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A Must-See in CLE: The Magic of PIPPIN at PlayhouseSquare

The Cast of the National Touring Production of PIPPIN, at PlayhouseSquare through Feb. 15. Credit Terry Shapiro

The Cast of the National Touring Production of PIPPIN, at PlayhouseSquare through Feb. 15. Credit Terry Shapiro

How many times have you watched a play, attended a concert or seen a painting and left inspired to take on greatness?

Art is magical in the way it fills us with the desire to pursue glory, revolt against whatever’s holding us back, and love with every inch of our body.

PIPPIN now playing at PlayhouseSquare until February 15, brings that magic to the stage in one of the most thrilling productions I’ve ever experienced.

As the curtain rises (well, in the case of this show, drops with a grand flourish), the Leading Player entices the audience to hear the tale of Charlemagne’s son Pippin.

Fresh out of university, Pippin doesn’t want to lead the sedentary life of a scholar. I’ve got to be where my spirit can run free. Got to find my corner of the sky,” he sings.

Lured from home by the Leading Player, Pippin tries his hand at battle, revolution, politics, and a lot of loving. But with each, he remains unsatisified. 

When he stumbles into ordinary life, he’s torn between his desire to pursue his daydreams and the comforts of a quiet family. It’s a struggle that resonates with all of us, and I wish I could go back in time to tell 20-year-old Amanda to see it.

Sam Lips as Pippin. Photo Credit Martha Rial

Sam Lips as Pippin. Photo Credit Martha Rial

The Leading Player and Pippin are brought to life in this production by Sasha Allen and Sam Lips, respectively.

Fans of The Voice and Camp will recognize Allen’s dynamic voice and magnetic stage presence. She’s perfect as the production’s ringleader. Lips, who understudied the role in the Broadway company, does a very convincing job of transforming Pippin from spastic, unsure teenager to a more settled (but at times, still conflicted) adult.  

However, as incredibly entertaining as Allen and Lips are – especially when on stage together, the performance that will stick with you long after the curtain is drawn is the Leading Player’s circus troupe.

From stunning acrobatics to showstopping musical numbers like No Time at All (beautifully sung — upside down on a trapeze! — by Priscilla Lopez) , the performances left my jaw on the floor. The trapeze work, stunts, and illusions the cast creates are worth the ticket price alone. In fact, describing them would ruin that magic.

Sasha Allen as Leading Player and the cast of the National Tour of PIPPIN. Credit Terry Shapiro

Sasha Allen as Leading Player and the cast of the National Tour of PIPPIN. Credit Terry Shapiro

After a fiery grand finale that left me breathless and a bit choked up, there’s no surprise that PIPPIN won Best Musical Revival at the Tonys and in my heart.

Run to PlayhouseSquare and see PIPPIN before it swings out of Cleveland. Tickets are going very fast and only a few performances remain. You really don’t want to miss it.

Disclosure: I was invited to attend the opening night of PIPPIN with a guest in exchange for sharing my experience. All opinions are 100% my own.

Broadway Your Way: PlayhouseSquare's KeyBank Broadway Series


Broadway Your Way: The 2012-2013 Broadway series at PlayhouseSquare offers something for everyone’s tastes

Selecting shows is a challenge theatres face every season. While the process includes seeing and reading the productions they’re considering, it’s not always fun and games. A season needs to be built from scratch that speaks to the theatre’s entire audience while embracing their mission.

PlayhouseSquare makes it seem effortless, though, when you look at their just-announced KeyBank Broadway Series for the 2012-2013 season.

Thanks to Gina Vernaci, Senior Vice President of Theater Operations at PlayhouseSquare, this upcoming season will be “Broadway Your Way” – offering a line-up that includes something for every taste and a few you didn’t even know you’d want to see until you heard about the show.

PlayhouseSquare packs the house for the sneakpeek at next season’s shows

Before the announcement was officially made yesterday by Fox 8 (check a few clips from the announcement here!), Scott and I made a trip to the Idea Center Monday night for a sneak-peek of the 2012-2013 KeyBank Broadway Series.

After enjoying some treats from Cowell & Hubbard including a delicious smoked salmon canape and goat cheese balls stuffed with grape, we headed into the presentation.

We heard from PlayhouseSquare President and Chief Executive Art Falco as well as KeyBank who shared more about the impressive relationship KeyBank has as the presenting sponsor of the Broadway Series.

KeyBank’s premier sponsorship of PlayhouseSquare’s Broadway Series is one of the reasons Cleveland audiences enjoy major tours season after season

KeyBank’s sponsorship, as well as a 2011-2012 subscription base of over 21,000 and PlayhouseSquare’s huge efforts to continue growing the neighborhood with premier dining and residences, help bring major tours to Cleveland — with many of these tours making PlayhouseSquare that important first stop.

During the 2012-2013 KeyBank Broadway Series, PlayhouseSquare will be celebrating 90 years of presenting Broadway touring productions. And for this milestone anniversary, the theatre under the leadership of Vernaci has built a 7-show season that mingles updated revivals of Broadway classics, Disney and family favorites, and a pair of recent Tony-winners that I’m particularly geared up for.

Without further ado, here is PlayhouseSquare’s KeyBank Broadway Series Your Way:

Anything Goes – Oct. 2-14, 2012 (graphic from playhousesquare.org)

Anything Goes (Oct. 2-14, 2012)

This year’s KeyBank Broadway Series is starting off with Roundabout Theatre Company’s Tony Award-winning revival of Anything Goes. PlayhouseSquare will be the very first stop on this tour of the Cole Porter musical as the production team comes into town to prepare.

