“Pippin” at the Orpheum Theatre

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Pippin, frankly, leaves the audience stunned. In both good and bad ways. The twist ending leaves us questioning the meaning of the show, while the show stopping acrobatic and musical performances leave us in awe.

All the actors are highly skilled. They not only act and sing, but they do so while dancing and performing acrobatics. Pippin had a blatantly strong ensemble. No one performer was an obviously weak link: no one was the one person who was designated to perform all the hardest tricks because the others were not capable. Although many members of the ensemble have circus training, those who were not originally professional circus performers, had obviously worked hard to learn the skills called for and keep up with their cohorts.

The faults in this show really come in its storyline. Although Pippin’s story is much stronger than some broadway musicals it is much weaker then many. It subscribes to the tired white-male-protagonist trope. The boy-next-door who struggles to find the meaning of his life. 

Throughout the show the line between the world of the circus, and the world of the historical French characters the circus troupe portrays is confusingly blurry. This trend picks up in the second act with overwhelming strength, in the character Catherine, Pippin’s love interest. The reason for this is not clear until the end of the play, when the character Pippin interacts directly with the players who have been portraying his story. In hindsight the lines between circus and historical French kingdom are still blurry, but the ending makes sense in the moment in which it is viewed.

***SPOILERS***

In the twist ending, the characters Pippin and Catherine stand up against the lead player and the other circus players–who would have Pippin jump into a pool of fire to his death under the bigtop–and claim their place in the world: a happy relationship and a simple home life. 

The set is then ripped down by the players to reveal the black and grey backstage, a contrast to the bright set. This leaves us with two major questions: Is it the players who portray Pippin and Catherine revolting, or is the Pippin and Catherine themselves? And, is that the real back of the theater, or is it a second set?

As with any production of this caliber, the set and lighting were unquestionably high quality. The set served the show vey well, transforming wonderfully for the twist at the end, when it is ripped down in minutes. Both as a interior of the circus tent and as the stripped down, empty stage with backstage areas visible, the set created a beautifully immersive space for the show and for its audience. 

The costumes were an extension of the set itself. Together with the lighting, the three created a seamless world for the show. I world which is then ripped apart as the shows deeper meaning is revealed.

The lighting was not something to catch the eye, one would not notice it specifically except at highlight moments, like the end of the show, or when spotlights were specifically mentioned by the actors.

In the end, Pippin is worth a ticket. The show is bursting with fun, and will leave you full of reverence for the simple things in life.