When Bob Fosse directed the original Broadway production of “Pippin,” he said he would have added a circus as an element of the show if he could.
So when Diane Paulus went to work directing the 2013 revival of the 1972 Broadway classic, a circus became a central theme of the production. In the original show, a performance troupe was used to tell the story of a young prince seeking meaning in his life, so converting that group into a circus troupe worked and made sense.
“The circus is all about defying death, and these acrobats who do these death-defying feats every day, they have to mentally prepare every day to potentially face death,” says Mia Walker, assistant director of the Broadway revival and director of the “Pippin” tour that stops at the Lexington Opera House from Friday through Sunday.
“In doing so, they are able to embrace life, and they’re able to take risks and able to do the impossible and be extraordinary. And that’s the major theme of ‘Pippin,’ is a young man’s quest to be extraordinary.”
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Turning a Broadway musical into a circus is not an easy task, and as it turns out, it’s even harder to take that on the road.
“The elements on ‘Pippin’ require every single player in that troupe to be extraordinary,” Walker says. “The biggest challenge in taking the show on the road is finding incredibly high-quality people to do this intense schedule, where essentially what they do is one-nighters, where they’re going to different towns every night.
“Essentially, it’s a circus-troupe schedule, so conceptually, it’s a beautiful melding of worlds.”
Adding to the degree of difficulty for the touring production is that whereas the Broadway version of “Pippin” went through many iterations over months and years before opening and employed numerous performers from the circus world, the actors in the touring version didn’t necessarily come with those skills and had less time to prepare for the production: just four weeks of rehearsal.
But Walker says they pull off the show beautifully and achieve the ultimate goal of a revival.
“I have family members who had the record in the 1970s and listened to it in college, and it was part of the soundtrack to their lives,” Walker says. “So when Diane and the creative team put together this revival, they wanted to satisfy their needs to hear this music again, but also make it relevant for new audiences.”
If you go
What: National tour of the Broadway revival of the hit musical, presented by Broadway Live at the Opera House.
When: 8 p.m. Fri., 2 and 8 p.m. Sat., 1 and 6:30 p.m. Sun.
Where: Lexington Opera House, 401 W. Short St.