So much happened before Stephen Schwartz gifted audiences with WICKED, the untold story of the witches of Oz. In 1972, Broadway audiences clamored for PIPPIN, and it won five of the 11 Tony Awards it was nominated for. In late 2012, Diane Paulus directed the musical for a production at the American Repertory Theater at Harvard University, which transferred to Broadway in 2013. This highly lauded and praised revival garnered 10 Tony Award nominations and won four Tony Awards. The whimsy and energy of this engaging and circus-like new production has been excellently captured on the show's new cast album, PIPPIN (New Broadway Cast Recording).
In the musical, royal heir Pippin encounters a mystifyingly peculiar band of performers who encourage him to find his own extraordinary place in the world, his "corner of the sky." Charles, Pippin's father, prepares for war and Pippin begs to go along in hopes of impressing his father. However, the violence of war depicted in the charade by The Players disheartens him, and he flees the battle. As the plot develops, the Leading Player inconsistently guides Pippin through his journey to find his exceptional life, offering suggestions such as fighting tyranny.
On the album, Schwartz's clever lyrics and sparkling score, with music supervision and arrangements by Nadia DiGiallonardo and orchestrations by Larry Hochman, are lithe, lively, and fanciful. The music bounces with a tangible 1970s vibe while also maintaining a modern vibrancy. This bubbly and vivacious pop-rock score is notable for producing the Broadway standards "Corner of the Sky," "Magic To Do," "Glory," "No Time at All," "Morning Glow," and "Love Song."
Starring as Pippin, Matthew James Thomas sings with sincere passion and youthful power. His glowing and enthusiastic tenor is vigorous and charming. He brings astonishing life to every one of the character's stand out numbers. His renditions of "Corner of the Sky," "With You," "Morning Glow," "Extraordinary," "Love Song," and "Finale" are enchanting.
Patina Miller's Tony Award winning take on the Leading Player is enigmatic and mesmerizing. She brings a sublimely earthy, rich alto bravado to the iconic role, popularized by Ben Vereen. She shows phenomenal range and emotion across the disc, filling her numbers with streaks of intrigue and darkness, making her songs spectacularly haunting. She astonishes on "Magic To Do," "Glory," "Simple Joys," "On the Right Track," and "Finale."
Pippin's love interest, Catherine is sweetly sung by Rachel Bay Jones. She fills "Love Song" and "I Guess I'll Miss the Man" with supple, magnetizing allure.
Broadway veterans Terrence Mann as Pippin's father Charles, the legendary two-time Tony Award winner Andrea Martin as Pippin's grandmother Berthe, and Charlotte d'Amboise as Pippin's step-mother Fastrada are all excellent. Additionally, Andrea Martin's rendition of "No Time at All" is a true showstopper, featuring a special chorus of 700 theater fans--a true first for Broadway cast albums.
Charlie Alterman deftly conducts the small band featuring Alterman on keyboard, Sonny Paladino on keyboard, Larry Saltzman on guitar, Steve Millhouse on bass, Jared Schonig on drums, Sean Ritenauer on percussion, Edward Joffe and Rick Heckman on reeds, Dave Trigg on trumpet, Michael Davis on trombone, Rick Dolan on violin/viola, and Peter Sachon on cello.
The incredible and extraordinary PIPPIN (New Broadway Cast Recording) is awonderful feast for the ears. It was recorded on April 7, 8, and 29, 2013 at MSR Studios and May 7, 2013 at the New York Society for Ethical Culture by Lawrence Manchester.
PIPPIN (New Broadway Cast Recording) was released digitally on June 4. Digital copies can be purchased at iTunes and Amazon. Physical copies will be released on July 9 and will be available anywhere music is sold. For samples from the album, click here.
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