When the rollcall of great American musicals is read one day, Pippen will not be at the top of the list. Singin in the Rain…check. Oklahoma…check, but not Pippen. Lacking a “hit” song like “Shall We Dance” or “There Is Nothing Like A Dame”, the original production was staged at the end of the Age of Aquarius and is best known for making a star out of Ben Vereen.
That being said, it should not detract in any way from the current touring production, conceived and revived by Diane Paulus of ART in 2013. The play tells the story of the mythical son of Charlemagne, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire, who is questing for the “meaning of life” . He goes to war and to love, and from the set…to the circus.
John Rubenstein, who originated the role on Broadway, now plays Charlemagne in a slightly inebriated and very rakish manner. He rules, is assassinated and then is resurrected. His wife Fastrada can steal the scene with her costume changes. The “players” of the troupe astound and awe the audience in the manner of Cirque de Soleil juggle knives, climb poles and body surf across the stage on large rubber balls like the kind preschoolers use for chairs. A lot of money must have passed hands with the Boston Fire Department to cover the permits and detail firefighters that were no doubt lurking backstage due to the sparklers and flying torch scenes.
The most extraordinary of the performances however, belongs to Adrienne Barbeau of “Maude” fame. Not only can and does she belt out the songs, but in her performance of Berthe, Pippin’s grandmother, she spends a lot of time in a fetching bustier hanging from a trapeze. You read that right, a trapeze.
Limited performances through February 14. Come on, “join us…leave your cheese to sour!”