The Column Online



(National Tour)
Book by Roger O. Hirson
music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

Dallas Summer Musicals

Directed by Diane Paulus
Choreography by Chet Walker
Circus Creation by Gypsy Snider
Scenic design by Scott Pask
Costume design by Dominique Lemieux
Lighting design by Kenneth Posner
Sound design by Jonathan Deans and Garth Helm
Music supervision and arrangements by Nadia DiGiallonardo
Orchestrations by Larry Hochman
Illusions by Paul Kieve
Production Stage Management by Marian Dewitt
Stage Management by Annelise Castleberry

**Sasha Allen (Leading Player)
**Lisa Karlin (Leading Player)
Sam Lips (Pippin)
John Rubinstein (Charles)
Sabrina Harper (Fastrada)
Kristine Reese (Catherine)
Adrienne Barbeau (Berthe)
Erik Altemus (Lewis)
Jake Berman/ Stephen Sayegh(Theo)
Andalousi (Player)
Bradley Benjamin (Player)
Kevin Langlois Boucher (Player)
Mark Burrell (Player)
Mathew deGuzman (Player)
Sammy Dinneen (Player)
Henry Gottfried (Player)
Viktoria Grimmy (Player)
Kelsey Jamieson (Player)
Preston Jamieson (Player)
Anna Kachalova (Player)
Alan Kelly (Player)
Anna Schnaitter (Player)
Katie Smith (Player)
Kate Wesler (Player)
Borris York (Player)

**Reviewed Ms. Karlin for 07/07/15 Performance
** Reviewed Ms. Allen for 07/08/15 Performance

Credit Terry Shapir

Reviewed Performance: 7/7/2015

Reviewed by John Garcia, Senior Chief Theater Critic/Editor/Founder, THE COLUMN. Member, AMERICAN THEATRE CRITICS ASSOCIATION for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

I am addicted to the work of genius Bob Fosse. From the second I first did Damn Yankees (as Applegate), for research I watched the movie version and immediately zoned in to the unique choreography, which was by Fosse. That kernel of interest bloomed even bigger when I connected the dots that he was the director and choreographer of Chicago, starring the legend herself, Chita Rivera. I have read every book about Fosse’s life, watched every clip of his work on YouTube, his movies, etc. even saw the original Broadway production of the Tony Award winning musical Fosse. This musical was an evening built around his iconic choreographic masterpieces of dance. For a Fosse fanatic like myself, that musical was like a drug feeding my addiction.

In my personal conversations and interviews with Chita Rivera, she went into great detail about Fosse’s approach to the work, his approach to directing and choreographing a show. She was there in fact when he had his heart attack while they were working on the original production of Chicago. I devoured every story and antidote she told, I mean this was musical theater history being shared on a personal level to me! His heart attack is a major plot twist in Fosse’s autobiographical Oscar nominated film, All That Jazz. I just recently finished reading the latest biography on Fosse by Sam Wasson, a 589 page memoir that is a must read. I learned so much more about Fosse’s creativity, how his personal life connected to his work, and of course about the history and backstory of Pippin.

This musical opened at the Imperial Theater on October 23, 1972, and ran for 1,944 performances. It received eleven Tony nominations, winning four, including Best Director and Choreography for Fosse. Pippin lost Best Score and Best Musical to Sondheim’s A Little Night Music. With his Pippin Tonys under his belt, Fosse was the first artist to win an Oscar (Directing the film Cabaret), an Emmy (for Directing the TV special Liza with a Z), and the Tony (for Pippin) all in the same year!

In Wasson’s book I discovered delicious bon-bons regarding the creation and backstage story of Pippin’s journey from paper to the Imperial Theater!

When he took on Pippin, his original concept became a never ending battle with Composer Stephen Schwartz and book writer Roger O. Hirson. Fosse wanted the piece to be much darker in theme and emotion, especially the ending. All dripping in sexuality. When John Rubinstein (who originated the title role) first got the script, he realized it was a mess. He had dinner with Fosse who first brought up that the show had a disastrous book. They discussed at great length ideas on what to fix, change, and edit the unbalanced book.

