Adrienne Barbeau in “Pippin” at The Orpheum
If there was ever a week to go to the theater in Memphis, this is it. The opportunities are uncommonly diverse, and even for a city accustomed to great live performances, the quality is uncommonly high. You really can’t miss.
Pippin isn’t some run-of-the-mill revival, it’s a complete reinvention, and easily one of the best Broadway tours to visit The Orpheum in ages. When director Diane Paulus of the American Repertory Theatre put Hirson and Schwartz’s dark comedy under a billowing big-top tent, she challenged Ringling Bros. for the title of “Greatest Show on Earth.”
This Pippin doesn’t feel dated or dusty. Illusions amaze. Daredevils perform in the sky without a net. Wild (human) animals get their freak on while some of the strongest dancers you’re likely to see pay jazzy tribute to the show’s original director Bob Fosse. In the middle of it all, there’s an epic story about war, debauchery, regicide, love, loss, and — eventually — finding one’s own “corner of the sky.”
Did I mention that Pippin has stars? And not just the stars printed on the circus big top either. Horror icon Adrienne Barbeau (interviewed here) plays Pippin’s grandmother Berthe, and she does not disappoint. Barbeau’s bawdy comic timing is on the money, and her raspy, worldly voice is as inviting as it was when she played Rizzo in the original Broadway production of Grease. More impressive still is the 71-year-old actress’s flawless aerial performance.
Don’t be fooled by the snow-white beard. Like Barbeau, John Rubinstein (Broadway’s original Pippin) is an inspiring ball of youthful energy in the more mature role of emperor Charlemagne.
The whole cast is great, with standout performances by Brian Flores in the title role and Gabrielle McClinton as the Leading Player. The singing is solid, but the dancing is fantastic. The physical strength required to perform circus acts is evident in every number. The kicks are all a little higher. The leaps, next to impossible.
Pippin @ The Orpheum. Wed., Nov. 18, 7:30-10:15 p.m., Thu., Nov. 19, 7:30-10:15 p.m., Fri., Nov. 20, 8-10:45 p.m., Sat., Nov. 21, 2-4:45 & 8-10:45 p.m. and Sun., Nov. 22, 1-3:45 & 6:30-9:15 p.m. $25-$125.
Opera Memphis' production of The Magic Flute opens this week at GPAC, with tenor Sean Panikkar in the role of Prince Tamino. Panikkar is a member of Forte, an ecumenically inclined trio of tenors that wowed America’s Got Talent judges in 2013. To get some sense for Panikkar’s talent and aesthetic, check out this video, which features him and his partners in Forte running around Ireland with swords performing the Game of Thrones theme song with lyrics written in High Valyrian. It’s not Mozart, but it’s an awful lot of fun.
Opera Memphis presents The Magic Flute at Germantown Performing Arts Center November 21st-22nd, 7:30 p.m. $33-$84. operamemphis.org
Did he or didn’t he do it? Is she a heroic whistleblower or Captain Queeg in a nun’s habit? Does any of that matter? Theatre Memphis' production of Doubt is a moody potboiler, smartly imagined and tightly staged by director Tony Isbell. Patrick Shanley's Pulitzer Prize-winning drama asks audiences to question what they’ve seen — or more precisely, what they believe — as the flinty Sister Aloysius attempts to expose a priest who may be molesting students.
The cast is first-rate, and Jack Yates' set — built entirely of doors — feels deceptively sturdy while wrapping the production in a Borgesian sense of boundless possibility.
More about Doubt here.
Doubt @ Theatre Memphis. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. and Thursdays, 7:30 p.m. Continues through Nov. 21. $25.
Those with a taste for new work will not be disappointed by Voices of the South’s production of Short Stories by Jerre Dye. Short Stories is exactly what it says it is. It’s a sharply imagined collection of brief, meditative narratives about loss: loss of parents, loss of youth, loss of freedom, loss of identity, loss of love, loss of lifestyle, loss of control, loss of innocence, and loss of Jesus. And that’s just scratching the surface.
Click here for a full review.
Short Stories by Jerre Dye @ TheatreSouth. Fridays, Saturdays, 8 p.m. and Sundays, 4 p.m. Continues through Nov. 22. $23.
New Ballet Ensemble kicks off the holiday season with its annual, ever-evolving production of Nut ReMix, a retelling of The Nutcracker fusing classical and international dance performances with Memphis jookin. The reimagined piece showcases the talents of 145 dancers, including NBE jookin standouts Shamar Rooks and Marquez “Spider” Alexander. And Max Reed, whose professional credits include 5 years on Broadway playing the high-swinging title role in Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark, will also perform.
Music for Nut ReMix will be provided by the Memphis Symphony Orchestra conducted by Mei Ann Chen.
Lil Buck performs in Nut ReMix 2014
New Ballet Ensemble’s Nut ReMix is at the Cannon Center for Performing Arts Friday, Nov. 20, at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 21 at 5:30 p.m., and Sunday, Nov. 21 at 2:30 p.m. $15-$50. newballet.org.