I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
March 13, 2015
I have a vague memory of seeing Pippin when I was about five years old. I don’t remember much about it, except that it was performed at the junior college in Gainesville, Georgia, there was singing, and the main character was a young man.
Based on this careful research, I decided to take my own 7 and 10-year-olds to see the play this week at TPAC here in Nashville. The updated version of the show won a Tony, after all, for Best Musical Revival, so it had to be good! Better yet, acclaimed director Diane Paulus had re-imagined the cast of characters as members of a circus troupe, so there would be daring acrobatics and mystifying magic tricks in addition to the usual song and dance routines. That sounded like a kid’s show to me!
The first indication I had that my plan might not have been the best one happened the moment I stepped into the lobby with my two children in tow. Side eye. Everywhere I looked. Side eye. I quickly looked down to make sure nothing was showing that shouldn’t have been, and at that point, it occurred to me that times had changed in the 34 years since the first time I saw Pippin, and for that matter, so had the audience. This wasn’t small-town Georgia Pippin. This was Nashville Pippin. And Nashville, as everyone knows, is basically Sin City for Southerners.
Or something like that.
My husband met us in the lobby after parking the car and we made our way to our seats. Once we were seated, I whipped out my phone and did a quick search:
SHOULD I BRING MY KIDS TO PIPPIN? I typed in frantically.
Results turned up several opinions on the subject:
“If my mother, may she rest in peace, had seen what I saw this past Saturday night, she would have had a heart attack. I would never recommend this show for a family with younger kids.”
“Is Pippin appropriate for kids? Hell no.“
“Due to the language and a lot of sexual scenarios, I don’t really think this is appropriate for kids under 12.”
On the other hand, there was also a blog review from the LA Times, titled “Liberal parents take note: ‘Pippin’ is fun for kids.” In this post, the author reasoned that since kids were already being exposed to things like Rihanna songs and short shorts, ‘Pippin’ was probably okay as well.
“I might ask you to cover your eyes during some parts of this,” I whispered to my kids in what I hoped was a casual tone.”And your ears,” I added. Immediately, they both perked up.
“WHAT!” my seven-year-old said incredulously. “Are there cusses in it?”
“Maybe,” I said. “Maybe definitely.”
“Are people naked?” he pressed. “Do you see…. BUTTS?”
“No,” I said. “But it might LOOK like people are naked. I don’t know. It’s nothing very bad,” I assured them. “I know you can both handle it.”
The lights dimmed. The music started.
IT WAS GO TIME.
And? The reviewers were right. All of them. There was racy, suggestive dancing. There were CUSSES. Shouted, for added impact. There was an orgy scene. And a sex scene. And lots and lots of innuendo.
And, except for the CUSSES, all of it went completely over my kids’ heads.
One thing that helped was that I had told my daughter about Bob Fosse ahead of time- that the show was choreographed by one of his protégés, that he was considered very innovative and daring in his time, that he tried to create choreography that moved the body in ways people had never seen in dance before, and that his philosophy was to always, always create something entirely new, so there was a very good chance we’d be seeing evidence of this philosophy in the show. Our conversation helped take the focus off the suggestiveness of the dancing and on the innovative way they were able to use their bodies to help tell the story. And the choreography was incredible, there was no denying it.
Also, my kids actually aren’t exposed to all that much when I think about it. Since I work from home, they’re with me most of the time and I’m able to keep a good handle on what they’re seeing and hearing and experiencing. They had no context to decipher the innuendo and it was very clear as the show progressed that they didn’t get that part of the show at all. As for the CUSSES, it wasn’t like they hadn’t heard those words before.
The bottom line? I wouldn’t recommend that you take your kids to see this show, mostly because it’s going to stress YOU out. I want you to enjoy yourself, not spend the entire production stealing glances at your children to see whether or not they picked up on that line/gesture/CUSS. Also? The show is lonnnnnnnnnng– too long for most kids to handle.
At the same time, I’m not at all upset that my kids saw Pippin. Although risque, it stayed well within the PG-13 boundary, so all that side-eye was totally unnecessary, people! And I’m glad that my daughter got to witness a great example of Bob Fosse-style choreography, glad my kids got to see an absolutely stellar cast that included many of the actors from the Broadway production, and especially glad they got to see the original Pippin onstage again in the revival.
As for adults? Pippin is TOTALLY worth seeing. The cast is truly spectacular, the acrobatic feats are, indeed, amazing, the magic will leave you wondering how they did that long after the show is over, and the circus theme gives the entire production some much-needed oomph.
You still have time to get tickets if you act fast! The show starts tonight at 8 at TPAC and there are two shows on Saturday and Sunday. Check ticket availability here.
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The show was loooooong for me, a big kid, to handle.
I was IN Pippin twice as a kid, once in a children’s theater (looking back, that seems like a poor decision for the director to make). Besides having Magic to Do perminantly stuck in my head, there have been no issues. I didn’t even realize there was a sex scene until I saw it as an adult.
Lindsay – haven’t commented in a long time, but I still read your blog, after all these years. I’m so glad you got to see Pippin! An acquaintance plays the role of Catherine, the widow who’s a not so “Ordinary Woman,” on the tour, and she was so terrific in the show!