Theater Review: 'Pippin' -- 3.5 stars
“Pippin,” which premiered on Broadway in 1972 and went on to play nearly 2,000 performances (and has since been seen at nearly every high school in America), was one of the few remaining classic musicals that had yet to receive the Broadway revival treatment.
With an extremely catchy pop score by Stephen Schwartz and original staging by the incomparable Bob Fosse, “Pippin” is told from the viewpoint of a mysterious “Leading Player” who invites the audience to observe how Pippin, a good-looking young man fresh out of college, attempts in vain to find complete fulfillment in life through such activities as war, sex, politics and middle-class monogamy.
Diane Paulus, who helmed the Public Theater’s visionary revival of “Hair” and last season’s “Porgy and Bess,” offers a stunning, circus-themed production that seamlessly combines dance choreography in the trademark Fosse style with countless acrobatic feats.
Although the Leading Player was originally played by Ben Vereen, it is an androgynous role that can just as easily be done by a female, and Patina Miller (“Sister Act”) delivers an absolutely sensational, thoroughly sexy and authoritative performance.
Miller is joined by an exceptional supporting cast including the hilarious Andrea Martin as Pippin’s loose-living grandmother, Terrence Mann as his frustrated father and Charlotte d’Amboise as his sexpot stepmother.
But there is a weak link to this staging, namely Matthew James Thomas’ lifeless performance as Pippin. He mars the production with his hollow acting and weak singing. Nevertheless, this production has an incredible amount of “Magic to Do.”
“Pippin” plays an open run at the Music Box Theatre. 239 W. 45th St., 212-239-6200, pippinthemusical.com.