Pippin Dazzles at PPAC

Pippin2Pippin is sheer perfection — a show filled with dazzling acrobatics, energetic dancing, romance and a wacky, offbeat sense of humor. It is also a heartfelt coming of age tale, as Pippin (Brian Flores), son of King Charles, struggles to find his purpose in life and considers joining a roaming group of circus performers, presided over by Leading Player, who encourages him to embrace the magic and joy of performing under the big top.

Composer Stephen Schwartz (Wicked) has come up with some winning songs for this show, which have been performed by a superb cast. Chet Walker’s spectacular choreography has been done in the style of the legendary Bob Fosse.

Flores is an appealing and charming Pippin, who agonizes over not having fulfillment in his life. We sympathize with him as he experiences one heartache after another. Gabrielle McClinton is a spunky and engaging presence as Leading Player, who anchors the story and mesmerizes the audience with sheer attitude and strength. John Rubenstein has many funny moments as the King, who is haughty and arrogant. Adrienne Barbeau plays Pippin’s grandmother, who asked the audience to sing along with her on “No Time At All.” Barbeau also twirled on a trapeze, which was a spectacular sight to behold. Sabrina Harper had a lot of fun as Fastrada, Pippin’s scheming stepmother. Bradley Benjamin was also a treat as the sweet widow Catherine, who falls for Pippin when he comes to live with her and her son on their farm. Flores and Benjamin have a sweet chemistry and sing a charming duet, “Love Song.”

This show is truly a feast for the eyes. Scenic designer Scott Pask created a magnificent circus tent for all the action. There are many clever visual tricks, including an amusing bit with a severed head, and some very quick costume changes. The acrobats twirl on poles, leap across giant rubber balls and through hoops, and balance on metal sticks. It is truly amazing.

Pippin does what all great musicals do: It lifts your spirits and makes you forget about your troubles for a couple of hours. I can’t give any higher compliment than that.

Pippin runs through February 21 at Providence Performing Arts Center. For information on tickets or to purchase call the PPAC Box Office at 401-421-2787

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