Review: “Pippin” brings some serious circus vibes to West Bank

Filled with elaborate dance breaks, quirky costumes and engaging characters, the latest University musical is a must-see.


Morgan La Casse

Illustrated by Morgan La Casse

by Becca Most

Armed with a white baton, a manic smile and the air of an experienced ringmaster, the leading player took command of her audience Saturday at Rarig Center. Clad in sparkling pants and a small tipped-to-the-side hat, she promised, like any good host would, a night of magic, sex and intrigue.

“Pippin” is the latest all-student musical put on by the University of Minnesota Department of Theatre Arts and Dance. The appearance of the show is in itself a rarity, as the University only performs a musical every three or so years. 

The two-and-a half hour production tells the story of a young prince who, although raised in a life of privilege and splendor, ultimately feels unfulfilled.

Backed by twenty or so chorus members clad in mismatched pants, pompom dresses and light blue lipstick, “Pippin” capitalizes on the bizarre – and that works in its favor.

Led blindly by its ringmaster (played by freshman BA Theatre Performance major Kyra Rahn), the chorus’s odd cheeriness is reminiscent of circus performers whose sole purpose is to make sure the audience has a good time.

Down to its hyper-detailed set and costumes, the show has tremendous character.

Although the story takes place in the age of kings and peasants, its themes are reminiscent of similar coming-of-age journeys today.

Pippin, played by sophomore theatre major Bradley Johnson, feels lost and unfulfilled by many of the responsibilities and moral dilemmas in front of him.

Disgusted by the bloodshed of war, overwhelmed by the responsibilities of being a king and struggling to find fulfillment in love, he turns to the ringmaster to lead him in the right direction.

Pippin’s quest for a purpose is something not lost on the show’s predominantly student audience.

His anxiety and overall journey is reminiscent of the transition period between adolescence and adulthood.

After Pippin completes college and returns to his kingdom, he wonders what’s next. 

Although his education broadened his horizons, it didn’t necessarily give him the guidance he so badly wanted — something modern grads still grapple with.

Constantly breaking the fourth wall by acknowledging the audience as observers and even venturing into the seats, the cast members personally invited their crowd to join them on this journey, too.

As the standing ovation proved at the end of the night, the classic musical still has the power to impress.

Drawing upon our inherent love of illusion and spectacle, the show reminds us that fulfillment is never truly out of reach.

Grade: A-

What: “Pippin”

When: Feb. 28 through Mar. 10

Where: Rarig Center, 330 21st Ave. S., Minneapolis

Cost: $7 for students, $12 for faculty/staff/alumni, $17 general public