St. Andrew’s Episcopal School PippinBy Cappies • Mar 8th, 2013 • Category: Cappies
A large, cherry-red bandwagon stood as the main focus on the simple, dark stage. Suddenly a troupe of circus players waltzed their way in, illuminating the stage with a wave of color. So began Pippin at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School.
Pippin, Stephen Schwartz’s musical rendition of Roger Hirson’s book, hit the Broadway stage in 1972. It has since become one of Broadway’s longest-running shows and this successful musical will in fact return there for a revival performance this spring. The story follows the course of a Medieval prince’s life and search for meaning. Pippin, son of the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne (or “Charles”), feels empty and anxious for fulfillment. In response to his eagerness, the mysterious and mischievous Leading Player gathers his troupe to guide Pippin along his quest. In the course of his journey, the prince hunts for meaning in war, frivolity, revolution, and ordinary life, while the Leading Player pokes fun and attempts to drive the story towards the “Grand Finale.” While Pippin and his father are based on real historical characters, the plot is whimsically fictitious and showcases upbeat, modernized tunes.
The cast of St. Andrew’s Pippin engaged the audience throughout the performance. Pippin himself (Chris Naughton) emanated confidence onstage, accurately portraying the passions and worries of a typical adolescent. His father Charles (Robert Schepis) further added to the show with his bombastic personality and voice. From his pompous “War is a Science” to his dramatic death (and magical resurrection), he ignited laughter among the audience. Energy from the Leading Actor (Drew Looney) also contributed to the show’s mystical nature.
Supporting actors also caught the audience’s eye. While some dance numbers lacked synchronization, several ensemble members performed with energy and poise. Featured actors such as Pippin’s stepbrother Lewis (Billy Weber) and grandmother Berthe (Sami Spaccasi) were especially entertaining, for their comical and over-the-top mannerisms allowed them to capture the spotlight in their moments onstage. Although some characters struggled to maintain pitch in the musical numbers, they delivered the comical plot through sweet melody and sound acting. For instance, the beautiful widow Catherine (Amelia Heesen) presented a warm and melodious voice that suited her character, and Frastrada (Jordan Reilly) convincingly portrayed the devious plots of an ambitious queen.
The set of Pippin made clever use of a small stage. A large platform, which folded down from one of the bandwagon walls, provided versatility. With it, the the set believably became the King’s court in one scene and Catherine’s home in another. The cast also made great use of the white screen behind the platform, creating shadows at certain points to help narrate the story. In addition, the orchestra especially enlivened the performance with impressive skill. Even when the characters grew rather disconnected with the audience, the vivacious music successfully supported them and drove the story home.
Through the simple yet creative set, comical acting, and splendidly executed music, St. Andrew’s Pippin made up for a few of its shortcomings and produced an entertaining and thought-provoking performance that interested the audience.
by Sophie Buono of Oakcrest School
Photos by Vince Weber
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