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

“Pippin” Has Magic to Do at DPAC on May 12-17

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

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

The Durham Performing Arts Center will present the sensational National Tour of the multiple Tony Award®-winning 2013 Broadway Revival of Pippin on May 12-17, as part of its ultra-popular SunTrust Broadway Series. The show features a stellar cast and kinetic choreography in the style of the 1972 Broadway musical’s original director and choreographer, Bob Fosse, plus what DPAC characterizes as the “high-flying, death-defying” acrobatics of Montréal-based Les 7 doigts de la main (7 Fingers).

Set around 780 A.D., during the Middle Ages, Pippin is a whimsical 1972 musical fable, spun around events in the life of a footnote character in medieval history: Pepin (or Pippin) the Hunchback (c. 767-811). Pippin was the bored, restless, and rebellious eldest son and one-time heir of the legendary Charlemagne (“Charles the Great,” c. 742-814), the King of the Franks and the King of the Lombards and the Ninth Century emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

The cast of the current tour of Pippin, produced by Barry & Fran Weissler et al., includes Kyle Dean Massey as the peripatetic and perpetually unfulfilled title character; Broadway’s original Pippin, John Rubinstein, as the prodigal son’s inattentive but loving father Charles; Grease’s original Rizzo, Adrienne Barbeau, as Pippin’s sexy grandmother Berthe; Sabrina Harper as Charles’ conniving second wife, Fastrada; Callan Bergmann as her spoiled and not-too-bright son Lewis; and Kristine Reese as Catherine, a young widow with a small boy and a large estate. (Stephen Sayegh and Lucas Schultz alternate as Catherine’s son, Theo.)

As the flamboyant Leading Player, with magic tricks aplenty up her sleeve, Sasha Allen serves as the show’s narrator, and is the straw that stirs the drink in this potent concoction of a message musical performed in a circus setting, with all sorts of theatrical magic and feats of derring–do to spice up the proceedings. A fourth-season finalist on “The Voice” on NBC and the star of the 2003 cult film Camp, Sasha Allen will provide a play-by-play of Pippin’s quixotic quest for fulfillment via glory on the battlefield, overindulgence in pleasures of the flesh, usurpation of his father’s throne and, finally, the love of a good woman (Catherine) and the simple joys of a quiet family life lived far away from the madding crowd.

Pippin is a timeless show, because what’s going on in the world hasn’t changed,” claims Adrienne Barbeau. “When it was first on Broadway, it was during the Vietnam War. Now, we’re fighting wars all over the world …. So, Pippin is timely for people who are looking for meaning in their lives, as Pippin was.”

She adds, “The [1972 original Broadway] production did not incorporate the magic and the circus and the acrobats that we have…. [Broadway and tour director] Diane Paulus wanted to stay true to much of Bob Fosse’s conception[, but] she hired Gypsy Snider as the show’s circus choreographer….”

Consequently, Barbeau says, “Pippin is a fantastic night in the theater. I am not a big musical-comedy fan, but I loved it ….” She confesses that she did not see Pippin until she was approached about playing Berthe, because during much of Pippin’s original run, starting in 1972, she was originating the role of smart-mouthed tough cookie Betty Rizzo, leader of the Pink Ladies, in Grease. (She won a 1972 Theatre World Award for that performance, which was also nominated for the 1972 Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Musical.)

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”

When asked to play Berthe in the National Tour of Pippin, Barbeau says, “I was immediately entranced by the character and the role and the work that the character does. My character is singing and dancing while she’s hanging from a trapeze!”

She explains, “Pippin’s grandmother appears in his life at the point when he is disappointed in everything that he’s tried during his search for the meaning of his life…. Her philosophy of life is, you need to live in the moment, because time passes so quickly…. You need to live each moment to the fullest.”

Originally directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse, Pippin chronicles its title character’s search for fulfillment, and features music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell) and a book by Roger O. Hirson (Walking Happy). The show made its Broadway debut on Oct. 23, 1972 at the Imperial Theatre, later transferred to the Minskoff Theatre, and ran for a total of 1,944 performances before closing on June 12, 1977. The original production of Pippin won five 1973 Tony® Awards, including the Best Director and Best Choreographer Tonys, plus the 1973 Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Choreography and Outstanding Director.

The 2013 revival of Pippin, on which the current national tour is based, opened on April 25, 2013 at the Music Box Theatre, where it ran for 709 performances before closing on Jan. 4, 2015. Directed by Diane Paulus, with choreography in the style of Bob Fosse by Chet Walker, with its trademark circus created by Gypsy Snider, this delightful offbeat musical starred former Raleigh actor Terrence Mann as Charles and his wife, Charlotte d’Amboise, as Fastrada.