When rehearsals began Ben Vereen had issues with his role (which originally was titled “Old Man”). In early drafts his character simply was a narrator for the musical numbers, nothing else. At the read through Vereen was just not thrilled and brought his concerns to Fosse, who told Vereen (they had worked already together in the film version of Sweet Charity) “not to worry”. Vereen and Fosse together transformed the role into a new character with a new title “Leading Player”, and made him resemble the devil in trying to lead Pippin into his world of darkness, emptiness, and devoid of any love. This fit so much more into Fosse’s dark subtext and themes he wanted, they built and added so much onto the role resulting with Vereen winning the Tony for his efforts.

It was during the chorus auditions for Pippin that Fosse would meet a woman who would change his life, Ann Reinking. She would not only become Fosse’s lover (he and Gwen Verdon had divorced by then), but his new muse.

During the original run Irene Ryan, who created the role of Berthe had a stroke after a performance and was rushed to the hospital, then flown to Los Angeles for treatment. Sadly she died just six weeks after her stroke.

Schwartz and Hirson’s battles with Fosse were endless. For example for the number “War is a Science” Fosse added “Ha-chas, yuk-yuks, yeahs, and skiddos” which drove the future composer of Wicked crazy. During rehearsals for “With You”, Fosse threw out Hirson’s book and created a very raw, orgiastic sex sequence that caused the producers and production to have heart attacks. This infamous artistic battle was re-created in the film All that Jazz with the number “NY/LA/ Come Fly with Us”.

During previews in Washington their biggest fight over the book was the final line. Originally Catherine, Pippin, and Theo are alone on stage and Catherine asks, “How do you feel?” to which Pippin replied, “Trapped”. Early audiences recoiled at that line. But in Fosse’s dark pathos world it fit perfectly. Then Rubinstein one night added after saying “Trapped” a new line, “But happy”. It completely changed the audience’s reactions and the show received rapturous reviews. This stayed in the show till previews in New York where Fosse panicked and second guessed himself, he wanted the bleak ending back in, so he instructed Rubenstein to cut “But happy”. Fosse hated the fact that musicals always had to end with happiness and all the loose ends sweetly tied up with a big, sugary finale. They fought over this, but Rubinstein regretfully did as told. The reviews were mixed at best when it opened on the Great White Way.

In Wasson’s book he writes Fosse was never completely happy with Pippin. He wished he stuck to his guns for the darker subtext. In fact the ending has been changed yet again for the 2013 Broadway revival.

Ticket sales for the original run were brisk at best. That is when Fosse came up with the idea of a commercial for TV. No Broadway production had ever done that. So Fosse personally directed and edited the commercial which contained only Vereen and two female dancers writhing in Fosse’s choreography from the number “Glory”. This commercial caused ticket sales to soar. Pippin would also become the first ever musical to be videotaped in 1981. Directed by Kathryn Doby (who served as Fosse’s dance Captain in the original Broadway production), it starred Ben Vereen, William Katt (who played Tommy Ross in the 1976 film Carrie), Martha Raye, and Chita Rivera. This VHS cassette sold over a million units!

Pippin would not return to Broadway until March 2013 as the first ever revival, playing at the Music Box Theater. During its run original Pippin cast members Priscilla Lopez and John Rubinstein join the revival company (as Berthe and King Charles respectively). This new revival would earn ten Tony nominations, winning four, including Best Revival and Best Director. It closed in January 2015. Once again there are changes within the book and score. The song “Welcome Home” was cut and added was Theo singing a reprise of “Corner of the Sky” at the end of Act II.

Now this revival is on a national tour, which Dallas Summer Musicals brought to the music hall, opening Tuesday evening.

Pippin is a staple for many theater companies (equity and non-equity) to insert into their seasons. I’ve lost count how many I’ve already seen of it (and did the show twice myself). Some productions I’ve seen were terrific or others that arrived dead on arrival. Others have simply copied the video version.

Director Diane Paulus has created with unbelievable magic an original, new, transcendent production of Pippin that I have EVER seen. It is easily the BEST interpretation of Pippin to be mounted onto the stage boards. No wonder she won the Tony for directing this revival! She has planted the show into a bigger than life Cirque du Soleil spectacle with endless, jaw dropping magical illusions. After all the first song is titled “Magic to Do”-and sweet Houdini do they ever in this musical! But even with all these dazzling effects, tricks, and feats of gravity she kept the gripping dramatic (yet comical) subtext and truth of the piece at the forefront. Both the book and the score have been greatly freshened up, tightened, with the staging and acting overflowing with gobs of subtext originality. This is not by ANY means the usual “been there, seen that” version of Pippin. Her direction transformed this into a completely reimagined musical that has never been seen!

