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    Though the revival of Pippin, directed by Diane Paulus, is coming through Louisville over 40 years after the original Broadway debut, directed and choreographed by the legendary Bob Fosse, it hasn’t forgotten its roots.

    The typical Fosse flair is still evident--and in fact, so is some of Fosse’s original choreography.

    But this production has some added flash, with its amped up circus atmosphere of epic proportions; the acrobatics and tumbling feats of the ensemble rival that of Cirque du Soleil.

    The only convention of this highly stylized musical is that it is unconventional. Within moments of the opening notes, the fourth wall is broken as the omniscient Lead Player (Lisa Karlin) guides the audience and Pippin through the entire story. Nearly all of the characters speak to the audience, at one point even encouraging (and successfully engaging) the audience in a full-on sing-a-long as if around a campfire. The ensemble of talented Players provide the wide swath of accoutrements needed to stage the varied and diverse locales under the single set of the Big Top.

    And the unconventionality doesn’t stop there.

    Pippin, son of King Charles (a character based extremely loosely on Charlemagne) is looking for his “Corner of the Sky.” He’s looking for his place in life to be extraordinary. Pippin explores a variety of avenues to find his dream: becoming a soldier, becoming a king (through revolution against his father and ensuing patricide), and becoming sexually promiscuous. But to Pippin’s dismay, all of these paths leave him “empty and unfulfilled.”

    Undeterred, the Leading Player draws Pippin to an encounter with Catherine, a widow with a young son. Pippin unwittingly falls in love with Catherine, but after a year with her, flees her company in relentless pursuit of fulfillment.

    Pippin finds himself once again surrounded by the Players who encourage him to make the most extraordinary and grandest of finales for the audience, resulting in one final choice that a young man has to make in his life journey.

    Pippin is an intriguing musical. It is bright and flashy; full of fantastic magic and illusion, upbeat songs, colorful costumes, and eye-catching choreography, and quite possibly theatre’s fastest quick-change.

    But Pippin proves to be much deeper—and darker—than the spectacle it provides on the surface.

    As the story progresses, we begin to see that the Lead Player is not just a harmless guide, but a manipulative orchestrator.

    Or the conscience in Pippin’s mind. Or the voice inside all of us.

    And then, the story of Pippin starts to hit home.

    Because the story of Pippin is the story of a man on a journey. But it's also the story of my journey.

    And yours.

    We launch out of college with our hearts and our minds on fire. We’re going to change the world! We’re going to make things happen!

    And then that job doesn’t work out. The boyfriend breaks up with us. Life gets in the way.

    And our search for fulfillment; our trek toward those lifelong dreams—that college idealism—becomes a house that needs to be vacuumed and a car payment and Taco Night Thursdays.

    Suddenly, we’re just ordinary people living ordinary lives.

    But isn’t that extraordinary?

    Pippin is the final production in the 2014-2015 PNC Broadway in Louisville series and runs through Sunday at the Kentucky Center. Tickets are available online or by calling 502-584-7777.

    Season tickets for the 2015-2016 Broadway Series are now available online or by calling 502-561-1003.

    Image: Courtesy of T.Shapiro/National Touring Production of Pippin

    Michelle Rynbrandt's picture

    About Michelle Rynbrandt

    Before landing in the Possibility City, Michelle toured the country performing in various regional theatres. Having been there and done that, she can honestly say that Louisville's cultural opportunities are second to none.

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