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‘Pippin’ pits allure of dreams and desire against realities of ordinary world


Pippin Promo 2Pippin is about one man’s quest for the magical in life, for his “corner of the sky.” Like most young men, he has dreams of accomplishing something big, something no one else has ever done. The problem is that he’s unfocused. He doesn’t really know what he wants to do with his life. So he takes us on a journey of military conquest, Dionysian exploits and tenuous forays into politics and social upheaval in his search for grand Charles and Fastradapurpose – the raison d’etre that infuses his life with meaning.

Young Pippin is aided in this quest by the Leading Player. Not since Al Joelson in Cabaret have audiences witnessed such a perversely seductive emcee as Mara Lucas! A consummate master of ceremonies, Lucas’ Leading Player supplies the palette, acro and aerobatics that fuel Pippin’s Pippin Photos 01grand illusions. With her posturing, liquid movements and rich, powerful vocals, the Elon University Music Theatre grad is a sultry metaphor for the discontented, grass-is-always-greener, Kardashian lifestyle to which so many millennials seem to aspire.

But make no mistake, the Leading Player’s role in Pippin is the inverse of Cabaret’s Emcee. The latter distracted the patrons of the club from the political and economic chaos reigning in the real world outside. Or as Joel Grey described him, Cabaret’s Emcee is “… a sort of marionette … like a ventriloquist’s dummy.” The Leading Player 1Employing the same simile, the Leading Player in Pippin is the puppeteer. She offers up a veritable smorgasbord of palace intrigue in her unflagging effort to distract Pippin from the realities of life in the ordinary world. Whatever Pippin fancies or fantasizes, this mutable, mercurial exotic will happily provide.

But the ordinary world has its own allure, and the figure of Catherine is the Leading Player’s antithesis, and nemesis as well. Savannah Sprinkle is sensational in the role of a woman with both feet securely anchored in the here-and-now. Pippin Photos 05But she is also a tragic figure of sorts, falling for a man so consumed with tilting at windmills, he is incapable of valuing the simple things that life offers – like love, acceptance, family and the satisfaction that comes from an honest day’s work. Sprinkle’s duet with Pippin in “Pippin Photos 07Love Song” and solo in “I Guess I’ll Miss the Man” are truly emorable.

Like Lucas, Sprinkle is an Elon University graduate, and these two Phoenix alum face off with one another in the climax of this spectacle-filled show. It’s an interesting juxtaposition. Catherine is sweet, unassuming and grounded. The Leading Player is the portal to mystery, excitement, and fanfare. Who wins? Who loses? Which do you prefer – Act One or Act Two?

Pippin Photos 09There’s an old adage that might supply the answer. It states that you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone, and that’s certainly one way of understanding the outcome in this epic clash between ordinary life in the guise of Catherine and the lure of the unattainable represented by the Leading Player. What screws up Pippin is trying to live up to the images he has created in his mind. He’s so consumed with looking for something better that he cannot appreciate what he has. True happiness comes to those who appreciate what they have, who value being with people they can be completely comfortable with and around.

But the counterpoint to this conclusion conjures a line uttered by Nick HPippin Photos 06urley in the 1980 cinematic phenomenon Flashdance. “Don’t you understand, when you give up your dream, you die.” And to underscore this message, the Leading Player scornfully strips Pippin and, derivatively, the audience of the color, costumes and pageantry associated with Pippin’s quest.

Or perhaps Pippin’s dour message is that the stuff of dreams and yearning is the province of the young and uninitiated. Now that would really be a shame.

But what isn’t a shame is the quality of the singing, dancing and Broadway Palm Pippin Promo Shot 2acting in this production. Besides Mara Lucas and Savannah Sprinkle, William James Callahan, Brendon Schaefer, Nicholas Salerno and Demi Marie Ahlert turn in tremendous performances as Pippin, Charles, Theo and the duplicitous stepmother, Fastrada. The latter’s rendition of “Spread a Little Sunshine” is one of many highlights in this show.

The Cirque du Soleil reminiscent acrobatics deserve special mention. They elevate a good show into the realm of extravaganza, and each of the Players is to be commended for their contributions to the overall impact of the show. Chet Walker, Mark Burrell and Gypsy Snider all deserve kudos for the amazing choreography and circus creation that underlies all the movement, energy and high-flying antics that take place across and above the stage.

Unquestionably, Pippin is an inspired choice with which to lead off Broadway Palm’s silver anniversary season.

October 27, 2017.


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