Awe. That’s the only thing I feel right now. Speechlessness and awe.
I was fortunate enough to score tickets to the Tony Award-winning “Best Revival of a Musical” masterpiece Pippin this past Tuesday, and I’m pretty sure my mind is still trying to recover from being blown to pieces.
I wasn’t quite sure what to expect going into this show – in fact I knew nothing at all about it except that it would have something to do with a circus. Pleasantly surprised is an understatement when compared to what I felt during every minute of this show. Basically what I’m trying to say is this musical was LITERALLY one of the most impressive things I have ever seen.
First of all, I was only half right about the circus part. I thought it was a story about a boy leaving home and joining the circus. It was nothing like that whatsoever. Pippin: 1, Sam: 0
It actually turned out to be more of a show inside of another show. The story is told as a circus play, with circus performers as “actors” (who are technically actors anyway – confusing, I know) playing the parts in the story of a boy named Pippin, son of King Charlemagne.
King Charlemagne was played by distinguished Broadway veteran Terrence Mann, who may be more widely recognized for originating the roles of The Beast in Beauty and the Beast and Javert in Les Miserables on Broadway. Aside from his incredibly strong and impressive voice, Mann is the perfect comedic character. His portrayal of Charlemagne shows glimmers of similarity to the King Arthur character from Spamalot, which – if you’re familiar with that show – is definitely a good thing.
Mann’s real-life wife, Charlotte d’Amboise, also plays his greedy, self-absorbed wife in this revival of Pippin. In one scene, she sings her face off while doing FOUR QUICK-CHANGES IN A ROW ALL WHILE ONSTAGE. I’m such a sucker for quick-changes. I could honestly watch someone quick-change for an entire show just to marvel at the witchcraft that is obviously taking place. I’ve done my fair share of quick-changes, but these made everything I've ever done look like a sloth fashion show.
Brace yourself; here comes my gushing review of Rachel Bay Jones: girl is HILARIOUS. Jones plays a young woman who finds Pippin at his worst and takes him in, inevitably falling for him in the process. It’s extremely rare to find an actress with such impeccable comedic timing as Ms. Jones, but when it comes to her, you’ve hit the jackpot. She can belt circles around you and still manage to have you in stitches at the same time.
Speaking of, one of my favorite things in the world is watching actors break character and start cracking up mid-scene. I practically live for it on Saturday Night Live. It must have been my lucky night because, out of nowhere, Rachel Bay Jones exploded mid-scene and couldn’t stop laughing up until her kiss with Pippin that was finally able to shut up her uncontrollable giggles. It was priceless (and super adorable).
Speaking of Pippin, let’s talk about the titular character for a bit. Pippin is a wanderer, searching for something “completely fulfilling” to do with his life. He explores many different walks of life, becoming a soldier, a king, and even an ordinary man for a change.
The role was played by Matthew James Thomas, who perfectly captured the boyish charm and desperate yearning for adventure that the character of Pippin needs to truly soar. His gorgeous solo “Corner of the Sky,” is the perfect anthem for anyone who has ever felt that there is a greater purpose out there for them, just waiting to be discovered.
I’m not really sure if I can describe this next actress in any way that will do her justice. Patina Miller received the Tony for Best Actress in a Musical this year, but what she really should have won was the award for “most amazingly spectacular performance I have ever seen oh my God she’s perfect.” Obviously that was too long to fit on a trophy so they just went with “Best Actress.”
Patina Miller is a hottie with a body who can sing the spangled leotards off of any of her co-stars. She throws her entire soul and every last ounce of energy into her role as the Lead Player of the circus. Goosebumps sprang up on my arms the second she opened her mouth, and they didn’t go away until I was about three blocks away from the theater after the show. I can’t explain it in much detail without a huge spoiler, but her monologue during the last scene of the show was positively chilling. It amazes me that so much emotion and talent can come out of that insanely muscular body (but seriously, her arms are jacked).
Last – and most impressively of all – I would be crazy not to mention the choreography. The dancing in this show was spectacular, with one song even taking it’s moves from the legendary Bob Fosse himself. The staging of the “lust” and “war” scenes were my favorites, showcasing such precise choreography, beautiful formations, and true story-telling through movement. But honestly let’s cut to the chase…
HOLY ACROBATS, BATMAN!
Acrobatics are impressive. Point blank. These acrobatics were downright mind-blowing. The entire ensemble showed tremendous talent and bravery in all of their stunts, and many of the principle actors even proved that they could learn some pretty intense moves as well.
I’m looking at you, Andrea Martin. This woman is seriously 66 years old and hanging from a f-ing trapeze like it’s no big deal. I’m not even 20 and just looking at a trapeze brings on a baby panic attack. She may have only been in one scene during the entire show but that scene was EPIC.
I couldn’t even name all of the jaw-dropping stunts I saw during this musical if I tried. There were people flipping over other people, a man doing one-handed handstands while blindfolded on top of another man’s head, a girl who bent her body a thousand different ways while on a trapeze, and hundreds of other tricks that could be described as nothing other than purely magical.
One of my personal favorites was the very *ahem * interpretive way of representing a little round of hanky-panky going on between Pippin and Catherine. One of the male acrobats lifted a girl up over his head as she contorted into a ring shape, holding her ankles above her head and balancing on his hands by her waist. Then after a suspense-building drumroll, he threw her into the air and essentially played a giant game of ring-toss as she slipped right over his head and down his torso, still in a perfect ring. Don’t get it yet? Maybe you need to put your mind a little further into the gutter if you know what I mean…
I truly cannot offer enough praise for this fantastic musical. It is an absolute must-see and completely deserving of every single accolade it has received. As the show says, it truly is “magical.”
Pippin is currently playing at the Music Box Theatre on Broadway.