By Shana Schwarz

The newest production of Pippin at Phoenix Theatre is nothing short of a spectacle on stage. There are actors flying above the stage doing aerial routines, a couple of “how’d they do that?” magic tricks and choreography that’ll knock your socks off. It is larger than life and in your face, literally; one of the actors bopped me on the head (gently, of course) as he was running down the aisle during the song, “No Time at All.” 

When all is said and done, Pippin is a quarter-life crisis taken to an extreme. Who doesn’t remember feeling lost after college, wondering where life would lead and desperately searching for “more” to avoid a life of obscurity? And so it goes with the title character in this 1970s show by Wicked writer Stephen Schwartz. The play follows Pippin’s journey from naïve prince to frolicking philanderer and ultimately to the realization that a quiet life filled with love may not be such a bad thing.

Pippin is one of those shows where the actors (mainly the leading player played by the charismatic Paul Oakley Stovall) break the fourth wall often, bringing the audience in on the gag that none of this is real. Stovall is the driving force behind the show’s action, and it’s his powerful stage presence and quirky delivery that set the tone throughout. It’s a show that can easily fall flat, especially when the plot shifts abruptly in the second act, but Stovall does a great job of bringing everything back together at the end.

The entire play is really one big magic trick. Where a magician may tell you to look at his left hand while he’s setting something up with his right hand, so do Stovall and the cast invite the audience to be distracted by sparkly costumes and sexy choreography, all the while setting up an ending that is refreshingly stripped down. Speaking of stripped down, the show is downright racy and not suitable for a young audience.

Though the use of aerial stunts and magic is a great touch for the show, it is sometimes overwhelming. I found it hard to figure out where to look, but there really was no wrong answer. The cast is strong:  Kathi Osborne gives an incredible performance as Berthe (check out her legs!), Anthony Johnson (Pippin) shows off his vocal prowess and Lynzee Foreman stands out in a talented ensemble. 

Phoenix Theatre
Through March 30