“Pippin” Delivers Magic, Thrills at Broward Center
By Skip Sheffield
Welcome to Cirque du “Pippin,” at center stage of Broward Center through April 12.
This is the four-Tony 2013 Broadway revival directed by Tony Award-winner Diane Paulus, with Bob Fosse’s choreography reworked by Chet Walker.
I will admit “Pippin” is not one of my favorite Broadway shows. While Stephen Schwartz’s music is lovely and memorable, Roger D. Hirson’s book is weak; sophomoric, almost silly. The concept is a kind of recycling of Voltaire’s “Candide,” with an innocent going out into the mean real world and getting a lesson in harsh reality versus high expectations.
The innocent is Pippin (Sam Lips), freshly graduated from the University of Padua. The mocking Leading Player (Lisa Karlin) promises “a grand finale you will remember all your life” while Pippin searches for “what can’t be found in books.”
The Leading Player is in some ways more important than Pippin, for it is she (or he, as for Ben Vereen in the 1972 original) who tells the story, sets up the situation, and makes sarcastic remarks on the characters and what they do.
While Sasha Allen is listed as the Leading Player, for our opening night performance it was Lisa Karlin. I can’t imagine anyone being better than sinewy, slinky, sensuous, Karlin, who moves with catlike grace, with burlesque bumps and grinds thrown in.
The brilliance of this production is the introduction of Gypsy Snider’s Montreal-based circus company into the proceedings. The feats of strength and acrobatic dexterity are alone worth the price of admission, and there are artfully integrated into the action.
Even the non-circus performers are called upon to show their physical prowess. This includes Pippin, his grandmother Berthe, played in a hilarious, sexy turn by a very toned Adrienne Barbeau, and Theo (Lucas Schultz and Stephen Sayegh alternating), Pippin’s stepson. A highlight comes with an audience sing-along on “No Time at All” led by Barbeau from a trapeze perch aloft.
A special treat is delivered by John Rubenstein, the original 1972 Pippin, as his murderous, war-mongering father Charles, Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire. Outstanding as Pippin’s scheming, seductive stepmother Fastrada is Sabrina Harper, a dazzling dancer. Her wholesome polar opposite Catherine, who eventually captures Pippin’s heart, is lovingly conveyed by winsome Kristine Reese.
Yes, they have “magic to do” at Broward Center, and this show delivers a “Love Song” with heartfelt emotion.Tickets are $34.75 and up. Call 800-745-3000 or go to www.browardcenter.org.