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‘Pippin’ Brings the Magic to Sacramento’s Community Center Theater

Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls, I draw your attention to the center ring of the Sacramento Community Center, as California Musical Theatre’s Broadway Sacramento Series presents: The dazzling…dizzying… Tony Award-winning… not-to-be-missed, Musical Extravaganza… National Touring Company of…. “Pippin”.

Broadway musical devotees will recall that “Pippin” was a smash hit when it opened in 1972 from the beloved score by Tony nominee, Stephen Schwartz (“Wicked”), to a star-making appearance from Ben Vereen and director/choreographer Bob Fosse’s revolutionary moves. I fell in love with the cast recording, but didn’t actually see the show on stage for several years. And much to my surprise, I didn’t love it. Sure, it had that Fosse razzle-dazzle, but it also had a dark and smarmy quality that just didn’t jibe with Schwartz’s soaring score.

After languishing for 40 years, “Pippin” had a spectacular Broadway revival in 2013, pairing the original libretto and score with a cirque du soleil-esque setting that combined to make it the show it should have always been. As re-imagined by director, Diane Paulus, choreographer, Chet Walker and Circus elements creator, Gypsy Snyder, the sparkling revival was nominated for 10 Tony Awards, winning four, including Best Revival of a Musical.

The current national tour has lost none of that sparkle, especially in its exhilarating first act. “Pippin” follows the title character, a son of King Charlemagne, on his journey to find meaning in his life, his “Corner of the Sky”. Pippin’s quest is enacted by a brilliant ensemble, led by the Leading Player, the electrifying and hip-popping Gabrielle McClinton, and Pippin’s royal dad, Charlemagne, played by John Rubinstein, who made his Broadway debut as Pippin in the original production. Rubinstein’s gleeful portrayal of the king is so delightful, it’s easy to see why he’s still touring in the show. The rest of the cast is top-notch as well, from Kate Wesler’s wickedly delicious, Fastrada, Erik Altemus as Pippin’s conniving step brother, Lewis, the lovely – and very funny Bradley Benjamin as Catherine – who brightens up the show’s second act, and the amazing circus players. But Brian Flores, making his professional theater debut in the title role, is the glue that brings everything together, delivering a solid and fresh take on the young prince, as well as a pure, yet powerful performance of “Corner of the Sky” that will simply take your breath away.

As the cast of players sings “We Have Magic to Do” at the beginning, “Pippin” definitely goes on to bring the magic. I can’t think of a better way to ring in the New Year than to snag a ticket to this dazzling show!

“Pippin” has a very limited run at the Community Center Theater, 1301 L Street, Sacramento. Evening performances are Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2015 – Saturday, Jan. 2, 2016 at 8:00 p.m. Matinee performances are Thursday, Dec. 31, Saturday, Jan. 2 and Sunday, Jan. 3 at 2:00 p.m. For tickets and more information, visit californiamusicaltheatre.com.

Photo Credit: The company of the national tour of PIPPIN presented by Broadway Sacramento at the Sacramento Community Center Theater. Photo by Joan Marcus.

 

About the author

Jean Cress-Black

Jean Cress-Black began reviewing films and delivering entertainment news on KRTH Radio in Los Angeles, XHRM Radio in San Diego, and KMFO Radio in Aptos/Monterey. She had a nationally syndicated radio program with Westwood One called “On the Move”, and hosted a weekly classic movie show on KRUZ-TV in Santa Cruz, California.
As a film and theater critic, Jean has written for Senior Spectrum in Sacramento, The Roseville Press Tribune, The Carmichael Times, American River Messenger, The Placer Mercury, and the Natomas Messenger.

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