Greenbelt Arts Center PippinBy Laura & Mike Clark • Mar 20th, 2012 • Category: Reviews
Greenbelt Arts Center
Greenbelt Community Arts Center, Greenbelt, MD
Through March 31st
2:20 with intermission
$20/$17 Students and Seniors
Reviewed March 17th, 2012
Pippin is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Roger O. Hirson. This musical tells the story of Charlemagne’s son Pippin and Pippin’s quest to find meaning and fulfillment in his life.
Pippin (Ben Harris) had some difficulty in sustaining the high notes and at one point seemed to go through a voice change as he struggled to stay on key. His love interest Catherine (Jen Retterer) gave a fairly strong performance, but may have had some mic problems, as her voice simply disappeared a few times in the middle of a song. Catherine and Pippin did not seem as comfortable with each other as they perhaps should have been. We needed to see more growth in their relationship as they got closer with time. Missing that closeness made the show’s ending a bit weaker than it could have been.
King Charles of the holy Roman Empire was played perfectly by Brian Binney. His voice was clear and could be heard above the live orchestra. His expressions were great and his relationship with both Pippin (purposefully distant) and Fastrata and Lewis (alternately wary and disgusted) were believable and appropriate. Berthe, Pippin’s Grandmother was played with much enthusiasm by Erica Drezek. Her character is fun and lighthearted which Drezek managed to create.
The Leading Player was fairly devious. Hana Cai played the role with deviousness and cunning. She was perhaps a bit standoffish during some scenes, but overall she was believable. Her voice too struggled with staying on key.
Director Franklin Akers made a few decisions that were odd. One was to move a noisy wheeled platform out for Catherine and Pippin to sit on during “Love Song.” Why not have them on the floor, or just a bench if the sight lines preclude sitting on the floor? My least favorite decision was the last bit of the show when one character protected another character from continuing his legacy.
One disappointment in this production was the choreography. It was uneven, with just a few numbers utilizing the chorus effectively, such as “War Is a Science” and “The Finale.” One disappointment was that Berthe didn’t interact with her “men” until late in her song, so they were more distracting than adding to the scene. There were also players who did not know their dance steps and appeared very stiff.
Staging the show was also interesting. The audience was seated on three sides of the playing area, and there were many moments when the view from the side areas were blocked by cast members. One notable time was Berthe’s song “No Time At All.” You need to sit in the center seats if you’d like to participate as the lyrics weren’t visible to the sides. Set Designer Betsy Marks Delaney made good use of the area. She kept things simple, but with attention to detail so that you did not have to stretch your imagination to find out where you were location wise. Alison Rollins’ costumes were quite nice, mostly appearing authentic to the medieval time period.
In general, The Greenbelt Arts Center’s Pippin was an uneven performance with poor choreography, but believable acting made for a fun evening.
“Join us,” the Leading Player exhorts, as this fantastic and schizophrenic play begins. She goes on: “We have magic to do….romance… hearts to warm…as we go along our way.”
Following this, Pippin outlines a plan to become extraordinary, to find some great meaning too his life. And, surely as the oxymorons and anachronisms mount up, we get the feeling that everyone is dreaming.
And isn’t that, indeed, what life is like for most of us? In youth we dream dreams and establish grand plans which often fail to materialize. “Things never work out the way you expect them to” states one of the players.
So, Pippin is ME…and YOU. Pippin is Everyman (or, as a flaming feminist, I would say Everyperson.)
But what does actually happen is often far better than what we had planned…And that is what happens for Pippin. That extraordinary thing he seeks is actually belonging…. caring… loving. He doesn’t suspect this as he starts out, and he is not even sure about it when he finds it at the end. it will make time for him to come to terms with it, as it has with me… and maybe you. We learn that love is everything!
No grande finale, no fireworks, no fame or fortune…just peace. We would wish this for each of you, and I fervently hope that is what this production brings home to its audience.
Thank you for coming.
Photos by Stephen Yednock
- Pippin: Ben Harris
- Leading Player: Hana Cai
- Charles: Brian Benney
- Lewis: William Privott
- Fastrada: Cheramie Jackson
- Berthe: Erica Drezek
- Catherine: Jen Retterer
- Theo: Jason Kalshoven
- Troupe: Mike Culhane, James Kalshovan, Alex Meyer-Stokes, Rebecca Hall, Kristin Peck, David Scharton, Damia Torhagen
- Lead Producer: Stephen P. Yednock
- Asst. Producers: Eliot Malumuth, Bill Jones
- Director: Franklin Akers
- Asst. Director: Kathleen Alvania
- Music Director: Juliana Marin
- Choreographer: Renee
- Stage Manager: Kristi Gardner
- Rehearsal Pianists: Debbie Grossman, Lisa Sedares, Will Derr, Daniel Lu
- Piano: Lisa Sedres, Daniel Lu, Will Derr
- Flute: Hayley North
- Clarinet/Recorder: Will Derr
- Percussion: Jim Hoffman, Rob Gerston, Danny Walsh
- Bass Guitar: Rob Weaver
- Costume Design: Alison Rollins
- Make-up: Amanda Aslam, Jewel Frazier
- Set Design: Betsy Marks Delaney
- Set Construction: Brian Binney, Scott Bringen, Fred Wells, Andy Culhane, Mike Culhane, John Culhane, Candy Culhane, Marc Hall, James Kalshovan, Jason Kelshovan, Alex Meyer-Stokes
- Set Painting: Erica Drezek, Jen Retterer, Damia Torhagen, Kristi Gardner, Ben Harris, Betsy Marks Delaney
- Banner Design/Painting: Jen Retterer, Damia Tohagen, Cheramie Jackson, Fred Wells
- Lighting Design: Jeff Poretsky
- Lighting Asst/Board Operator: Liana Olear
- Sound Design: David Weaver
- Sound Board Operators: Eliot Malumuth, Scott Bringen, Stephen Yednock
- Props: Melanie Hall, Carolyn Cornelius
- Business Manager: Bill Jones
- Logo Design: Peg Yednock
- Program: Eliot Malumuth, Stephen Yednock
- Publicity/Program Design: Betsy Marks Delaney
- House Manager: Dottie Spivacke
Disclaimer: Greenbelt Arts Center provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.
This article can be linked to as: http://washingtondc.showbizradio.com/goto/7781.
Laura & Mike Clark started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.