The current revival of the musical “Pippin” playing at Theatre Orb in Shibuya’s Hikarie building is, quite literally, breathtaking. A show within a show, “Pippin” smashes the fourth wall with a performing troupe of circus acrobats and dancers led by a Leading Player who invites the audience to join them as they tell the tale of Pippin, a young prince who sets out to find some purpose to his life.
With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (“Godspell” and “Wicked”), the original Broadway production in 1972 was directed and choreographed by Hollywood and Broadway legend Bob Fosse. This revival remains true to the original with director Diane Paulus and choreographer Chet Walker channelling Fosse’s dark humor and trademark dance moves, including the famous “Manson Trio” routine.
In fact, one of the fascinating things about this production of “Pippin,” and a rare treat for local audiences, is the physical connection it has with the original 1970s production. With John Rubinstein, who was the original Pippin in 1972, returning here as Pippin’s father Charles, and Priscilla Lopez — who is best known as Diana Morales in “A Chorus Line” and played Pippin’s stepmother Fastrada in the ’70s — triumphing all these years later as Pippin’s grandmother Berthe. Choreographer Walker, too, was a dancer in the original Pippin and a protege of Fosse.
However, it is not only the established actors that stand out here. Newcomer Brian Flores as Pippin carries the show with his wonderful voice and comedic acting, and Gabrielle McClinton’s seductive Leading Player holds it all together.
For this revival, which has won four Tony Awards, director Paulus has also upped the tension within the original play by including real circus performers, with each scene featuring hair-raising trapeze and balancing acts that keep the audience gasping. The 67-year-old Lopez, as Berthe, steals the show and hearts during one such scene with her daring acrobatics on a trapeze above the stage during the sing-a-long tune “No Time at All.”
With such a lavish production the only real disappointment was that there was no curtain call for the audience to show its appreciation for what was, in general, a delight of a show.
“Pippin” runs until Sept. 20 at Theatre Orb in the Hikarie building in Shibuya, Tokyo. Tickets are from ¥9,000-¥13,000. For more information, visit the production’s website.
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