Hit Broadway revival PIPPIN coming to TPAC

Now on tour, with a large portion of its cast retained, the 2013 revival of Pippin is making its way to Nashville as part of the 2014-15 HCA/TriStar Health Broadway at TPAC Season. Nashville, it seems, is in for a treat, as NY1 described this production as “an eye-popping, jaw-dropping, VISUALLY STUNNING extravaganza. THE THRILL OF THE SEASON!”

In 1972, Pippin, a musical with lyrics and music by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Roger Hirson, premiered on Broadway at the Imperial Theatre. Pippin follows the story of Prince Pippin, son of Charlemagne, as he struggles to find his way in life and to see what purpose his existence holds. The 1972 production, directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, closed after an impressive run of nearly five years.

After years being produced in smaller theatres worldwide, Pippin returned to Broadway. Not every show that leaves Broadway can—or even ought to—be revived. Some shows lose their relevance, others lose the buzz required to justify mounting increasingly expensive productions, and others just plain aren’t worthy of being brought back. But Pippin beat the odds, and won Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Direction of a Musical (Diane Paulus), Best Actress in a Musical (Patina Miller), and Best Featured Actress in a Musical (Andrea Martin).

There is no way around it: Pippin is a strange show. Billed as a musical comedy, the show tackles some serious themes, albeit with humor, though it can also be read as dark. The show is framed by a traveling troupe of actors, under the direction of the mysterious Leading Player, who guides the show from within. Sasha Allen, who stars as the Leading Player, described the role curiously. It “is a part that controls the destiny of the show,” she said, and it’s hard for that not to sound a little sinister, however funny the role can be!

Pippin is “being played” by an inexperienced actor, the Leading Player tells the audience as he sets the show up for them. Pippin, the young prince, is seeking to find meaning in his life, and the Leading Player extends him numerous points of guidance, which can be seen as a very visible “invisible hand” attempting to shape Pippin’s destiny. Will Pippin’s sometimes death-defying, sometimes hedonistic journey lead him to a meaningful existence? Will he choose glory or fame, as the Leading Player seems to push, or will he break free from his role? These are the questions that only Pippin can answer!

“There are powerful voices throughout the cast,” said Kathleen O’Brien, TPAC president and chief executive officer, “and one that is particularly exciting is the voice of Sasha Allen, who plays the Leading Player.   Folks may remember her as one of the top finalists on the fourth season on NBC’s ‘The Voice,’ and we are thrilled to have her perform here in Nashville.”

For Allen, taking a leading role (pun intended) in Pippin has deep personal significance. “My mother was a big fan of Ben Vereen [the original Leading Player], and she was also a dancer, so it is a great pleasure to play this role.”

Then there is a major theme of the play, which also strikes a personal chord with the reality show star. “We all have choices and this show really challenges the audience to think about how much pleasure and glory are really worth.”

The show features choreography by Tony nominee Chet Walker and breathtaking acrobatics by Gypsy Snider of Montreal-based circus company Les 7 Doigts de la Main. “This production features a beautiful acrobatic element, which adds a stunning and creative twist from the original.  While vibrantly costumed, the cast performs unbelievable feats of flexibility, balance, grace, and agility,” said TPAC’s O’Brien. But the mainstay of the show, of course, is its music, which has been covered by artists like The Supremes and Michael Jackson!

In short, Pippin is a spectacle, a delight for the senses. As Allen said, “Stephen Schwartz is a musical genius and Diane Paulus [who directs the revival] beautifully finds the truth in everything she does. This revamped telling of the story is so spectacular that we love doing it every night.” Clearly it is a show not to be missed.

Pippin will be performed at TPAC’s Andrew Jackson Hall from March 10–15, 2015. For tickets or more information visit TPAC.org, or call the box office at (615) 782-4040. For more information on the tour, visit www.PippinTheMusical.com, and follow it on Twitter @PippinMusical.





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