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The A.R.T.'s "Pippin" Casts A Spell Over Audiences

Emily White ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff

"We've got Magic to do, just for you!" Photo by Michael J. Lutch,
“We’ve got Magic to do, just for you!” Photo by Michael J. Lutch,

American Repertory Theater’s director Diane Paulus’s contemporary reimagining of “Pippin” is a truly magical theatrical experience. By setting the show inside a circus, a whole new level is added to the production that makes it at once thrilling and relatable to modern audiences. One audience member even commented that “it was the best musical I have seen in years, and I never liked ‘Pippin’ before!”

Part of the reason this show is so spectacular is thanks to the acrobatic circus choreography of Gypsy Snider, of the Les 7 Doigts de la Main circus group. This innovative group wowed audiences with “PSY” last year and “Sequence 8” this year, and their unique, ensemble-driven approach to circus left its mark on “Pippin.” The acrobatic ensemble held the show together and were quite possibly the best part of this new production. Their death-defying and humorous feats had the audience on the edge of their seats and never ceased to surprise throughout the show, making every scene feel fresh.

Standouts among the cast included Emmy award-winning, former SCTV cast member and Emerson College alum Andrea Martin as Pippin’s young-at-heart grandmother, Berthe. Her rousing, sing-along number was the linchpin of the show, bringing audiences fully into the spectacular world of “Pippin.” Tony award-winner Terrance Mann never ceased to provide laughter as Pippin’s father, the legendary and corrupt emperor Charlemagne, even performing his own stunt by riding a unicycle across the stage. One of the best parts of the show was that all the actors got a chance to participate in the circus, even Mann and Martin, who shocked the audience with their acrobatic feats. Patina Miller as the Leading Player kept the show’s classic flair with her Fosse-style dance routines, perfectly executed with the right balance of charisma and sass.

Perhaps the greatest part of the show was the “grand finale,” which appears as sort of a twist ending. It is beautifully stripped down and raw, and strikes a hauntingly realistic chord at the end of a relatively indulgent and unrealistic show. What is truly amazing about the A.R.T.’s “Pippin” is that it succeeds in both being a wonderfully extravagant musical, but acknowledges that fact and points it out to the audience.

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