In 1972, a musical that tells the story of a young prince from the Middle Ages named Pippin made its Broadway debut under the watchful eye of writer Stephen Schwartz and director Bob Fosse.
It would run for almost five years—the 33rd-longest run in Broadway history. A revival returned Pippin to Broadway from 2013 to 2015, and a national tour has now been going strong since September 2014. That touring production will arrive at the McCallum Theatre for eight performances Jan. 12-17.
During a recent phone interview, Brian Flores, who currently plays the lead role, said he grew up singing songs from the musical.
“I love Pippin as well as the songs that the lead role sings,” Flores said. “I consider myself more of a singer, and in my voice lessons, I would sing ‘Corner of the Sky’ and ‘With You,’ which are some of the first songs I ever sang.
“When the call went out and the agents got me the audition (for the touring show), I was really excited to go in for the role and sing the songs. That’s what really drew me to the character, and now that I’ve been playing it for the past three or four months, it’s been unreal to explore the character and what he really means to me.”
As Flores stepped into the starring role, he encountered some surprises along the way—including the need for a new skill he had never utilized before.
“This show is very interesting, and it’s a different take: It’s basically a circus, and there’s a ton of acrobatics and a lot of amazing spectacles in the show. I have to do some of those acrobatics,” he said. “I have to do a back flip and stand on a guy’s shoulders while he runs around onstage with me. It’s physically demanding, and it took a while for me to learn, but it’s a skill set that I never thought I’d have in my life—and now that I have it, I’m grateful for this show and the ability to do it. It was really hard, but the crew of acrobats playing in this show is consistent. The mantra of these acrobats is that they trust each other. … There’s no judgment, and they’re all supportive and took me under their wing.”
Being on the road can be both challenging and rewarding, Flores said.
“I personally haven’t done a long run of a show like this before, but I think it’d be much easier to do in one place,” he said. “We usually do eight shows a week, and our schedules are really difficult. … We have our Monday off, but we’re traveling in a dry and dirty airplane. It’s really difficult, and you have to focus on taking care of yourself. You have to be as careful as you can when you’re on the road and don’t do anything that can take you out. It’s much more difficult.
“Some people would argue differently, but I think touring is amazing in its own way, seeing all these different cities you wouldn’t see otherwise.”
Another plus: A touring production ends up reaching people who are not able to make it to Broadway.
“People come and see these shows, and they have no idea that this is actually a thing that exists,” Flores said. “They leave the theater so happy that they came.”
While he’s focusing on the role of Pippin for now, Flores mentioned one specific musical he would love to perform in someday.
“I’ve been doing it since I was a little kid. I started playing guitar, I did a lot of children’s theater, and then in high school, I really got super serious about it taking voice lessons, and decided I wanted to go to college for it,” Flores said. “There are lots of roles that I’d love to do, but for something on Broadway right now, there are so many amazing new productions—but I love Jesus Christ Superstar. So either Jesus or Judas—that would be amazing. Or maybe both, and I can switch off every night.”
Pippin will be performed at 8 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 12 through 16; 2 p.m., Wednesday, Jan. 13; and 2 p.m., Saturday and Sunday, Jan. 16 and 17, at the McCallum Theatre, 73000 Fred Waring Drive, in Palm Desert. Tickets are $57 to $107. For tickets or more information, call 760-340-2787, or visit www.mccallumtheatre.com.