The Bushnell, Hartford, CT
through January 11, 2015
by Michael J. Moran
Since it first opened on Broadway in 1972, this stirring tale of life choices made by the young adult son (Pippin) of medieval King Charles (Charlemagne) has become a classic coming-of-age story that resonates with audiences of all ages. In the Actors Equity tour of the 2013 Tony-Award winning revival at the Bushnell, director Diane Paulus adds a circus setting which heightens the drama of the plot and delights an enthusiastic full house.
With catchy music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Roger O. Hirson, the original production was directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, whose jazzy dance style is evoked in much of the new choreography by Chet Walker. Colorful costume design by Dominique Lemieux and often daring circus acts by Gypsy Snider further enhance the razzle-dazzle quotient in this fast-paced presentation.
All these elements are brought to pulsing life by a well-matched cast, featuring the original Pippin, John Rubinstein, as his father, Charles, whom he portrays with zany exuberance. Kyle Dean Massey is a convincingly endearing and bewildered Pippin, a role he also played in the Broadway production. Sasha Allen, a veteran of NBC TV’s “The Voice,” brings a steely irreverence to her portrayal of the Leading Player/narrator who sets the overall tone for the production.
The scene that best conveys the “Magic To Do” of the show’s opening number features Lucie Arnaz in a star turn as Pippin’s grandmother, Berthe. As the now 63-year-old actress gamely cavorts high above the stage on a trapeze, her big number, “No Time at All,” brings the house down.
With great ensemble work and other memorable tunes like Pippin’s “Corner of the Sky” and his stepmother Fastrada’s “Spread a Little Sunshine,” fans undeterred by cold weather should get their tickets to this entertaining production before remaining seats at later performances sell out.