Tag Archives: pippin

LiLo lawyer has sketchy past – New York Post

New York Post
By Cindy Adams
January 21, 2013
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REMEMBER 1977’s “Pippin” starring Ben Vereen? Following the legit’s current mantra of re-re-revivals, B’way’s supersuccessful musical got redone and rejuiced. It’s testing in Massachusetts which, following Romney, appears able to deliver some winners. The cast of “A Chorus Line’s” Charlotte d’Amboise, Matthew James Thomas, who on and off was in that “Spider-Man: Turn Off . . . the whatever” and award-winning Andrea Martin is getting big-time reviews and opens here mid-April….. (Read More)

Pippin – Variety

By Frank Rizzo
January 04, 2013
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The long journey to create a successful revival of the ’70s hit musical “Pippin” seemed as endless as the title character’s meandering search for his life’s purpose in a wicked world. But Diane Paulus’ Cirque du Showbiz production preeming at American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass., is fresh, lively and in many ways extraordinary — and sure to create positive buzz prior to its just-announced spring perch at the Rialto’s Music Box Theater. The time for “Pippin” has finally come.

Diane Paulus directs magical ‘Pippin’ at ART – Boston Globe

Boston Globe
By Jeffrey Gantz
January 04, 2013
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It’s not easy being the son of the most powerful man in Europe. Pépin the Hunchback, the eldest son of Charlemagne, didn’t have much of a life: His father dismissed his mother, and after his attempt at revolt was put down, Dad had him tonsured and sent to a monastery, where he died, not yet 50 years old. He has a far better time of it as the hero of “Pippin.”

Andrea Martin, Patina Miller, Terrance Mann _ ‘Pippin’ cast for Broadway has familiar faces – The Washington Post

The Washington Post
By Associated Press
January 04, 2013
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NEW YORK — The folks who brought magic to the new “Pippin” in Massachusetts are coming south to Broadway.

Producers on Monday said Matthew James Thomas will star this spring as Pippin, Patina Miller will be the Leading Player, Terrence Mann will be Charles, Charlotte d’Amboise plays Fastrada, Rachel Bay Jones will be Catherine and Andrea Martin plays Berthe…. (Read More)

Andrea Martin, Patina Miller, Terrance Mann _ ‘Pippin’ cast for Broadway has familiar faces – U.S. News & World Report

U.S. News & World Report
By Associated Press
January 04, 2013
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NEW YORK — The folks who brought magic to the new “Pippin” in Massachusetts are coming south to Broadway.

Producers on Monday said Matthew James Thomas will star this spring as Pippin, Patina Miller will be the Leading Player, Terrence Mann will be Charles, Charlotte d’Amboise plays Fastrada, Rachel Bay Jones will be Catherine and Andrea Martin plays Berthe…. (Read More)

'Pippin' is back, and surrounded by Broadway buzz – AP News

AP News
Dec. 21 2:16 PM EST
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass. (AP) — “Everything has its season, everything has its time,” goes a famous song from the musical “Pippin.” Well, maybe, but for the many fans of that ’70s Stephen Schwartz hit, a return to Broadway has been overdue for years.

This undated publicity photo provided by American Repertory Theater shows Patina Miller as the Leading Player in a production of "Pippin," at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/ American Repertory Theater, Michael J. Lutch)

This undated publicity photo provided by American Repertory Theater shows Patina Miller as the Leading Player in a production of “Pippin,” at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass. (AP Photo/ American Repertory Theater, Michael J. Lutch)

Now those fans may get their wish. An ambitious revival that fuses the famous Bob Fosse choreography with the daring physical world of circus is in previews at the American Repertory Theater in Cambridge, Mass. And before it even opened, it was surrounded by Broadway buzz, with word that producers were seeking a theater on the Great White Way, perhaps for the spring.

Director Diane Paulus certainly has an enviable track record. Her revivals of both “Hair” and “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” have not only gone to Broadway but have won Tonys for best revival of a musical. And to judge from the enthusiastic reaction at a recent preview in Cambridge, audiences are liking what they see.

