As the first show for its 2011-2012 season, the Legacy Theatre presents Pippin under the direction of Mark and Bethany Smith. Pippin features catchy music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz that complement Roger O. Hirson’s unconventional book. On a mostly bare stage, a company of actors credited as “players” assemble to tell the story of Charlemagne’s son Pippin. From painting to going into battle, Pippin tries various things to find meaning in his life only to find that he is happier with an ordinary life over an extraordinary one.
Moments into the opening number “Magic to Do,” it becomes clear that the cast has magic to share for the remainder of the show, primarily because of the charismatic Michael Stiggers who stars as the Leading Player. His stage presence commands attention. Stiggers’ singing, dancing and acting are phenomenal throughout the show, but he is particularly captivating during “Glory,” where he is able to capitalize on all his talents.
Charming as Pippin, Bentley Black impresses with his first solo “Corner of the Sky.” Black brings the confident, yet subtle, nature that is needed to pull off his role. The emotional anchor of the musical, Black successfully draws the audience’s empathy, and he creates a character that has an everyman appeal that the audience can relate to.
Dave Dorrell, who plays King Charles, provides many comedic moments in his scenes with Black. His shining moment, however, comes when he portrays Pippin’s exiled grandmother and performs “No Time at All,” encouraging the audience to sing along with the chorus that has been printed in the program.
During his quest for fulfillment, Pippin encounters the widowed Catherine (Maura Lacy) and her young son Theo (Caleb Peters). Lacy is particularly engaging with Black during “Love Song,” while Black and Peters share a touching scene trying to save Theo’s duck. As Catherine, Lacy provides a solid and emotional performance, allowing her voice to take center stage.
The production’s greatest achievement is the effective use of Bob Fosse’s Tony Award® winning choreography from the original Broadway production. Restaged by Bethany Smith, the choreography is dazzling to watch. Since the production features a sparse set, all attention is drawn to the choreography, which is accented with vibrant costumes and colorful banners highlighting each scene.
To carry out their vision, the directors have casted excellent dancers. Kyle Whitaker, Ian Baxter, Caitlin Evans and Caroline Freedlund excel in their scenes. For example, Whitaker and Baxter perform a brief tambourine sequence that thrills the audience. Each one displays considerable talent and skill, rounding out the strong cast.
The show features an alternate ending that wasn’t included in the Broadway production. This ending adds an intriguing element to the already surreal and philosophical musical. With its astonishing cast, the Legacy Theatre’s production of Pippin offers top-notch singing and dancing to reveal the musical’s journey of self discovery. For tickets and more information, please visit the Legacy Theatre’s website. Pippin plays through October 23.
– A. Wesley