You know how the musical Chicago has great songs and great dancing but it's kind of a nothing musical? It's all about "dazzle"? It's about as deep and lasting as the flash of a camera bulb? Yeah. The music is great, but Chicago as a live show kind of sucks. The musical vamping that launches most of the numbers is intensely seductive, like it's squirting serotonin into your joints, but then the numbers happen and, with one or two exceptions, you're like: That's it? Is anything ever going to happen? Why isn't this play about anything?
Pippin is not like that. Pippin is about so many things, it's incredible: war, sexual discovery, being a monarch, murder, having just graduated college and not knowing what you want to do with your life, land taxation, cynicism, ambition, acrobatics, making babies, making art, decapitation, fire. And yet it's dripping with that Bob Fosse sexuality and the cynical knowingness Chicago tries for and falls short of. But it has warmth too. It's unbelievably funny. It's impossible to summarize without ruining it.
I realize I'm very, very late to the party and everyone who knows anything already knows all about Pippin, but if you happen not to know the material, if you don't know the music, if you don't know the story, treat yourself. Go in not knowing anything. It's one of those rare musicals you don't have to listen to in advance to enjoy. The production at the Paramount is the first touring cast of the Tony Award–covered Broadway revival, and not only does it feature three of the actors from Broadway, one of them, John Rubinstein, originated the role of Pippin on Broadway in 1972, and now he plays Pippin's father, the king. Also, he's freakishly good at knife throwing.
That's another thing about Pippin: unbelievable stagecraft. In addition to the fire and the decapitation and the acrobatics, there are a couple physical feats that are pure magic, that make you think: "I literally don't know how that's possible." Go, go, go.