Arvada Center Blog

Recent Pippin reviews in the press

Leading PlayerFreelance theater critic David Marlowe writes, “Let it be known that I am one of the two or three people on the planet who cannot stand Wicked. My affections lie with the earlier work of Stephen Schwartz. My favorite of his musicals is Pippin. The current production on view at Arvada Center has the distinction of being directed by Rod Lansberry who has taken pains to see that the show is stylistically pretty while driving home the simple concept with utter clarity. Lansberry’s direction is formidable. The elegant lines of the metal scenic design with its spiraling staircases and horizontal platforms is a work of art all by itself. The cast is sensational. Milton Craig Nealy is a phenomenal Leading Player. In the role made famous by Ben Vereen on Broadway, Mr. Nealy stuns! D.B. Bonds does fine work in the title role. The cast is full of brilliant performances by magnificent local artists. Mercedes Perez gives us an edgy queen (Fastrada), driven by the incestuous love of her muscular son, Lewis (Laurence A. Curry). Jeffrey Atherton gives a thrilling performance as Charlemagne. Kitty Skilman Hilsabeck’s choreography is a smooth and sexy homage to Bob Fosse. Christine Paterson is musical theatre ice cream as Catherine, Pippin’s gorgeous and triple talented ‘ordinary’ love. The high point of the show is Pippin’s Grandma, Bertha. This role is played with gusto and great good humor by Denver favorite, Bev Newcomb Madden. I will betcha that not even Irene Ryan was as good as Newcomb-Madden when she premiered the role on Broadway. The costumes by Nicole M. Harrison-Hoof are eye poppers. The lighting by veteran lighting designer Gail J. Gober stun. Modern day Mystery Play with an extremely diverse score! This show is a keeper!”

Holly Bartges of Colorado Backstage wrote, “In spite of an outstanding cast, and a creative, astute director, Rod A. Lansberry, the current production of Pippin at the Arvada Center for the Arts and Humanities leaves much to be desired. The stunning cast, including Milton Craig Nealy as Leading Player, D. B. Bonds as Pippin, and Mercedes Perez as Fastrada, Pippin’s step mother, never have opportunity to showcase their enormous talent. Their characters have little room to grow providing very little challenge for these exquisite artists.”

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Denver Post Theater Critic John Moore writes, “With its Bob Fosse flash and “all about me” score, “Pippin” is the (thankfully) dated embodiment of the unapologetic excess and self-absorption that defined 1970s musical theater. Go figure: It’s also one of the most popular titles in history, which is why the Arvada Center is bringing it back to life in all its gratuitous glory. The result is incongruously warm and fuzzy, and kind of icky too.”

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Lisa Bornstein of the Rocky Mountain News writes, “Lansberry has put together a fine cast. It’s great to see Mercedes Perez take a juicy bite out of the sexy, evil stepmother Fastrada, and Bev Newcomb-Madden is adorable as the high-kicking grandmother Berthe. Christine Paterson gives great warmth to the role of Catherine, Pippin’s great love. Jeffrey Atherton brings a deft comic touch to the wise but brutal Charlemagne.”

Read the rest of the review at,1299,DRMN_53_4673391,00.html

Daily Camera Theater Critic Mark Collins writes, “Under Rod A. Lansberry’s direction, the Arvada Center’s playful production finds the story’s mischievous sense of humor, and even ferrets out some relevancy, while also boasting several strong vocal performances in its cast.”

Read the rest of the review at,1713,BDC_2515_4672951,00.html

Alex Miller of the Vail Daily writes, “It seemed like they did everything right. The Arvada Center, which is gaining a reputation for putting up high-quality, large-scale productions, recently opened the musical “Pippin” with a strong cast, good direction and everything else seemingly in place. … Somehow, though, the production seemed sluggish, as if stuck in quicksand. This could well improve as the run continues, but opening night was rickety at best. Despite director Rod Lansberry’s attempt to update Stephen Schwartz’s 1972 play, “Pippin” feels dated. And it may be that no amount of pyrotechnics, slinky dancers and modern costumes can remedy that.”

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What did you think of the play? Let’s hear your comments below.