The original Pippin was about a theatre troupe; now, with the help of Montreal’s Les 7 doigts de la main, it’s about a travelling circus.
J. Kelly Nestruck
The Globe and Mail
Apr. 26 2013
Now, there’s something you really don’t see every day: Andrea Martin in a leotard, singing full-throatedly, while being held upside-down from her ankles by a moustachioed man on a trapeze.
This surprising, show-stopping routine by the 66-year-old SCTV star is the best reason to see Pippin in its joyous new revival on Broadway, a highly entertaining marriage of classic American musical theatre with contemporary Québécois circus.
Wicked composer Stephen Schwartz’s original breakout hit – slightly creaky and stinking of the early 1970s – is aired out and given fresh life in director Diane Paulus’s new production. This allegorical meta-musical concerns a travelling troupe of Players putting on a play about the son of Charlemagne, Pippin, and the perils of his pursuit of happiness. He wages war, plots revolutions and tries out domestic life before finally being led toward an “extraordinary” ending crafted by the demonic Leading Player – a part originated for Ben Vereen, but here played by rising female Broadway star Patina Miller with bulging eyes and biceps and jazz hands that shoot out like shivs.
The gender of the Leading Player isn’t the only thing flipped around in this revival by Paulus, however. Now the Players are a circus troupe with a heavily Canadian flavour. Gypsy Snyder of Montreal’s Les 7 doigts de la main, pioneers of circus on a human scale, is in charge of the creative contortions and breathtaking tricks that substitute for or complement the choreography, created in the style of Bob Fosse by Chet Walker.
The chorus is stocked with beefy graduates of Canada’s National Circus School, while the costumes – a mix of scary and sensual – are by frequent Cirque du Soleil collaborator Dominique Lemieux.