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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.