It helps, of course, that there’s so much nostalgia out there for the show, a whimsical coming-of-age story set in medieval times that opened in 1972 and ran for five years. Directed and choreographed by the masterful Fosse, it starred Ben Vereen as the Leading Player, an emcee-like role that won him a best-actor Tony. (Fosse, who died in 1987, won Tonys for direction and choreography.)

Paulus herself, a little girl during the run, was one of its ardent fans. “It made its mark on me,” she says. “I knew that cast album by heart. I sang all the songs with my friends.”

Four decades later, give or take a few years, Paulus was looking for her next project. Schwartz had come to her with another show, and during the conversation, she raised the subject of “Pippin,” which is still performed by countless school groups and regional troupes. “I said, ‘BY the way…'” she quips.

Schwartz liked the idea, Paulus was excited — but she needed a hook. The task was to modernize and reinvigorate it. And then it hit her: Circus. Specifically, the hugely physical style of a Montreal circus company, Les 7 Doigts de la Main (literally, the seven fingers of the hand).

“I wanted to put a unique acrobatic language onstage,” Paulus says. “A light bulb went off.” She spoke to the circus company’s co-founder, Gypsy Snider, who noted that being “extraordinary” — Pippin’s aspiration — is also the aspiration of every circus artist. (Snider has choreographed the circus parts of the show, and Chet Walker, who was in the original “Pippin,” has choreographed the dance parts in Fosse style.)

There was also the question of casting. Vereen, especially, had made his role rather iconic. But, Paulus thought, there was nothing in the script that said the Leading Player had to be a man. She consulted with Schwartz, who concurred. All she needed was someone who could convey the power of seduction as well as Vereen.

And so, Paulus’s Leading Player ended up being a woman — Patina Miller, the ebullient Tony-nominated star of “Sister Act,” in which she played Deloris, the Whoopi Goldberg role. The surprise was not, of course, that Miller could sing and act. The surprise was that she could dance.

“I don’t call myself a dancer, but I think this sort of dancing suits my body very well,” says Miller. “I guess I SHOULD call myself a dancer.” Paulus says Miller is “has an incredible facility for movement” — something that certainly comes across in the famous “Manson Trio” dance sequence.

Then there was the title role. Pippin is the young son of Charlemagne, and heir to the throne, but that’s not enough for him: He’s desperate to find a meaningful role in life (his own “Corner of the Sky,” to quote his opening song.) On Broadway, John Rubinstein (son of pianist Arthur) imbued the role with a sweet, almost absent-minded innocence. Paulus saw droves of actors, and chose … Spider-Man.

That would be Matthew James Thomas, the young British actor who played Peter Parker several times a week in the original company of “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” as a backup to Reeve Carney. Paulus says Thomas displayed just the right mix of vocal power, physical ability, and introspectiveness.

“He has soul,” Paulus says. “Pippin has a deep soul. And Matthew is fearless — he’ll do anything physical.”

Thomas says the physical challenges of “Pippin,” in which he does things like jump through hoops — literally — and sing while scaling and descending poles, are more daunting than those of “Spider-Man.”

“As Spider-Man I was wired the whole time,” says the 24-year-old actor, munching on an energy bar to stay fueled on a recent nippy Cambridge morning. “Here, it’s just my own body.” He was facing a full day of rehearsals — Paulus is still making changes — and then an exhausting performance at night, during which he never leaves the stage.

The two are joined by a starry supporting cast. Virtually everyone has a Tony or was nominated for one. That includes Terrence Mann (“The Addams Family,” ”Beauty and the Beast,” the original “Cats”) as the king, and Charlotte d’Amboise (“A Chorus Line,” ”Jerome Robbins’ Broadway”) as the sexy stepmother.