Aiding her immensely are two other major contributors: The circus creations by Gypsy Snider, who is the co-founder/co-director of Les 7 doigts de la main (7 Fingers). His company brought to the Winspear a couple of seasons ago the exciting production titled Traces. The other is Paul Kieve’s illusions. These two bring wave after wave of heart pounding, thrilling, and jaw dropping feats with their creations of defying feats of acrobatic and circus themed assortment of tricks, leaps, flips, aerial choreography, etc. They use flying rings, ladders, strips of silk, balls, and other forms of suspending apparatus. And those magic illusions! I was seated only four rows from the orchestra and I could not see at all how they did it! I will not spoil any of the spectacular creations these two put the cast through. You need to be as surprised and shocked as I was because you NEVER expect to see what they achieve here. All evening long around me the audience gasped, cheered, whistled, and went into a frenzy with what you see on stage. There are moments where you are twisting and wringing your Playbill because you are so tense and scared by the acrobatics and aerial sequences.

My first experience to see Chet Walker’s work was when he served as co-conceiver/co-choreographer of the Broadway musical Fosse, which I was so lucky to see with the entire original cast still in it. Walker is one of the very few left that truly understands Fosse’s work. After all Walker was in the original casts of four Fosse musicals: The Pajama Game, Sweet Charity, Dancin, and of course Pippin. Suffice to say the man knows how to bring back to life Fosse’s original choreography! And with this revival of Pippin he does it in abundance. But he also adds his own original dance creations sprinkled within Fosse’s work. I sincerely hope that audiences are realizing that they are seeing the brilliance of Fosse’s work re-created down to the “it’s like your holding soft boiled eggs in your hands” gestures. That is a term Fosse always said in rehearsal. Walker beautifully choreographs several iconic numbers from the original Broadway production. Such as the trio during “Glory”, the dazzling “War is a Science”, “Spread a little Sunshine” and others.

I was very relieved that Walker kept the sexual rawness and sensuality for the numbers “With You”, “Spread a Little Sunshine”, and the hilarious, yet sexy dance section when Pippin and Catherine make love. Many productions water this down as to not offend. But this is Fosse’s world! When he was just a young boy he actually performed in strip clubs and burlesque dance halls. The strippers practically adopted him and revealed not only flesh but their lives to him. These worlds of nudity and sexuality made a major impact on such a young lad that is stayed in Fosse’s mind his whole life, that’s why you see so much of this in his work. You have to remember, Pippin is trying to find purpose in life, and part of that journey is sexuality-as we all have. Walker does not shy away from this, thank god! You need this subtext to truly understand Pippin’s inner battles of finding himself. It was so refreshing to finally see the original Fosse approach to this section with Walker’s recreations as well as adding acrobatic and aerial feats to really seal in the erotic lust that these numbers demand.

I must applaud Nadia Digiallonardo for her musical arrangements and Larry Hochman for his new orchestrations. They stripped the score from its original 1970s grip and gave the score enthralling vitality from today’s world of music. They added much more music to expand several company numbers for the acrobatics, aerial feats, and fantastical illusions, which fit like a white Fosse glove over Stephen Schwartz’s original music. From the percussion to the live strings they dusted off the score and created such a wondrous, freshly minted score.

Scott Pask has designed a pastel, color bursting set for this new world for Pippin. What a stroke of genius was him to create a bland, colorless front drape that the audience sees when then walk into the theater. But when the number “Magic to Do” starts to kick up the tempo, this drape strips away in pieces to reveal the inside of a circus tent, swashed in blinding colors! There are ladders and rings floating all around. Center stage is a mini stage with a balcony; this center set piece serves as the entrance to the circus tent that is ornate in design and draped in heavy wine colored curtains. Pask uses within this set piece a parade of very detailed, ornate painted backdrops; everything from the King’s palace, to the chapel, to Catherine’s humble home. All evening long he has other set pieces brought in to add excitement.

The lighting design by Kenneth Posner blazes in loads of color! From using a dizzying array of gobos, and cascades of lighting that moves all around the stage, swirling and changing color that is mind blowing from the first song to the last. He trimmed the iron circles that hold the tent up and the two massive stair cases with lighting fixtures. Even the circular centerpiece brought in to use for the finale has lighting all around it that flickers! Hell, even the curtain call has a delicious splatter of greens and yellows with gobos of stars bathing the cast. Each musical number and scene Posner paints with emotional lighting, be it bright and pouring in color, or dark and moody when the emotion demands that. Just pure razzle dazzle creativity is brought by Posner.