The revival earned ten 2013 Tony nominations, and won four Tony Awards, including the Tonys for Best Revival of a Musical and Best Direction of a Musical — plus the 2013 Drama Desk Awards for Outstanding Revival of a Musical, Outstanding Choreography (Chet Walker and Gypsy Snider), and Outstanding Director of a Musical (Diane Paulus); the 2013 Drama League Award for Distinguished Revival of a Musical; and the 2013 Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding Revival of a Musical. (Charlotte d’Amboise also won the 2013 Astaire Award for Outstanding Female Dancer in a Broadway Show.)

In addition to director Diane Paulus, choreographer Chet Walker, and circus choreographer Gypsy Snider, the creative team for the current National Tour includes technical supervisor Jake Bell, music coordinator John Miller, music director Ryan Cantwell, scenic designer Scott Pask, lighting designer Kenneth Posner, costume designer Dominique Lemieux, sound designers Jonathan Deans and Garth Helm, production stage manager Marian DeWitt, stage manager Annelise Castleberry, and circus coordinator/assistant stage manager Terrance Harrison. The show also features illusions by Paul Kieve, music supervision and arrangements by Nadia DiGiallonardo, and orchestrations by Larry Hochman.

The tour started on Sept. 23, 2014 in SHN Golden Gate Theatre in San Francisco; and Adrienne Barbeau came on board on March 31, 2015 at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Her final performance as Berthe will be on Aug. 2nd at the Cadillac Palace Theatre in Chicago; and the tour will end on Aug. 30, 2015 at the San Diego Civic Theatre in San Diego.)

Pippin is a musical-within-a-musical,” says Adrienne Barbeau. “It’s a magnificent coming together of magic and acrobatics and circus in the sense of a Cirque du Soleil production. I sing part of my song [‘No Time at All’] in midair, hanging upside down from a trapeze. It’s really a good role.”

To prepare to play Berthe, says Barbeau, “I went to circus school in Los Angeles…. I had about four hours of training in LA before I joined the company in Greenville, SC. I had a week [of rehearsals] in Greenville and a week in Naples, FL before I opened the show.”

She adds, “Our acrobats are all circus performers, and each of the acrobats have to know each other’s roles…. They still blow me away every night, as I stand backstage and watch them perform….

“There’s so much to see,” says Barbeau. “You could watch one performer during the entire show … and come back and watch another performer. The audience will have a great time.”

Broadway's original Pippin, John Rubinstein, plays Pippin's distant-but-fond father Charles the Great on tour in the National Tour of "Pippin" (photo by Terry Shapiro)

Broadway’s original Pippin, John Rubinstein, plays Pippin’s inattentive but loving father Charles the Great in the National Tour of the 2013 Broadway Revival of “Pippin” (photo by Terry Shapiro)

Born June 11, 1945 in Sacramento, CA, Adrienne Jo Barbeau is an actress and author with an impressive portfolio of theatrical and cinematic accomplishments and a track record of equally impressive literary achievements. She started her show-business career in 1963, performing with the San Jose Civic Light Opera. After graduating from Del Mar High School in San Jose, she performed with a musical comedy revue that traveled to Southeast Asia to entertain the troops.

Barbeau made her Broadway debut in 1965, playing Hodel in Fiddler on the Roof; and later created the role of Rizzo in the inaugural Broadway production Grease. Then she returned to California to play Bea Arthur’s daughter, Carol, in the hit CBS television series “Maude” (1972-78).

In the 1980s, Adrienne Barbeau was the sexy star of horror and sci-fi films, such as The Fog (1980) and Escape from New York (1981), directed by her then-husband John Carpenter. She later appeared as Ruthie the snake dancer in HBO’s dark-fantasy series “Carnivàle,” and was the voice of Catwoman in “Batman, The Animated Series.”

In-between her more than 450 appearances on the big screen and television, Barbeau penned a best-selling memoir, There Are Worse Things I Could Do (2006), and two comic paranormal romances, Vampyres of Hollywood (2008) and its sequel, Love Bites (2010). Currently, she’s working on the third installment in the Vampyres of Hollywood series.

Meanwhile, 69-year-old Adrienne Barbeau is entertaining audiences eight performances a week as Berthe in Pippin. “I am really loving it,” she says. “To do this kind of work at this stage in my life is a joy…. This is one of my favorite roles so far.”

The Durham Performing Arts Center presents PIPPIN at 7:30 p.m. May 12-14, 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).

Adrienne Barbeau (actress and author): (official website), (her blog), (Internet Broadway Database), (Internet Movie Database), (Facebook community page), (Twitter page), and (Wikipedia).


Robert W. McDowell has written articles for The News & Observer, The Raleigh Times, Spectator Magazine, CVNC, and Triangle Arts and Entertainment, all based in Raleigh. He edits and publishes two FREE weekly e-mail newsletters. Triangle Review provides comprehensive, in-depth coverage of local performing-arts events. (Start your FREE subscription by e-mailing and typing SUBSCRIBE TR in the Subject: line.) McDowell also maintains a FREE list of movie sneak previews. (To subscribe, e-mail and type SUBSCRIBE FFL FREE in the Subject: line.)

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