Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Theater Review: Pippin

They've Got Magic to Do, Just for You and a Miracle Play to Play
By Lauren Yarger
If ever an opening number delivers on its promise, the exciting "Magic to Do" which opens the Broadway revival of Pippin does.

It is, in fact, one of the most breathtaking opening numbers we've seen on a stage in a long time thanks to the big-top theme imagined by Director Diane Paulus and Circus Creator Gypsy Snider and it sets the tone for the rest of the evening -- for which you definitely should leave your cheese to sour and join them for an hour or two (well, really about two and a half).

Colorful costumes  (Domenique Lemieux, design) and an old-fashioned circus tent (Scott Pask, set design) provide the backdrop for juggling, tumbling, trapeze artistry, balancing and illusions (Paul Kieve) while the story of Pippin (Matthew James Thomas), son of King Charles (Terrence Mann), the Middle Ages' Charlemagne, unfolds amidst Stephen Schwartz's beloved score and lyrics with a book by Roger O. Hirson.

Young Pippin returns from school unsure of what to do with his life. He knows it has to be extraordinary, but isn't sure where he'll find his "Corner of the Sky" (beautifully nailed by Thomas.) Just when the audience is struggling not to sing along with tunes like "Glory" or get up to dance the original Bob Fosse moves with the Manson Trio (Patina Miller starring in Ben Vereen's "Leading Player" role joined by Andrew Fitch and Anthony Wayne) the house lights come up and they are invited to join Pippin's grandmother, Berthe (Andrea Martin), in the choruses of "No Time at All." I won't give away why, but this number stopped the show twice the night I was there. Look for Martin to be making an acceptance speech at the Tonys when she receives the award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.

Pippin tries to be a soldier like his cocky half brother, Lewis (Erik Altemus), but doesn't like war. He tries to find "something completely fulfilling," but fails time and time again. Women don't satisfy him. Neither does power, even after he usurps his father's throne at the urging of Lewis and his stepmother, Fastrada (Charlotte D'Ambroise). He tries so many different things, that break-away costumes almost can't keep up with the action.

He finds domestic tranquility with a widow, Catherine (Rachel Ray Jones), and her young son, Theo (Andrew Cekala and Ashton Woerz share the role), until he realizes that he has settled. He would rather "trade my ordinary life to perform one extraordinary act," he declares  The Leading Player and the the pull of earthly pleasures offer him just that opportunity, but will Pippin find what he's looking for before making the ultimate sacrifice?
"Fabulous"is the word that keeps coming to mind when describing this show. The original Broadway staging in 1972 was terrific, but Paulus has taken us to that extraordinary place for which Pippin is searching. Chet Walker's choreography is "sharper than sight" and the dramatic circus acts performed by an ensemble, many of whom have circus backgrounds, are made exemplary by an excellent technical team: Lighting Designer Kenneth Posner, Sound Designers Jonathan Deans and Garth Helm, Techincal Supervisor Jake Bell and  Design Supervisor Edward Pierce. Chic Silber provides the fire effects. The music id directed and arranged by Nadia DiGiallonardo with arrangements by Larry Hochman

Every player, no matter how small the role, stands out, especially Anthony Wayne, whose portrayal of a chicken was most entertaining.

Shout it out from the highest tower, I predict this show will snag Tonys for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Director of a Musical for Paulus (Hair). Miller (whose voice sounded a bit strained the night I attended) and Mann also are nominated, along with Walker, Pask, Lemieux, Posner and Deans and Helm. Regardless of how many Tonys the show receives (it received 10 nominations in all), it will be around for a while.

Pippin is working his magic over at the Music Box Theatre, 239 West 45th St., NYC. Tickets and info:

Christians might also like to know:
-- Sexual situations
-- Suggestive costumes
-- Sexual activity (some between two women; the scene where Pippin indulges in lust is quite graphic and dark, but appropriate to the plot)
-- Violence
-- Magic
-- God's name taken in vain
Note: Despite the circus motif, I would caution against taking very young children. The themes, as you can see by this list of content advisories, are more mature.

No comments:
Create A Buzz About Your Book
Custom Search
Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists. Her play "From Reel to Real: The Jennifer O'Neill Story" was presented as part of the League of professional Theatre Women's Julia's reading Room Series in New York in February 2018.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for She previously served as theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer, Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

She is a Co-Founder of the Connecticut Chapter of the League of Professional Theatre Women.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle. and the Episcopal Actors' Guild.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2018 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

All Posts on this Blog