Pippin is a story about a young man trying to find his place in life, a place where he belongs. Directed by Diane Paulus with circus creation by Gypsy Snider and choreography by Chet Walker, this show is like a dream- visually spectacular, but you don’t really remember everything that happened in the end.
From jumping through a hoop five feet off of the ground to hanging sideways from a pole, Pippin tackles everything you could imagine. Acrobatics are a huge part of this show, they add to the picture. The versatile set allowed the actors to contort and arrange themselves in a way that added to the scenery. They did all sorts of tricks- balancing on a head, throwing knives, disappearing in thin air, flips, jumps, and so much more. All of the tricks were visually fantastic, but at times they took away from the plot. There was so much happening on stage that I didn’t know where to look and I felt I might miss something important.
As an ensemble, this cast was kick-butt. The Leading Player (Sasha Allen) had impeccable vocals, she belted, she danced, she belted and danced at the same time- she was great. Catherine (Kristine Reese) also had great vocals, she showed lots of emotion in her singing and in turn made the audience feel a connection to her. Pippin (Sam Lips) had a quality voice, but he had some rough patches. He (Lips) seemed to be lacking confidence. Corner of the Sky is such an iconic song and having little confidence shows through, especially because the show is about having confidence. Lips did seem to get more confident as the show went on- gaining the audience’s love. Lewis (Callan Bergmann) had a beautiful tone that was featured in the end for only a moment, but stood out. When the full ensemble sang together they were so strong it felt like all of Minnesota could hear them.
A few of the actors in Pippin broke the fourth wall multiple times. When characters do this it allows you to be closer to the show- you feel more involved and relaxed. Berthe (Priscilla Lopez who played Fastrada in the original Broadway production) had the audience in the palm of her hand, leading them in a follow-the-bouncing-ball sing-along to No Time at All. The show is casual, but professional, which is a weird combination- the two fought each other throughout the show. There was a casual comment to the audience and then an elaborate dance with rigs and flying trapeses. It left me feeling confused- should I be laughing at this or is it choreographed?
Overall Pippin is a magical show. It has good music, great dancing, and jaw-dropping acrobatics. Although the tricks and humor take away from the plot at some points- it is a must see. Pippin lets you decide what happens in the end, much like a dream. It is about a man in search of greatness who ultimately finds that the “simple joys” mean the most. Just like after the circus packs up and leaves town, you’re left with a feeling that you experienced magic, but magic is just an illusion- it’s how you perceive it that makes it magical. Leaving the theatre, I knew Pippin had found his corner of the sky.