And it includes the gifted comic actress Andrea Martin (“Young Frankenstein,” ”My Favorite Year,” many others) as Berthe, the grandmother, a role made famous on Broadway by Irene Ryan. If Berthe’s anthem “No Time at All” stopped the show on Broadway, it’s safe to say Martin’s, er, enhanced version stops it even colder in the A.R.T. production (to say more would be to spoil the fun.)

Though the show seems destined for Broadway, if the stars align, Paulus and her cast are trying to focus for now on perfecting it for an early January official opening (the run ends Jan. 20.) They’re also trying to avoid the obvious trap: Thinking too much about living up to expectations.

“You’re always going to get people who come in and expect to see what they saw years ago,” says Miller. “I’m not Ben Vereen.” In fact, to make that point, she at first resisted the costume she was given — a slinky, black, curve-hugging tuxedo-like number — because it looked too much like Vereen’s.

Then she saw how good she looked in it.

“I decided it works,” she says with a smile.

Taking ‘Pippin’ to the big top at the ART – The Boston Globe

The Boston Globe
By Joel Brown: Globe Corespondent
December 12, 2012
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CAMBRIDGE — Diane Paulus said she hadn’t attempted any of the acrobatics involved in the circus-themed production of “Pippin” she’s directing at the American Repertory Theater.

