The more I thought about it today, I realized what bothered me about the show was that the actors/directors/producers either didn't understand the material, or they didn't think they could sell it as written. For those of your unfamiliar with the show, Pippin is a musical from the 70's which tells the story of Pippin the Short, son of Charlamagne who is desperately seeking something that can make him feel "completely fulfilled". It's unique because it's staged as a play-within-a-play in which all the actors, other than Pippin, acknowledge they're actors playing parts. The show, a sharp social criticism on 1970's...and in many ways modern culture masquerades as a cute, goofy premise, but it's actually rather unsettling and thoughtful.
Sadly, the version I saw last night either assumed Pippin was supposed to be an outright comedy, adding lots of cheap gags, profanity, and wackiness in search of easy laughs, or it was embarrassed by the show's original meaning and tried burying some of the more powerful moments in the show behind acrobatic spectacle. There were many great scenes/moments...but that was only because the original subject matter was allowed to shine through in certain cases. Whenever the production decided it was smarter than the original material, the show was worse for it.
To be fair, if I'm being honest with myself, teachers do this all the time. We find ourselves, either out of necessity, or by choice, doctoring up our poignant content in banal disguises in hopes our students take the pill, like a dog excitedly taking his heart-worm medicine because it's wrapped in peanut butter. When I teach King Arthur, I've spent at least an entire class period in years past having students debate if it was Guinevere or Lancelot who was more to blame for having the affair. In fact, sometimes we don't even get the the characters because I let students spend the whole time talking about high school relationships and all the do's and don'ts. Of course, this even has nothing to do with the overall theme of King Arthur, yet it becomes the focal point to sell it to the students. I've done the same thing with Macbeth, focusing on how "cool" witches and ghosts are, and ignoring the major themes and commentary. I have no doubt science does this (i.e. "hey, look, we can explode things!" and "look how slimy this frog is") and math does as well ("when do you use math!?!? Have you heard of space travel?! They use math all the time!"). It's a necessary(?) evil in which we completely surrender the high ground from day one. We essentially admit "it's ok if you're bored by this...because it's boring...but please like it" rather than state "you should know about this thing, not because it's fun, or cool, or exciting, but because it's important and you'll be better for it".
As I watched Pippin last night, I was excited to see some of my favorite scenes played out...but also disappointed because I knew that the production likely felt it had to go for cheap laughs and gimmicks to get an audience. It probably did. If it had played the material as it was meant to be played, it's likely a large portion of the audience would have been confused. I'd wager a huge chunk of the audience will remember it as "that circus show" when they think back on it months from now, which completely misses the entire point. Perhaps my students will remember Macbeth as "the one with the witches, right?" Something wicked this way comes, indeed.