By Michael Gioia
05 May 2014
Following a yearlong run, Matthew James Thomas and Patina Miller — who received her first Tony Award for her turn as the Leading Player in the Diane Paulus-helmed revival of Pippin — exited the Tony Award-winning revival of the Stephen Schwartz-Roger O. Hirson musical. Kyle Dean Massey and Ciara Renée assumed respective lead roles April 1 and are the latest actors to jump through hoops and soar above audiences to guide Pippin down the road to self-discovery. Massey, who has been seen on Broadway in Wicked, Xanadu and Next to Normal, and Renée, who made her Broadway debut earlier this season in the Andrew Lippa musical Big Fish, caught up with Playbill.com following their first week of performances.
Kyle, before we begin, I'm so interested that when it was announced you would take over as Pippin, you tweeted that you sang "Corner in the Sky" for your college auditions and didn't get accepted to any of the schools.
Kyle Dean Massey: When I was auditioning for colleges 15 years ago, that was the song that I sang. I auditioned at Syracuse, Ithaca, CCM [College-Conservatory of Music], Carnegie Melon — and nobody accepted me. [Laughs.]
KDM: Well, that feels pretty cool, I must say! [Laughs.] I don't know… I just love that when that happened, I remember feeling really discouraged — like feeling really hurt for the first time in my life. I had never had negative feedback in that way. But, in a weird way, I think it set me on the right path — in the right direction. I thought that it was an inauspicious start, and it actually ended up being the way for me — the path for me.
Was Pippin a role you always wanted to do?
KDM: You know, I'm not going to lie, I loved the music, and I had the cassette that I played in my car when I was in high school, and I loved all of those songs. I had that video that they recorded in '81… It's kind of weird, and I [thought], "What is this show? I don't get it." It wasn't until I came and saw the show here last summer that I [thought], "Okay, I get that show now." It wasn't necessarily a role that I aspired to, but when the audition came about, I [thought], "I might actually be right for this."
Ciara, tell me about your experience with Pippin. This production has redefined the Leading Player. Did you ever think you'd take on this role?
Ciara Renée: No. I had seen other productions — regional and little high school productions of it — [but] I had never really understood the show… It was kind of like what Kyle was saying — I didn't get it. For the longest time, this show was completely off of my radar, and then seeing Patina [Miller] in it and looking up to Patina — in college I used to watch all of her videos back when she did [Michael Kooman and Christopher Dimond's] Homemade Fusion, I was like, "Oh my God, I love her!" So [after seeing that she was in Pippin, I thought], "Maybe I can do that eventually." But, still, it didn't register until the audition came, and I said, "Okay, I'll go see the show because I have these weird thoughts about it. I don't really understand it; I should just go see it." So I went and saw it, and I was like, "What?! It's amazing." It made so much sense, and the whole acrobat [concept] and the circus theme was really awesome, and it just added so much to it. It made sense with the story, and I [thought], "This is something I really want to do now." And, here I am.