nytheatre.com review by Nita Congress
July 26, 2012
From the moment Bernard Dotson's Leading Player urges the crowd at the Theatre at St. George to "Join us—sit where everyone can see," a warm and friendly compact is made. ReVision Theatre's Pippin is a tuneful, skillful evening's entertainment, featuring strong voices, energetic dancing, and a highly likeable cast.
The story is a quest for meaning, set against a backdrop of trickery and fakery, where style is substance, and excess is the rule. Young Pippin, son of Charlemagne, tries out and rejects assorted approaches to living large—warrior, hedonist, ruler. He finds his way as the fourth wall falls and we and he contemplate the Finale.
It's a lively picaresque tale, one director Bob Angelini and choreographer Mark Moreau have literally spun in the vocabulary of the legendary Bob Fosse, who directed Pippin on Broadway forty (!) years ago. The cast is up to the challenge, executing such signature moves as the Fosse shoulder shrug, wide-splayed fingers tipped against bowler hat, splits, and assorted gyrations, rolls, and slides. The talented Dotson, in the role originated by Ben Vereen, and the ensemble of spirited dancers—Joey Ama Dio, Corinne Cranmer, Brooke Robyn Dairman, Wesley Edwards, Caitrin Kelly, Anthony Marone, and Andrew Winans—acquit themselves well, filling the stage with excitement and vibrancy.
As the hero at the play's center, Spencer Kiely is most appealing, with a powerful singing voice and an infectious exuberance. Exuberant and infectious too is Catherine Pecevich as Pippin's lusty, pragmatic grandmother who exhorts the prince to just lighten up and live, and leads the audience in a rousing sing-along to this effect (which, in mild demurral, it must be noted does not appear in the program's centerfold, but is actually on page five—an important distinction when hunting in the dark).
Brett Colby, Jeanne Montano, and Spiro Galiatsatos, as Pippin's father, stepmother, and stepbrother, respectively, are suitably blunt, vixenish, and dim, respectively, and they sing and dance with verve. Hannah Shankman, as the widow Pippin comes to live with and then to love, emits a nice combination of frank sexuality and warm human decency. And as her son Theo, Lucas Angelo moves from sulky to sweet subtly and believably.
The band, comprised of Andrew Hertz, Paul Heaney, Zach Sicherman, and Patrick Feniello, rounds out the roster of talented performers, never overwhelming but always complementing the on-stage singing and dancing. Given the intimacy of the space, and the power of the cast's voices—not to mention that of the band—the miking and speakers were perhaps unnecessary. It would be a pleasure indeed to hear these singers unmiked, relying on the natural acoustics of the theatre.
The St. George is a church, and its pews (you may want to bring pillows to supplement those ReVision provides), handsome wood carvings, and high arch bring a degree of verisimilitude to the Carolingian setting. Sets and props by designer Susan Garyantes are minimal but effective. Her costumes tend less to the fantastical "Magic To Do" promised in the opening and more to a fishnetted Chicago-style down-and-dirty tawdriness.
Angelini and Moreau keep the stage filled and the action flowing seamlessly and energetically. There is never a missed or dull beat. ReVision's Pippin makes for a rollicking good time.