Not many shows combine the coming-of-age story of a member of the ruling family in the Holy Roman Empire and a visit to a lascivious grandma who is simultaneously a life coach and trapeze artist. However, Pippin, at the Orpheum through February 22, is one of them. The show is jam-packed with fun, from outstanding trapeze and acrobatic work to witty sexual innuendoes, all of which will leave the audience amazed.
The Broadway revival of this famed work follows the original story of Pippin, a young man searching for his purpose in the world. The son of Charlemagne, Pippin feels the pressure to make something of himself, and more importantly, leave an impact on others. Through various twists and turns, which involve staging a coup on his father, fraternizing with sensuous acrobats, and living with an average peasant, Pippin discovers what will allow him to reach fulfillment.
From top to bottom, the cast is superb and brings this multifaceted show to life. The production combines song, dance, acrobatics, emotion, comedy, and pure astonishment, culminating in a well-rounded piece that ups the ante for the modern musical. While Pippin (Sam Lips) gives a steady performance throughout, the true standouts have to be the Leading Player (Sasha Allen) and Berthe (Priscilla Lopez), not to mention the ensemble which dazzles in the many trapeze and acrobatic numbers. The Leading Player adds incredible vocal talent to this musical extravaganza. Essentially playing the role of stage manager, narrator, and resident diva in this plot within a plot structure, Allen carries consistent and impressive vocals throughout with a rich and powerful tone, an appreciated divergence from the typical Broadway sound. Additionally, Lopez stuns in her role as Pippin’s grandmother, a sassy woman who proves that sex appeal does not have to fade with age. While only in one part of the show, Lopez’s acrobatic number is not easily forgotten and leaves the audience pondering how a woman in her mid-sixties can contort her body in so many ways.
Every component of the show works together to form something brilliant. Although at a glance the amalgam of humor, wit, sex, and soul-searching seems contradictory and ineffective, the performance puts everything together in a breath-taking fashion. The bombastic and flamboyant nature pervades more than just the cast. The set works cohesively to produce a circus-inspired spectacle in some scenes, and paints the picture of a medieval farm in others. The flexibility not only mirrors the expansive repertoire of the cast, but also the writing of the show which demands imagination and diversity.
All preconceptions about Pippin need to be cast aside when viewing this modern, inspired version. Audiences will not only view exceptional talent in regards to the basic tenets of musical theater, but they will also experience a creative journey that explores new territories and takes creative risks.