This afternoon, we had our second theatre outing of the week, to go see Pippin presented by Reprise. We started by picking up S&F from religious school. We stopped and had lunch at Mel’s Drive In in Sherman Oaks. While there, we had our first “star” sighting of the day, as Peter Walsh of TLC’s Clean Sweep came in for lunch (and was standing next to my table). I joked to my wife after he was seated that we should have asked him to sign a storage box.
We then went over the hill to UCLA. Every time I go on campus, I think they’ve overbuilt. This time, they’re rebuilding North Campus, building new stuff in the Art building area. It was my first time at the Freund Playhouse, and I was very impressed. Great sight lines, especially for an institutional theatre.
Oh, you want the review.
Magic. Simply magic.
For those not familiar, Pippin is the story of the son of Charlemagne, King of France. It is the story of Pippin’s search to find meaning in life, egged on by the lead player. Pippin wants something extraordinary out of life, not an ordinary existance. He tries to be a soldier, but it is not for him. He visits his grandmother, but her lessons are not for him. He tries the life of physical pleasure. Not for him. He kills his father, but being King is not for him, so his father comes back to life (don’t ask). He tries many different things, including the simple life on a farm. Nothing is extraordinary. Finally, the lead player attempts to egg him on to a glorious finale in flame. But he comes to realize that it is alright to be ordinary, with the love of a good woman and son.
The story, in many ways, makes me think of Avenue Q. In both cases, we have a naive lad, just out of school, searching for the meaning and purpose of their life, for life is nothing without purpose. Both fail to find it in their search, and end up in dispair. In the end, both find a life with a good woman. I think there are many other similar musicals about the search for meaning in life.
The cast was extraordinary as well. The lead player was Sam Harris, who did a remarkable job and won over my wife and daughter. Pippin, who was pulled out of the audience, was played by Michael Arden and was spectacular. Jean Louisa Kelly (who stars in Yes Dear on CBS) played Catherine. It was my first time seeing her—and I want to see more of her. Coincidentally, I had just picked up the CD of The It Girl, and heard her remarkable voice. I think she’ll be going far. Luba Mason plays Fastrada, mother of Lewis, Pippin’s Step-brother, and 2nd in line to the throne. Mimi Hines returns to the stage as Berthe, in a single scene role, with a wonderful song (made famous by Irene Ryan, of the Beverly Hillbillies, who died while performing the role on Broadway). The other players were excellent as well. Conrad John Schuck played Charlemagne. This was just a great production.
The choreography was very Fosse-esque, as one was expect. My daughter even noticed it, and I got to explain Fosse’s use of hands, vaudeville props, small movements, etc. A few parts were a little risque, but she seemed to handle it well. She really loved the dancing, and (I think) fell in love with Sam Harris.
While there, I picked up the CD for Applause, their next show, as well as a Sam Harris CD.
I’m trying to decide now whether to purchase a season subscription for their next season, which will feature On the Town, City of Angels, and Zorba. Two of the three I haven’t seen, so it might be worth it. The cost would be $183 for each adult subscription, and $96 for my daughter; contrast this to $65 per ticket if I bought them on my own. I’ll note that Reprise is the only theatre I know of to offer special rates for children for season subscriptions. Very, very tempting.
If you want to read some other reviews of the production, which closed tonight, you can find Talkin’ Broadway’s here; the Hollywood Reporter’s here; and TheatreMania’s review is here. Not all of the reviewers liked the show: to hell with them—we did!
Tommorow, back to the ‘ol grind.