“We’ve got magic to do, just for you,” sings The Leading Player in the opening number of Pippin – and “magic” is exactly what director Diane Paulus delivers in her seductive cirque-noir revival of the 1972 musical.
Drenched in colour, and seamlessly integrating circus tricks and slinky choreography in the story-telling, the sensational production – which premiered on Broadway in 2013 – rushes the mind and delights the eye. As for emotion, well that comes in the second act in the touching final scenes.
The cast of Pippin. Photograph © Brian Geach
Written by Stephen Schwartz (music and lyrics) and Roger O. Hirson (book), Pippin tells the tale of the naïve, wide-eyed Pippin, son of powerful medieval ruler Charlemagne, who returns home from study desperate to find meaning, fulfilment and something extraordinary in life.
Told as a play within a play, Pippin is guided by the mysterious, manipulative Leading Player who leads a travelling group of actors (here circus performers). On his picaresque travels, Pippin encounters war, the pleasures of the flesh, politics and revolution, and an ordinary life with a widow called Catherine.