The show starts with the announcement that they’re going to have a show. It comes as no surprise when they continue onstage for the next two acts, having a show. Pippin is the concurrent narrative of Pippin, a mostly fictionalized prince seeking fulfillment in addition to an occasionally unpolished troupe putting on the show of a lifetime. Needless to say, the fourth wall is broken and self reference about as persistent as an army of Visigoths. Pippin is playing at the Orpheum Theatre through February 22nd.
Pippin is nice. It has a distinct purpose on the stage. Pippin would be less satisfying as anything else because the story of Pippin being told by the Players becomes less succinct if you were to interpret it through a camera, words, or list of GIFs. And to it’s credit, it actually has a lesson worth teaching in it, compared to plenty of other musicals I’ve seen that had meaningless platitudes such as “be true to yourself” “love is all you need” and all that jazz. That seeking to be extraordinary and totally fulfilled will ultimately render your life empty and meaningless is a lesson that could use reinforcement.
The performances of Pippin were incredible -I’m not talking about acting and singing- this show was immensely acrobatic. For many viewers, I’m sure there will be a conflict on where onstage to focus. In many a number there are performers doing backflips, jumping on cages, each other, and furniture. There are too many numbers to count in which you’ll be wowed or overwhelmed or both. And for what doesn’t take place on trapeezess, within hoops or halfway up a pole, there are plenty of other stunts; flames, fire juggling, candles and the grand finale. I’m pretty sure there was a trained dog or very convincing (and therefore dangerous) robot, in the second act, something I don’t think I’ve ever seen in a stage musical.
While the stunt glut was impressive in some numbers, there were numbers that were hard to follow and harder to interpret. I am thinking of a battle number and torrid sex romp early in the show. While the performers were certainly fantastic at what they were doing, the numbers weren’t that focused on telling the story of Pippin.
My least favorite part about Pippin was the music, not to say that it was subpar but rather just standard musical fare. The fact remains that some show tunes are simply boring- you can safely predict the rhymes halfway through a lyric, as I did too often in this show. Pippin’s music is about as remarkable as church coffee, and about as bland too.
Pippin almost ended on a stark empty stage, in a ending that would have been perfect for the message of the show.
However, Broadway being Broadway, they all had to come back onstage and sing one last refrain.