Pippin – The Musical: A Theatrical Review
I must start by telling you that of the hundreds of productions I have seen over the years, Pippin was not one of them. After seeing the DOMA Theater Companies productions, I rather am glad that I had not seen it previously. I understand from the very dear friend and theatrical colleague that I attended the production with that this show was very popular on Broadway, and originally starred the great Ben Varene (I pray I spelled this name correctly – if I did not, no disrespect intended). I had seen Great Expectations, and thought honestly that this was somehow a musical production of the Pippin in that show. Okay, have I shown my own ignorance accurately enough yet? I was not at all prepared for what I encountered, and pray to God I will never have to encounter anything like it again.
Scantily dressed women in lingerie, or less, young men which (with the exception of the two male leads of Pippin – played by Rory Alexander and Lewis – played by Malek Hanna) were wrong in every possible way for their roles; dark sinister and angry dominatrix attitudes paid by Renee Cohen; and sarcastic and arrogant (though likely more true than any of us would like to admit to) perceptions of Charlemagne and his reign as king, all make up this production. The story seems to be about a young man who is trying to find out what life is all about, and what it means to make a sound difference for the better? But, between the dark sexual (again heterosexual, gay, and lesbian) mishaps, the struggle for power and glory, the willingness to kill even his own father, and eventual likelihood of suicide, I am not quite sure if the show actually tells us anything.
I believe that this is because of the director’s prerogatives taken. In the playbill, the Director’s note reads: “The concept of youth is always one of discovery, self-awareness and to strive for more than what one is. This adaptation of Pippin is suited for modern audiences and reflects a current state of mind. This is not a duplicate production; instead it is a production where one has to open the mind to countless possibilities. It is always thought that one is safe inside the box but sometimes it is best to be ‘outside of the box'”. Please note the comments that I have highlighted. It is apparent that I still have not seen Pippin The Musical, but rather some nightmare version of what I understand is a great production.
Though the vocals were exceptional, the dancing acceptable, and most of the performers obviously quite talented, the director’s privilege has literally damned this production, and for me that is heart wrenching. It takes thousands of hours to create a work of art, and when there are multiple people involved, it can take even longer. It always breaks my heart to see all that hard word go to waste, or to be squandered by the aspirations or political agendas of one or two people. I would like to say to Rory Alexander and Malek Hanna, who have both auditioned for me for my productions in the past, I would love to work with both of you sometime. You have more than proven your abilities. To Renee Cohen, you did well, but it would be nice to see your character grow throughout the production instead of start evil and just keep getting angrier. And to the rest of the cast (at least most of them) thank you for all your hard work.
Though I will not recommend this production to my readers, I will admit that what is not always my preference may at times be others. To that end, should you like to see Pippin The Musical for yourself, it is playing at the MET Theatre at 1089 N. Oxford just off Santa Monica in Los Angeles, CA 90029. The run goes through March 13, 2011, with shows on Friday and Saturday at 8PM and Sundays at 3PM. Tickets are $30 each and can be reserved by logging onto http://pippin.domatheatre.com, or calling 323-960-5773.
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