There’s a funny story about me and Pippin.
When I first read about the revival of Stephen Schwartz’ Pippin on Broadway and I also read that Bob Fosse was being mentioned as some kind of inspriring person I new that I need to see that. (our trip to NYC already had been booked by then)
As time was passing and I really didn’t want to get into booking tickets for the shows I realized that Pippin actually had been nominated for 10 Tony Awards – so I booked our tickets to see it literally in the week before the Tony’s and Pippin ended up winning 4 out of their 10 nominations. You could say I was quite lucky – because basically the show sold so many tickets after the awards, that it might have been hard to find tickets.
When we sat down on our seats in the Music Box Theatre (we went on Oct 1st, a Tuesday, we thought it started at 7pm, it did start at 8pm….better than the other way round, right?) we already were Broadway-pros with three shows already under our belt. And we weren’t too easy to touch anymore.
You remember me writing about me not liking to many things to go on onstage at the same time like showing off things? And yes, again, Pippin does that but it’s not like some random person came and went like: “Hey, I found these Hobos outside our Stage Door, they can do funny things like hand stands and jumping through hoops, let’s just do something with them!” (therefore it was okay and I’m sure if I had been older my stage manager- and assistant director-self would have died of serveral heart attacks because of the circus tricks)
The show basically follows a “play in a play”-dramaturgy. There are circus artists lead by the Leading Player (originated as a male part, in the revival played by the perfect and stunning Patina Miller) in their tent, with trapeze and everything acting out the coming of age story of Pippin son of Charles The Great (for the German readers: Karl der Große).
They are – more or less – comparable to the mechanicals from A Midsummer Night’s Dream acting something they don’t really now and they need help with (here provided by the Leading Player who gives them instructions on how to…) or some of Brecht’s plays. The circus setting gives the story the craziness which – in my opinion – is needed to display the weirdness of the story and the mania of Leading Player as some kind of dictator over his/her actors.
This revival is – for the most part – some kind of circus show. People showing off their tricks and dancing very (very, very, very!) fancy and gorgeous chereographies in Bob Fosse’s style, top hats, colourful costumes, Clowns doing funny things. But at some point, midway through the second half it changes and suddenly becomes a ‘real’ coming of age-story and one about emanzipation, the characters leave the parts they play in the Pippin-storyline and become ‘real’ humans. Of course they are not real by any means but more real than the artificial characters they play in the saga.
Although – as already said – that plot and the setting is rather simple it’s a nice production even besides the Cirque du Soleil-artists. Even though they are acrobatical highlights they are exposed only very few times during the show. Mostly there is so much going on at the same time (some walking on hand here, someone climbing a pole there….) that only “virtuosity on the whole” is shown and not by all means the virtuosity of someone on his own.
As someone who spend a rather large ammount of her studies thinking and writing about performances of travesty – men portraying women, women portraying men the performance of Patina Miller is stuck in my head as a very special performance. Writing about that here, now would be boring for most people and to only give my final thought on that: I’m glad they let a women take her chance on playing the Leading Player. Very, very, very glad.