I've loved the musical Pippin for a long time. Somehow, I acquired the video version with William Katt and Ben Vereen. There's this fabulous scene where Ben (like I'm on a first name basis with him...) does the old stuff-the-scarf-into-your-hand-and-it-disappears trick. He then spots the scarf up center stage, crosses to it in order to pick it up, and when he does, he pulls up the entire backdrop behind it. Breathtaking!
I knew this new production would be amazing. After seeing the short feature on the Tony Awards, I fell in love. Terrence Mann and circus performers? The colors were gorgeous, and of course, the story and songs are brilliant. It was sure to be a hit!
I guess I didn't realize how much I would love it. Last night, I saw the tour production. I experienced a range of emotions throughout the play. It was fabulous!
I love the idea of the Leading Player being female. Ben, you could do no wrong, but this woman in this role last night was phenomenal! Pippin himself was great, too. The way the directors wove in the circus tricks and magic was perfect. I couldn't imagine a better version.
This particular cast featured Lucie Arnez as Berthe. Her song is so silly and sweet, I couldn't help but tear up throughout it. The set was gorgeous. And the dancing...so much Fosse! Great, great show!
As I watched, I tried to think of an application to writing. What was so intriguing about this story? There's no true villain. The hero is terribly flawed. And (spoilers!) it has a rather anti-climactic ending. What could I possibly learn from this?
There doesn't need to be a villain. The conflict itself lies in Pippin. His antagonist is his dissatisfaction with life. He is constantly sabotaging himself, looking for the next big thing that will fulfill him. And in this, his flaws make him likeable. We can all relate to that feeling of dissatisfaction. We all feel like there's something out there, bigger than us, that will make everything click. (There is, but that's an entirely different post. All I will say is Soli Deo Gloria!) As we walk with Pippin along his journey, we relate to him in a very personal way. Even when he gets whiney and deserves a good kick in the pants, we still connect.
As for the anti-climax, it's just how it needs to be. It's simple, cyclical, and perfect. Without saying too much, we do get to experience that moment where the tension finally breaks, but the final moments leave you shifting in your seat, just a bit uncomfortable. At least until the curtain call (my favorite past of any show), when you get to applaud the brilliant performers.
I am so glad I got to see this production. I thoroughly enjoyed every moment--visually, audibly, and emotionally. If you have the opportunity to see it, I recommend it. Just remember, it's not appropriate for kids. (There were a few there last night, and while I think it's great to expose kids to the theatre, this one isn't a good starting place.)
Thank you, cast and crew of Pippin. And thank you, Stephen Schwartz and team, for creating such a beautiful story told in such a beautiful way!
The first video is the clip from the 2013 Tony Awards. The second includes that moment I mentioned above with Ben Vereen. Enjoy!
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