?' I say, 'Physically, it's twice as difficult.'"
The cast also features Tony and Olivier Award nominee Patina Miller (Sister Act, Hair) as Leading Player, the show's singing, dancing and charming ringmaster, with Tony Award winner Andrea Martin (My Favorite Year) as Berthe, Tony Award nominee Terrence Mann (Les Miserables, The Scarlet Pimpernel) as King Charles, Tony Award nominee Charlotte d'Amboise (Chicago, Carrie) as Fastrada, Erik Altemus (The Fantasticks) as Lewis, Andrew Cekala (Marie Antoinette) as Theo and Rachel Bay Jones (Women on the Verge..., Hair) as Catherine.
The cast is completed by Grégory Arsenal, Lolita Costet, Colin Cunliffe, Andrew Fitch, Orion Griffiths, Viktoria Grimmy, Sabrina Harper, Olga Karmansky, Bethany Moore, Brad Musgrove, Stephanie Pope, Philip Rosenberg, Yannick Thomas, Molly Tynes, Anthony Wayne, Ashton Woerz.
Ghostlight Records will release the new Broadway cast recording, co-produced by composer Schwartz and Kurt Deutsch, and executive-produced by Howard and Janet Kagan, in June.
Pippin has set design by Tony Award-winning designer Scott Pask, costume design by Dominique Lemieux, lighting design by Tony Award-winning designer Kenneth Posner, sound design by Jonathan Deans and Garth Helm, illusions by Paul Kieve, fire effects by Chic Silber and flying effects by ZFX, Inc.
The Broadway production is produced by Barry & Fran Weissler and Howard & Janet Kagan, Lisa Matlin, Kyodo Tokyo, A&A Gordon/Brunish Trinchero, Tom Smedes/Peter Stern, Broadway Across America, Independent Presenters Network, Norton Herrick, Allen Spivak, Rebecca Gold, Joshua Goodman, Steve McManus, David Robbins/Bryan S. Weingarten, Philip Hagemann/Murray Rosenthal, Jim Kierstead/Carlos Arana/Myla Lerner, Hugh Hayes/Jamie Cesa/Jonathan Reinis, Sharon A. Carr/Patricia R. Klausner, Ben Feldman, Square 1 Theatrics, Wendy Federman/Carl Moellenberg, Bruce Robert Harris/Jack W. Batman, Infinity Theatre Company/Michael Rubenstein, Michael Alden/Dale Badway/Ken Mahoney.
Here's how it's billed: "Pippin tells the story of a young prince on a death-defying journey to find meaning in his existence. Will he choose a happy but simple life? Or will he risk everything for a singular flash of glory?"
Pippin features such songs as "Corner of the Sky," "Magic To Do," "With You," "Glory," "No Time at All," "Morning Glow" and "Love Song."
Prior to the musical's official Broadway opening, Pippin garnered the most Outer Critics Circle Awards nominations of any production of the season. The production earned 11 nominations, including Outstanding Revival of a Musical.
For tickets visit Telecharge.com. The Music Box Theatre is located at 239 West 45th Street.