Review by Greg Haymes
Montreal’s Cirque Eloize won’t be returning to Proctors this summer, so if you need a European circus fix, get thee to Proctors for “Pippin” this week, and enjoy the work of another Montreal-based circus ensemble, Les 7 Doigts de la Main.
Balancing feats, trapeze, juggling, silks, acrobatics, hoops, bouncing balls, knife throwing and a wide assortment of other circus and illusionist skills figure prominently in director Diane Paulus’ sparkling, energetic, Tony Award-winning re-boot of the 1972 Stephen Schwartz/Roger O. Hirson musical.
It’s a dazzling, big-top extravaganza, but it’s got meat on the bones. The plot revolves around the identity crisis of the title character – heir to the throne of King Charlemagne, the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire – who is “searching for something important and meaningful to do” with his life. Yes, it’s a very ’60s-’70s existential theme, but Paulus and costume designer Dominque Lemieux have dressed it up magnificently for the 21st century.
The national touring company production has gone through a surprising number of cast changes since it was announced by Proctors more than a year ago (and hit the road in September), including the lead characters of Pippin (Sam Lips) and more recently the Leading Player (Lisa Karlin), as well as the role of Pippin’s grandmother Berthe (the 69-year-old Adrienne Barbeau in a single-song performance of “No Time at All,” in which she sang the final lyrics while suspended upside down, dangling from a trapeze above the stage).