By SUE SUCHYTA
“Pippin,” the 2013 Tony Award-winner for best revival of a musical, brings its explosive spectacle, energy, and color to the Fisher Theatre, 3011 W. Grand Blvd. in Detroit through June 21, with the delightful Tony Award-nominated Adrienne Barbeau in the role of Berthe, Pippin’s grandmother.
The show runs 8 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday, 7:30 p.m. Sunday, and 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
Tickets range from $39 to $95. For tickets or more information, call 800-982-2787, or go to BroadwayInDetroit.com.
“Pippin” tells of a prince who has been told he is extraordinary his entire life, so in his search for the opportunity to “fulfill his potential” he nearly misses the simple yet life affirming happiness that comes falling in love and becoming part of a family.
The story also satirizes Pippin’s brief liberal reign as king, when he impulsively yet ill-advisedly eliminates serfdom, only to discover that without feudal slaves working the fields, the aristocracy can’t pay taxes to the king, who needs money to maintain a standing army to repel blood-thirsty invaders.
The magic in this revival of “Pippin” comes from the acrobatic circus around which the story revolves. From the bright, elegantly jeweled costumes to the amazing acrobats, the audience is caught up in the captivating spectacle, epitomizing the message of Stephen Schwartz’s opening song, “Magic to Do,” which wraps the story in its entrancing and glittery web.
Pippin is drawn, as the audience is, to the sparkle and fire, the brief but bright flame, and he confuses the seductive spectacle and lure of the big top with the simpler yet affirming love of others.
Chet Walker’s choreography, paired with Gypsy Snider’s acrobatics, mirrors the style of Bob Fosse. While the amazing acrobatics capture Fosse’s sensuality and sexiness, they don’t deliver the smooth, sultry magic of really amazing Broadway dancers, who deliver seamless and spectacular production numbers. Acrobats doing Fosse jazz hands and leg lifts are more athletic than artistic. They are incredible and captivating, but they are not the special breed embodied by Broadway dancers.
The sexual imagery and interactions in the musical are very overt, so one would be advised to not take preteens to the show unless one is prepared to explain some very adult positions.
The acting talent onstage is superb, from the leads to the ensemble, and they even poke fun at themselves in lighter moments.
Lisa Karlin joins the company in Detroit as the Leading Player, Pippin’s female ringmaster-like guide through his journey, with style, panache, a strong singing voice, and a smooth stage presence.
Sam Lips, as Pippin, is a handsome leading man, and when he has a chance to showcase his singing voice, it is rich and powerful.
Sabrina Harper is superb as the manipulative queen, and Erik Altemus is a devious delight as Pippin’s half-brother and wannabe-king warrior Lewis.
Kristine Reese is likeable and down to earth as Pippin’s love interest, the widow Catherine, and on opening night Stephen Sayegh was wonderful as Theo, Catherine’s young son, a role he shares with Jake Berman for alternating performances.
This production of “Pippin” delivers its life lessons wrapped in the festive, fast-paced package of an acrobatic circus, giving it a wow factor beyond what most amateur productions can achieve. You haven’t seen the potential of “Pippin” unless you’ve seen it in its full Broadway touring glory, so if you love the theater, you won’t want to miss this show.
GUILD ANNOUNCES ‘MIRACLE WORKER’ AUDITIONS
The Players Guild of Dearborn will hold open auditions at 7:30 p.m. July 6 and 7 for “The Miracle Worker” at the theater, 21730 Madison.
The 1960 Tony Award-winning play tells the story of Anne Sullivan and her blind and deaf pupil Helen Keller.
The show runs 8 p.m. Sept. 18, 19, 25, 26, and Oct. 2 and 3, and 2:30 p.m. Sept. 20, 27 and Oct. 4.
Those auditioning should download and complete both audition and conflict forms from the Guild’s website, playersguildofdearborn.org, before arriving on site.
Kirk Haas of Inkster will direct, with Dearborn residents Chris Boudreau and Richard Moore producing the show.
The roles include Sullivan, a woman in her 20s, who must be willing to learn some sign language alphabet to perform the role, and Keller, who must look 10 years old, and be willing to learn some sign language for the role of the blind, deaf and mute character. The role requires a lot of hand contact and physical interaction with the other characters onstage.
Both the Sullivan and Keller characters will begin rehearsing July 13, with the rest of the cast beginning rehearsals Aug. 3.
Other roles include Kate Keller, the mother of Helen, late 20s, early 30s, who is tired, scared and exhausted; Captain Keller, 40s, the stern family patriarch; James Keller, a resentful teen boy; and Aunt Ev, 30 to 40.
African-American roles include Viney, a servant, 20 to 30; Martha, the same age as Helen; and Percy, slightly older than Helen.
Other roles include Anagnos, an older man with a Greek accent, director of the Perkins Institute for the blind; up to six blind girls at the Perkins Institute, ages 8 to 17; a doctor; a servant; a boy age 10 to 14; and three male patients at the Perkins Institute.
For preview script requests, contact casting governor Bob Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org.