Sitting so close I was able to see the magnificent detail in Dominique Lemieux’s out of this world costume design! The ensemble (both male and female) have incredibly muscle toned bodies, so their tight costumes resembled second skins to show every muscle flex. Their costumes were painted in bright, fantastic shapes and patterns in a sea of colors. Your eyes go everywhere trying to soak in it all in! Lemieux used a scrumptious array of colors, fabrics, beads, sequins, and rhinestones to create her magic of costume design. The leading player is in all black, from her shimmering tights, to her soft, velvet vest. There is a great hint of foreshadowing that Lemieux designed for Pippin and Catherine. He wears a lavender, billowing shirt throughout the show, while Catherine appears in Act II in a shimmering lavender gown dipped in silver sparkling dust. King Charles is dressed in regal robes and knee length shirts that are lined with sequins. The massive robe that he wears in the chapel has a beautiful trim of ornate gold. Lewis (Pippin’s step brother) wears a gold skin tight top with black tights in which the material has a subtle, yet really interesting design. But wait till you see what Lemieux created for Fastrada! I’ll say no more, you have got to see it to believe it!

As an actor, as well as an audience member/theater critic, I have seen and done so, so much theater. I have covered Broadway, national tours, productions from various states, and of course the Dallas-Ft Worth area. Seen the best, the worst, the so-so, and the mediocre. This Pippin national touring cast contains some of the most incredible and astonishing talent that you have ever seen. What makes this cast even more unique and special is that several come directly from the Broadway revival, and one is from the actual original Broadway version. In all sincerity, this is a one of a kind cast you will NEVER see again. They are all that special!

The chemistry and collaboration of the entire company is unparalleled. You can see each of them connect to the score and book like emotional Velcro, but also to each other throughout the evening. What makes them even more special is that every single cast member has their own individual moment on stage, from ensemble to principals. That is RARE in musicals. But each one brings to the artistic table such special talent that they are each given their moment to shine in the spotlight. That is why every member of the company gets their own individual bow topped off with their own unique lighting! And they rightfully earned it!

NOTE: On press night Sasha Allen was out, so I was very fortunate to be invited back to see Ms. Allen’s performance on Wednesday evening. So in all fairness I reviewed both actresses who portrayed the leading player.

Tuesday night understudy Lisa Karlin went on for the Leading Player. Ms. Karlin is a physically striking actress with a killer bod! I must comment that her stage make up is beautifully applied, especially her eyeshadows and lashes, it made her eyes pop with pizzazz! At the Tuesday night cast party she and I discussed her approach to Fosse’s choreography. She stated that they worked hours upon hours perfecting it. Karlin stated that Choreographer Chet Walker said in rehearsal if you feel that you are working hard on executing it, then you’re doing it right. Karlin executed Fosse’s dance creations superbly. She is extraordinary in the iconic trio dance break of “Glory”. I was floored when she told me her background and career first focused only on dance. That is very obvious by her slick, powerful approach to the choreography which she does to perfection. But her singing voice……..WHOA! She has a set of lungs that will blow you away! Her belt is one of the strongest within the cast. With a solid vibrato underneath she belts with full force in several songs. Most who tackle this role don’t have that kind of voice, so Karlin made each song sound so new and amazing. Karlin keeps the original undertone of the leading player being the devil, which I love! She laughs with a sinister, almost demonic overtone. Her facial expressions vividly show the leading player’s intentions toward Pippin. But Karlin also brings big, strong laughs in several key scenes. She balances the comedy and dark overtones of her characterization with outstanding success!

Wednesday night Sasha Allen was back in the show. Many will immediately remember her from the cult classic hit film Camp, in which she sang several powerful songs. I am devoted to NBC’s The Voice. On season four Allen auditioned, achieving the rare feat of all four judges turning their chairs. Allen made it to the top five. Personal opinion here, but she should have won. Just go on YouTube and see her powerhouse vocal attack on Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You”. She also toured with several major pop stars around the world as a backup vocalist. At Wednesday’s press junket I asked her how she approached the score since her background is rooted in pop and soul, and yet she also did Broadway in the revival of Hair. She stated that she was so blessed and lucky to have composer Stephen Schwartz actually giving her full artistic freedom to add her own personal, artistic stamp in regards to her songs and interpretation. And does she ever!

