2nd Star Productions’ Pippin
Pippin, a deceptively complex and challenging musical, gets a strong interpretation by 2nd Star Productions. With music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz (Godspell) and lyrics by Roger O. Hinson, it recounts a fantastical tale that ultimately comes home to rooted values.
Pippin considers himself extraordinary and recoils from mundane tasks. Thus the son of Charlemagne is like many young people as he sets off to seek extraordinary accomplishments. He goes to war, enjoys dalliances with women and rebels against family and country — only to find contentment in small pleasures and country life.
His story is told by a theatrical troupe, surreal images and staging abound.
Then there’s the singing and dancing, which won Tony Awards for best direction and choreography for Bob Fosse when it premiered on Broadway in 1973.
Magic To Do, the show’s biggest number, is its opener. Its slow tempo gave pause as to how the rest of the show would go. It got better with each song, building to a powerful and emotionally satisfying ending.
Director Larry Friedman uses creative staging and innovative theatrical lighting and special effects to keep the show moving. He has also assembled a talented cast of gutsy performers.
As Pippin, Nick Lehan makes an auspicious debut with 2nd Star. He has the vocal power and acting skill to carry this show and make the 90-degree turns his character requires. His Pippin is sweet, arrogant, befuddled, melancholy and utterly charming.
Leading Player, the emcee of the show, gets a strong depiction by Vince Musgrave. He controls activity on the stage (think of the emcee in Cabaret) with the requisite stage presence. A more ominous overtone in Act I would make his transition into a disturbingly dangerous character at the end more convincing. But overall Musgrave dances, sings and poses his way through his performance with depth and intrigue.
Catherine is the woman who ultimately grounds Pippin with simple living and ordinary joys. Rebekka Meyer portrays her completely convincingly. Her brave, revealing performance makes you ache — and root — for her.
Charles (Charlemagne) is a role perfectly suited to Wendell Holland, with his strong voice, commanding presence and delight in dancing.
Pippin’s grandmother Berthe has one scene, and TiaJuana Roundtree shakes it for all its worth. A joy to watch, she rules the scene as her character should.
Pippin’s scheming stepmother Fastrada, played by Hannah Thornhill, and stepbrother Lewis, played by Carl Williams, add comic flavor and do more for gold lame costumes than could be imagined.
The players, 10 of them, provide the chorus and crowd characters for each scene. Their fun onstage is contagious. Little bits of background business between characters are fun if you catch them, but they are scaled small enough not to upstage the main action.
The songs are the old-fashioned crafted kind that stick in your head for days. Corner of the Sky is a lovely song depicting the angst of youth. No Time at All is Berthe’s anthem to knowledge gained from age. Extraordinary is everyone’s hope for themselves.
All Karen Hastings’ choreography is appropriate to the stage and to the cast, inventive and professional, but one dance deserves to be singled out. Right Track, sung and danced by Pippin and the Leading Player, is a joy. The duo is spot-on in the soft-shoe section, and their delight is keenly evident.
In Pippin, 2nd Star Productions grab their Corner of the Sky.
By Roger O. Hirson. Music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Diretor: Larry Friedman. Music director: Joe Biddle. Choreographer: Karen Hastings. Set designer: Jane B. Wingard. Lighting designer: Garrett Hyde. Stage manager: Joanne D. Wilson.
Playing 8pm FSa Nov. 25 & 26 and F Dec. 2; and 3pm Su Nov. 27 and Sa Dec. 3 at Bowie Playhouse, 16500 White Marsh Park Dr., Bowie. $20 w/age discounts; rsvp: 301-832-4819; www.2ndstarproductions.com.