Triangle Arts and Entertainment – News and Reviews Theatre Dance Music Arts

Diane Paulus’ Re-Imagined Version of “Pippin” Is Pure Magic

Sasha Allen (center) stars as the Leading Player in the National Tour of "Pippin" (photo by Terry Shapiro)

Though not present at Tuesday night’s performance, Sasha Allen (center) stars as the Leading Player in the National Tour of “Pippin” (photo by Terry Shapiro)

Since it first premiered in the early 1970s, Pippin, written by Roger O. Hirson and with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, has been a favorite among audiences, and it’s easy to see why. The story of young Pippin (Kyle Dean Massey), who longs to do something meaningful with his life, even though he’s not sure what or how, is one that everyone can relate to. Likewise, Pippin’s constant power struggles and head-butting with his father, Charlemagne (John Rubinstein) are relatable as well.

Pippin, though relatable, is still a story told in an extraordinary, over-the-top kind of way, especially in the re-imagined, larger-than-life production currently on stage at DPAC and directed by Diane Paulus. Pippin’s story is told through a performance troupe, led by the Leading Player (Lisa Karlin at Tuesday night’s performance). The troupe is what provides the new and interesting spin to the show- in this modern, exciting version, it’s a circus troupe that tells Pippin’s story.

Adrienne Barbeau (third from right) stars as Pippin's sexy grandmother Berthe in "Pippin"

Adrienne Barbeau (third from right) stars as Pippin’s sexy grandmother Berthe in “Pippin”

The troupe performs all kinds of eye-catching, enthralling feats, from magic tricks to acrobatics, throughout the course of this fast-moving story. And as if that wasn’t enough to keep viewers entranced, there is also heart-pounding choreography by Chet Walker, inspired by the legendary Bob Fosse.

And, as is always the case with Pippin, the songs are unforgettable, running the gamut from funny to touching. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that the musical numbers are delivered by an incredibly gifted cast of performers. Massey is perfect as the ambitious, confused, and mostly just young Pippin; he does a good job of subtly showing the character’s slow but real emotional growth. Likewise, Karlin, who stepped into the Leading Player role at the last minute, is wonderful. She’s fun to watch, entertaining, and very good at carrying the plot along and connecting with the audience. Other standouts from the large cast include Kristine Reese’s sweet, endearing Catherine, Adrienne Barbeau’s sassy-and-sexy Berthe, and Sabrina Harper’s charming-in-spite-of-herself Fastrada.

Pippin is and always has been a fun show that connects with audiences in a special way. This new, fast-paced, visually appealing version is perfect for modern audiences and just for anyone who wants to see a new twist on an old favorite.

The Durham Performing Arts Center presents PIPPIN at 8 p.m. May 15, 2 and 8 p.m. May 16, 1 and 6:30 p.m. May 17 at 123 Vivian St., Durham, North Carolina 27701, in the American Tobacco Historic District.

TICKETS: $40.90-$161.57 (including fees). Click here for DPAC Special Offers.


DPAC Box Office: 919-680-ARTS (2787),, or

Ticketmaster: 800-982-2787 or

GROUP RATES (15+ tickets): 919/281-0587,, or

SHOW: and











DPAC AGE RESTRICTION: “All guests require a ticket, regardless of age. Children under the age of 6 will not be admitted to the theater. Children must be able to sit quietly in their own seat without disturbing other guests. As a further courtesy to our guests, DPAC recommends one parent or chaperone for every one child in attendance.”

DPAC CONTENT ADVISORY: DPAC warns that this play has “adult themes” and is “not recommended for young children.”

NOTE: Arts Access, Inc. of Raleigh will audio-describe the show’s 8 p.m. Friday, May 15th, performance.


Pippin (1972 Broadway and 1973 West End musical): (official website), (, (Music Theatre International), (Internet Broadway Database), (Facebook page), (Twitter page), and (Wikipedia).

Study Guide: (Utah Shakespeare Festival).

Stephen Schwartz (music and lyrics): (official website), (official fan site), (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), (Facebook community page), (Twitter page), and (Wikipedia).

Roger O. Hirson (book): (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), and (Wikipedia).

Les 7 doigts de la main (7 fingers) (Montréal circus troupe): (official website).


Susie Potter is a Raleigh, NC-based freelance writer and editor. She is a 2009 graduate of Raleigh’s Meredith College, where she majored in English. She holds graduate degrees in teaching and American literature from North Carolina State University in Raleigh. In addition to her work for Triangle Arts and Entertainment, she is an award-winning author of short fiction. Her works have appeared in The Colton Review, Raleigh Quarterly, Broken Plate Magazine, Big Muddy: A Journal of the Mississippi River Valley, the Chaffey Review, and Existere. To read all of Susie Potter’s Triangle Arts and Entertainment articles and reviews, click To read more of her writings, click and

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Categorised in: A&E Theatre Reviews, Lead Story, Reviews