“I think I have enough respect for my own limitations,” she said the other day at the Loeb Drama Center, where the set has been rigged with silks and trapeze, the stage floor scattered with colorful oversize balls and hoops big enough to leap through. “That’s why I’m a director: I really live vicariously through other people’s daring feats.”
But some of her team gleefully told a different story.
“She did get up on one of the balls,” said actor Matthew James Thomas, late of Broadway’s “Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark,” who plays the title character in this show, too. “She was trying to explain physically what you should do on the ball . . . and she was so in her directing that she was all of a sudden standing atop this giant ball, and she was like, how do I get down?”
“Hysterical,” confirmed Gypsy Snider, choreographer of the production’s circus elements. “I was also there when she jumped on the mini-trampoline. Diane can’t do anything unless she’s affected by it. So every single word, every idea, every movement, it’s like it’s coming out of her. She’s directing and she’s Up! On the thing! Like this! And I love that. It’s the way that I direct circus. . . . She’s never sitting, watching.”
Staying atop what’s called a “rolling globe” also offers a handy metaphor for the balancing act that ART artistic director Paulus is attempting with “Pippin,” much as she did with her Tony Award-winning revivals, “Hair” and “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess.” She has to honor the 1972 Broadway hit, with its iconic songs by Stephen Schwartz and its Tony Award-winning choreography and direction by Bob Fosse, while at the same time appealing to a new generation of theatergoers.
“Many people, when they do a revival, either essentially do a museum re-creation of the show or they feel they have to completely reinvent the show . . . and I feel that Diane rather skillfully walks the line between those,” Schwartz said.
As with “Hair,” Paulus was among the first wave of this musical’s fans. Growing up in New York, she saw “Pippin” three times on Broadway, and the soundtrack album has been a part of her life ever since: “I played ‘Corner of the Sky’ on piano and sang ‘With You’ at my brother’s wedding,” she said. At the Loeb, where performances begin Wednesday, a live band of a dozen musicians will play the songs in new orchestrations by Tony Award winner Larry Hochman (“The Book of Mormon”). Broadway veterans in the cast include Tony winner Andrea Martin as Berthe, Pippin’s grandmother, and Tony nominee Charlotte d’Amboise as Fastrada, his stepmother. Whether the ART production is bound for New York, Paulus won’t say, but it is a collaboration with commercial producers.
“Pippin,” which hasn’t been on Broadway since the original production closed 35 years ago, is about a young man, the firstborn son of Charlemagne, and his attempts to live a life that is extraordinary and completely fulfilling, whether on the battlefield, while overthrowing a tyrant, or in an ordinary romance with a young widow.
With the musical’s troupe of loosely defined “players” who help to tell Pippin’s story, Paulus said, she finally “got a hook into” the musical creatively, more than two years ago. She was talking about the show with Snider, a founder of the Montreal-based circus troupe Les 7 Doigts de la Main.
“The feeling in ‘Pippin’ of how far you’ll go to prove you’re extraordinary felt so resonant to her, and what that means is, acrobatics puts those questions into dynamic expression,” said Paulus, who’s spent a good chunk of time lately immersed in circus, having also directed “Amaluna,” a Cirque du Soleil show that premiered in Montreal in April. “Will you jump through a hoop of fire? Will you walk on a tightwire? Will you risk your life to jump in the air, flip three times, and land on someone’s shoulders?
“The idea of these troupe of players having some reference to a circus really kind of ignited my imagination, and I started thinking about the combination of acrobatics with the Fosse,” Paulus said.
As Pippin, Paulus cast Thomas, a young Brit with some of the wry charm of John Barrowman. Thomas was the alternate lead in “Spider-Man” until early November, performing two shows each week, usually on the weekends, which involved much flying around the cavernous Foxwoods Theatre on Broadway. “Pippin” takes another approach.For choreography “in the style of Bob Fosse,” as the ART credits say, Paulus recruited Chet Walker, who was in the ensemble of the original “Pippin” and went on to work with Fosse on several shows. The ART production is keeping the original choreography of the famous “Manson Trio” dance. In the rest of the show, Walker is incorporating the work of seven circus performers under Snider. Aside from globe-walking, skills on display include trapeze, aerial hoop, silks, tumbling, juggling, and partner acrobatics.
“It’s one thing to jump off a 75-foot balcony at the Foxwoods with wires that can hold 12,000 pounds of pressure,” said Thomas. “It’s another thing jumping backwards off a pole with no wires and just human hands to catch you.”
Thomas has nothing but good words for his “Spider-Man” experience despite that production’s troubled history. Ask about the backstage battles and he talks about the nightly standing ovations. But Paulus wants to make sure there’s no confusion.
Snider said she and Walker faced a huge challenge in combining their sides of the show.“This is a very different aesthetic of acrobatics. I wouldn’t want anyone to think we’re in Spider-Man land here,” she said. “It’s very human-based; it’s not about fancy flying effects. It’s very grounded and very theatrical and we’re trying to be innovative in the emotional impact of the acrobatics.”
“The way we work is completely different,” she said. “He’s got a ton of dancers where he can go, ‘Do this and do this and do this,’ and they’ll do it. With circus performers, there are not two in the world who do the same thing the same way.
“I’m throwing this girl from that end of the stage to this end of the stage. She’s not going to land right here every time,” she said. “[I say,] ‘Just be aware, that’s where they’re landing, more or less,’ and the dancers are going, ‘More or less? What do you mean? She might land on top of me?’ ”
As the Leading Player, the role that won Ben Vereen a Tony in 1973, Paulus cast Patina Miller, a 2011 Tony nominee for “Sister Act.” For her, collaborating with circus performers took some getting used to.
“Those first few rehearsals,” Miller recalled, “I’m the first one to say, I was like, oh no no, they’re doing this behind me? I don’t know if I can do this. I don’t know if that’s going to work. But seeing the level of professionalism of those guys — this is what they’ve been doing all their lives, it’s all they do, so when they tell me, ‘Can you just scoot up a little bit,’ I’m trusting that. I need to move.”
Paulus sees another effect: “All the acrobats want to do is sing. ‘Let us sing!’ They want to be in sing rehearsal. The actors want to be on the apparatus. The dancers want to learn how to do flips,” she said. “Everybody wants to learn each other’s discipline, which is really fun for the company.”
However much Paulus’s circus concept for the revival diverges from the original, the songs and text of this “Pippin” will be largely as they’ve been in previous productions. That wasn’t the case last year with “Porgy.” The ART’s reworking of the opera was famously assailed by none other than Stephen Sondheim before previews even began in Cambridge.
“Pippin” got a new ending about 20 years ago, Schwartz said, but for this production it has had only minor changes. “Unless you knew the show by heart,” he said, “you might not exactly notice them.”