Allen adds these powerful vocal riffs in several songs that l almost leaped up from my seat and scream like a crazy fan at a Beyoncé concert! Her vocal approach to the score is OUT OF THIS WORLD! By the way the girl can belt-and I mean belt! Her approach to the role was quite sensual, sexy, and alluring. This was so fascinating to me. Instead of being demonic, she made the leading player more of a seducer towards Pippin. She nailed the subtext on pushing Pippin closer and closer to the grand finale; it was riveting to observe her acting craft. Even her attack to the Fosse choreography had sensuality dripping all over it. I bet Fosse would have loved that! Ms. Allen is physically one of the most beautiful women to ever step on the music hall stage. Those gorgeous eyes immediately forced the audience to fall into her web of sensuality. Her comedic craft was met with soaring success. The girl knows how to knock a joke or a one liner straight out of the ballpark. At the press junket she talked on how much she respected and loved Ben Vereen (who originated the role), and that the role is always played by a male. So she knew as a woman and actress, she had to create her own interpretation of the role. She admitted it scared and excited her all at once. She went on to say it is the greatest challenge she has ever had as a performer. Well Ms. Allen you succeeded on so many levels. She delivers a performance that will stay with you long after the curtain call, she is that incredible!

Sam Lips portrayal in the title role can be wrapped up this way: It is a revolutionary, one of a kind performance that shatters the mold in which this character has been caged in forcing many actors to repeat the same carbon copy performance like others in the past. Lips comes directly from the Broadway revival where he understudied the role. He completely and totally steers far away from the way this role has been played in the past. He’s the first actor I’ve seen who has added layer upon layer of hysterical, side splitting moments and comedic line delivery. He has that magnetic stage presence that forces you to constantly watch him, even when he is not the focus of the scene or number. He achieves some of the largest, robust laughs of the evening. I laughed so hard watching how he made Pippin trying his best to do the choreography, for example in “War is a Science”. Lips/Pippin tries his best to stay in sync, only he is always a beat behind or looks clumsy trying to do the choreography. So it is a major, delightful surprise in the number “On the Right Track” he magically transforms into a sublime dancer and executes the choreography with awesome precision and out of this world energy.

As the leading man in this musical he doesn’t rely on his athletic swimmer’s build and pretty boy looks. He relies on his tour de force talents. His comedic timing, pace, and delivery combined with his body movements and facial expressions shakes the music hall in laughter. Lips characterization and acting craft to Pippin’s journey and subtext is peerless. He rises to the challenge to show in raw honesty the dark pathos and inner emotional battles Pippin has regarding his purpose in life. His Act II dramatic scene work will break your heart. Lips truly understands Pippin’s emotional pain, it is a poignant performance Lips brings in Act II. Vocally, it’s another level of finesse and artistry that Lips provides. A flawless, beautiful tenor voice that contains a shimmering falsetto. For “Corner of the Sky” he belts with muscular vocal force and then subsides with gliding ease into the falsetto. In “Morning Glory”, he actually changes the key and goes up into a higher register (which I have never heard before), belting full out, without a crack.

I met him privately Wednesday after the show and I asked him how he felt performing the role in front of the man who originated his role on Broadway almost forty years ago. Lips said he was blessed to have a director allow him to find his own voice, characterization and journey with the role. He said Rubinstein never once told him how to do the role, but instead has been so supportive and that it is a bit surreal to be sharing the stage with him.

Lips creation of Pippin is like nothing you have or will ever see again. It is that one of kind performance that leaves you speechless and floored by the talent that radiates from this insanely gifted actor.

I had the wonderful opportunity to see twice the original Broadway production of Ragtime. On my second visit I got to see John Rubinstein portray father (giving a marvelous performance). Rubinstein originated the role of Pippin and has now come full circle. He first joined the Broadway revival cast portraying King Charles, and now he’s in the tour. How many lucky audience members can say they saw the original Pippin now playing the King? Like the others within the cast, Rubinstein transforms and creates a completely, spanking new interpretation of the King. All I can say is that you better be careful, his performance is so FREAKING HILARIOUS that you might tinkle right in your seat from laughing so hard! His comedic timing, pace, and delivery is like NOTHING I’ve ever seen come from this role before. This Tony award winner knows how to wring a laugh from every single line and scene. His facial expressions are like custard pies flying out into the audience smacking you in the face, and you will devour every single slice of that comedy brilliance he serves. Rubinstein added some delicious new lines and comedic bits that just made the audience howl in laughter. He is a treasure to the American theater and how lucky we are to see him here in Dallas.