Last night we even had the stunning Rachel York, who will be playing Reno, wow us with the title song. I knew her name sounded familiar, so was happy to read when I got home that she recently played Anna in a production of King and I at my former home, Philadelphia’s Walnut Street Theatre.

If the rest of the cast sounds as good as York – which I’m sure they will – Anything Goes is going to be a firecracker of a season-starter.

Logan Denninghoff as Gaston and the cast of Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. (Photo by Joan Marcus, from playhousesquare.org)

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast (Nov. 6-18, 2012)

Perfect for the holidays,PlayhouseSquare is bringing the much-loved Disney’s Beauty and the Beast to Cleveland.

Returning for this tour is the original design team of the Broadway production. They’re bringing back their talent in direction, choreography, and sound, as well as jaw-dropping costumes, scenery and lighting for a production that transcends the Disney film to tell the beautiful and emotional folktale of unconventional love.

Priscilla Queen of the Desert – Jan. 15-27, 2013 (photo by Joan Marcus, from playhousesquare.org)

Priscilla Queen of the Desert (Jan. 15-27, 2013)

Unconventionality is a prominent theme in the series’ next show: Priscilla Queen of the Desert. First presented by Bette Midler in 2011, Priscilla is a raucous and brassy story about a roadtrip across Australia to perform in a dragshow. When this first hit Broadway last year, I fell in love with the over-the-top, glitzy costumes – of which there are over 500.

Coming into town in mid-January, Priscilla will be a great way to shake off the winter grey with its dazzle and dancing (you may even see me up and bopping to I Love The Nightlife and I Will Surive).

Sister Act – March 5-7, 2013 (graphic from playhousesquare.org)

Sister Act (March 5-7, 2013)

When I was younger I attended a Catholic grade school run by nuns – so when Whoopi Goldberg’s Sister Act came out, I fell in love with its antics and its music. After witnessing a murder, diva Deloris Van Cartier is placed in witness protection in the last place anyone would look – a convent! There, she helps the sisters find their voices and rediscovers her own.

Alan Menken (who also penned Beauty and the Beast) has now written a new score to bring the tale of Deloris, Mother Superior and the rest of the Sisters to the PlayhouseSquare stage.

War Horse – April 9-12, 2013 (Brinkhoff/Mögenburg 2011 London Cast, courtesy of playhousesquare.org)

War Horse (April 9-12, 2013)

Before Steven Spielberg’s epic war film hit the theatres last year, there was the beautiful on-stage adaption of Michael Morpurgo’s children’s novel War Horse. At the heart of the story is Joey, a young boy’s horse who is taken from the fields of England to the warfield of France in WWI.

Joey is taken on a harrowing and powerful journey on both sides of the battle and stranded alone in no man’s land. Meanwhile, Albert – the boy that Joey was taken away from – embarks on an equally dangerous mission to find him.

While productions about animals have never been my thing in the past, after seeing the video, how much I want to see War Horse took me by surprise. I was astonished by how South Africa’s Handspring Puppet Company transformed the actors into magnificent steeds. This artistry alone won me over.

Guys and Dolls – May 1-June 23, 2013 (graphic courtesy of playhousesquare.org)

Guys and Dolls (May 1-June 23, 2013)

If there is someone who loves musicals more than me in our household, it’s Scott. And the classic musical Guys and Dolls is one of his favorites.

Called “the perfect musical comedy,” this story of high-rolling gambler “guys,” well-meaning missionary “dolls” and brassyvoiced showgirls is an exuberant, hilarious romance with a toe-tapping score thanks to the incomparable Frank Loesser.

This blockbuster production is being produced by Great Lakes Theatre in one of downtown’s most beautiful performing spaces – the intimate Hanna Theater. I’d say that’s definitely for the win.

The Book of Mormon – June 18-July 7, 2013 (graphic courtesy of playhousesquare.org)

The Book of Mormon (June 18-July 7, 2013) 

The production I’m most excited about in the 2012-2013 season is The Book of Mormon. As Vernaci shared with us last night, this musical is one she has been repeatedly asked to bring to Cleveland since it first hit Broadway last year and won 9 Tony Awards in 2011.

Created by South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone and Avenue Q’s Robert Lopez, it’s a profane, irreverent, and hilarious satire of both organized religion and musical theatre (which I’m sure some can argue has just as fervent of a base as religion). And I can’t wait!

Because tickets will be limited for this production, this might be the biggest reason to get a subscription or become a PlayhouseSquare donor.

Seating options for every budget

Season subscriptions start as low as $7 a month and if you purchase a plan before June 30th, you can take advantage of a 12-month payment plan. Besides getting guaranteed tickets to all 7 shows, subscribers also benefit from free, exclusive online ticket exchanges, the ability to swap tickets for one show into another, free passes to this summer’s PlayhouseSquare Cinema Series and more.

Check out all of the subscription plans and renew or purchase your tickets here.

And if you’re too excited to wait until next season to visit PlayhouseSquare, there are a number of shows you can enjoy in the coming months – including The Addams Family, Come Fly Away, and Sondheim on Sondheim.  And for families, the 3rd annual International Children’s Festival is around the corner May 1 through 5 and will feature shows, live music and hands-on activities.

With the recent renovations to the Allen and Hanna Theatres, as well as new dining and living options cropping up throughout, there are already plenty of reasons to visit PlayhouseSquare. And now with this year’s Broadway series, it’s going to be too hard to resist.

Disclaimer: I was invited to attend a sneak-peek reception for the KeyBank Broadway Series. However, the events I choose to share and my opinions of them are 100% my own.