Tim Dang's hip-hop/anime staging of Roger O. Hirson and Stephen Schwartz's 1972 Candide-like musical is one of the most taut and accomplished spectacles seen on this stage in some time. Much of the credit goes to Blythe Matsui and Jason Tyler Chong's rambunctious and snappy choreography, sharply performed by leading player Marcus Choi. Ethan le Phong in the title role of a callow young Pippin — based on the hunchbacked son of Charlemagne — has an ethereal, sweet voice that easily handles Schwartz's pop score. Musically, the three-person band produces an overly synthesized, tinny tone, but that's not enough to impede Dang's lush comic book spectacle that's part Hollywood and Highland, part Kabuki. Plastic boots and mop wigs (hair and makeup by Jackie Phillips) punch up the fairy tale, further accentuated by Naomi Yoshida's otherworldly costumes. Pippin's search for meaning in life involves an escapade in war, competition with his prancing, vain half brother (Cesar Ciproampo), flirting with sex and a smidgen of patricide, leading to an epiphany that's as obvious and true as pop art is meant to be. The fleshy journey may be more life-changing for Pippin than for the audience, but Dang's exercise in style and sizzle accomplishes most of its ambitions.
Wednesdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 2 p.m. Starts: May 14. Continues through June 22, 2008

LA Weekly