In the 1981 video version of Pippin, Broadway legend and Fosse muse Chita Rivera portrayed the role of Fastrada. For this national tour it is Sabrina Harper who now takes on the role. If Rivera saw Harper’s performance she would indeed give Ms. Harper her blessing, a big hug, and great praise. Harper has the kind of body that makes men melt and weak at the knees. When she looks out into the audience with those beguiling, come hither eyes she hypnotizes every male mortal and would do whatever Harper asked them to do. This gorgeous vixen informs the audience “I’m just a simple, ordinary housewife and mother, like all you housewives and mothers out there.” To have this sexy goddess say that just had the audience guffawing. Harper’s big number “Spread A Little Sunshine” is a double entendre full of wickedly delicious innuendo. Harper is aware of this and sells the number into a major showstopper. Walker again recreates Fosse’s fabulous choreography for Harper to dance here, and the girl goes full out! Those long legs for days go straight up with ease and grace, and she brings every gesture, pelvic thrust, and flick of the hand as Fosse would have her do. Her chemistry with her leading men-her husband (Rubinstein), her step son (Pippin) and her son who is her favorite Lewis (Erik Altemus) is sublime. But wait till you see what she does within her big number. It made the audience gasp loudly and applaud. I’ll leave it at that!

There is another actor from the Broadway revival that is in this cast, Erik Altemus. He originated the role of Lewis in the revival. At the cast party I asked him how long he played the role, he stated he stayed in the Broadway revival for over a year! Then returned to do the national tour. He stated it was like starting completely from scratch because it was a totally new cast and he fed off on this new chemistry and energy from his fellow cast mates. It shows! Like his co-stars, Altemus achieves that rare quality in that he has reconceived this role into a totally different character that is wonderfully original. Lewis is always played as a whiny, momma’s boy who sucks his thumb and goes into childish tantrums. Not Altemus. This tall, devilishly handsome man with great biceps portrays Lewis as a very masculine, commanding, and power hungry heir to the throne. He wants that crown and become King. He thirsts for war and blood, which Altemus relishes in the number “War is a Science”. He has the perfect dancer’s body that matches up beautifully with Harper who portrays his mother. His execution of the choreography in “Spread a Little Sunshine” is athletic, precise, clean, and doused in masculine sensuality, with a solid dash of comedy. He and Hunter are immaculate in the number.

Altemus’s comedic craft is superlative. His facial expressions just made me hold my sides from laughing so much. Observe him during “War is a Science”, it will have you laughing non-stop. His chemistry with his mother (Harper) is riveting. Gone is the momma boy’s aura, but instead two power hungry adults willing to do anything for money and the crown. This is also the first time to see Lewis in more of the full company numbers. For example, Altemus is one of the three scene stealing pigs in the number “extraordinary”. Altemus executes the choreography as though he was Fosse’s own son that was blessed with those genes. He gives an unrivaled performance as Lewis.

Finally we have Kristine Reese as Catherine and Adrienne Barbeau as Berthe. I sound like a broken record, but here yet again are two incomparable actresses that produce two redefined performances that are devoid of any traits from the carbon copies of past performers in these roles.

Reese, who is a breathtaking beauty portrays Catherine, a widowed single mother who owns a lot of land. Director Diane Paulus smartly gives us great foreshadowing by having Reese intertwine with the cast in several musical numbers and scenes, but always letting her stand out with a prop or stage movement that forces Pippin to look at her. Sam Lips (Pippin) and she look at each other briefly, but you already see the seeds of chemistry bloom with those glances that really ground their chemistry in Act II. I’ve never seen an actress bring out so much comedy from this role and she does that all evening long. Most actresses pigeon hole the role into the typical love interest ingénue. Reese has exceptional comedic talents that generate massive laughter. This girl knows her comedic timing, giving just the right amount of beats before hitting a home run with a zinger. The infamous bed scene between Pippin and Catherine is one of the funniest scenes of the entire show. They are aided by a male and female acrobatic duo to really seal in the laughs of a couple making love for the first time. Reese and Lips just bring the house down in laughter in that scene.

