By Brian Jewell
Photo by Joan Marcus, courtesy Pippin
A mong the most anticipated new musicals to open on Broadway this season was “Pippin,” a revival of the whimsical 1970s show that has riveted audiences with its combination of classical theatrical and contemporary circus elements. I caught the final preview of the show before it opened at the Music Box Theatre on April 25 and was amazed by what I saw.
Director Diane Paulus chose to augment the original script with a modern circus theme, bringing in a troupe of talented acrobats, jugglers and other performers to complement the cast of singers and dancers. Together, the multitalented crew tells the story of Pippin, the son of Charlemagne, as he tries to find fulfillment in life as an adult.
Where the original story is thin, the acrobatic performances enrich the experience with remarkable feats of strength and agility. Some of the best moments of the show come when the worlds of musical performance and circus performance collide in unexpected ways. By the end of the show, the cast has broken almost every convention in theater, taking audience interaction and engagement to new levels. The ending comes as a total surprise and is unlike anything you’ve ever seen on Broadway.
“Pippin” was nominated for 10 Tony awards, among them nods for lighting, costume and set design, and best revival of a musical. I look for Paulus and the “Pippin” team to score big wins on Tony night and become one of Broadway’s new classics.