She and Lips have warm, loving chemistry that radiates on stage. It is quite moving and deeply touching when the darkness of the piece begins to pour into the show like a foreboding mist of sadness. Both show deep compassion for each other. Their duet “Love Song” is so warm and endearing to observe. Reese also sings (with a divine soprano voice) “I Guess I’ll Miss The Man” that will put a lump in your throat. She gives a consummate performance.

Adrienne Barbeau has had a long and distinguished career in film, stage, and TV. She is after all the original Rizzo from Grease and was Maude’s daughter! Like the rest of the principals, she too revamps the grandmotherly role of Berthe into a totally fresh and authentic character. Barbeau almost steals the show with her big show stopping number “No Time At All”. She strips off her colorful print, grandmother costume to reveal a hot to trot body in a pink/turquoise rhinestone corset and black tights! Then with a tall, muscled man they rise high above holding on a large ring, where upon Barbeau does these AMAZING tricks, adding delectable humor, and even sings full out hanging upside down! The audience went berserk in wild applause when she did this! She, like her co-stars deliver the laughs that had the audience rolling in the aisles. This role is always played as an old broad who “thinks” she’s bawdy. Barbeau is NO old broad, but a sexy, hot woman who knows how to use a muscle stud like a toy boy, while singing full out!

But this revival would not be the impeccable, world class, stand out production it is without the members who make up the ensemble . A majority of them have backgrounds in acrobatics and aerial from such companies as cirque de L‘Odyesse, Cirque du Soleil, National Centre for Circus Arts, and so on. But they also can sing with vocal beauty and execute Fosse’s choreography flawlessly. They do high in the air tricks, or use the two towering poles, ladders, balls, and other pieces to create eye popping, incredible feats that will give you goose bumps. And they bring the comedy constantly throughout the show. In every musical number they provide hysterical moments that kill you over in laughter. These men and women have bodies that are chiseled from pure muscle. They have the bodies that make you regret ever eating a piece of cake. I mean what do they live on, carrot sticks and water?

This preeminent, stupendous ensemble that are called the players in Pippin consists of Andalousi, Bradley Benjamin, Kevin Langlois Boucher, Mark Burrell, Mathew deGuzman, Sammy Dinneen , Henry Gottfried, Viktoria Grimmy, Kelsey Jamieson, Preston Jamieson, Anna Kachalova, Alan Kelly, Anna Schnaitter, Katie Smith, Kate Wesler, and Borris York.

There are revivals, and then there are REVIVALS! I know I am in the minority here, but I am bored to death of the war horse musical when recreated in the same way. I have to be now drugged and dragged screaming in having to see yet again a war horse musical. So VERY few artists, from the production team to the cast are willing to step WAY outside of the box. Who wants to sit through yet another sleep inducing , paint by number musical you’ve seen a million times? This imposing revival of Pippin was a dream come true for me. Lovers and performers of musicals will devour, savor, and relish every moment of this production. You will NEVER and I mean NEVER will see a version of Pippin like this again. It’s that unique and special. Nor will you see a cast brimming with so much blinding talent as this company possesses. I promise you, you will deeply regret not seeing this production of Pippin.

I can see Bob Fosse up in the heavens looking down on this national touring cast and production of his creation. I honestly believe he would softly put out the cigarette that is always dangling from his mouth, and then tip his iconic bowler hat to this cast and bow to them, thanking them for making his vision of Pippin so different and unique, but keeping his original honesty and subtext. For this production of Pippin is a masterpiece. Period.

National Tour
Playing at Dallas Summer Musicals through July 19, then at the Bass Hall in Fort Worth July 21-26.

Single tickets from $25-$98 (pricing subject to change) at by phone at 1.800.514.ETIX (3849), and at The Box Office, 5959 Royal Lane, Suite 542 in Dallas, TX. Groups of 10 or more receive a 15% discount, priority seating, and many more benefits. Please call 214.426.GROUP (4768) or email

For Fort Worth tickets: Single tickets are now on sale from $44-$132 (pricing subject to change) and are available online at over the phone at 817.212.4280 or in person at the Bass Hall Box Office. Groups of 10 or more receive a 10% discount. For group sales, call 817.212.4248 or email