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Robert E. Lee High School Pippin

By • Nov 17th, 2008 • Category: Cappies

The stage sparkles with colored lights, jewel-toned tutus, a sprinkling of rhinestones. The spectacle is as gaudy as a festival — and yet there’s something sinister, something eerie, lurking just below the surface. It is in this atmosphere that the musical Pippin, presented at Robert E. Lee High School, comes to life.

Written in part by well-known composer Stephen Schwartz, Pippin opened on Broadway in 1972. The surreal show follows Pippin (Kyle Daileda), son of Charlemagne (Kevan Olsen), in his quest to do something “extraordinary.” As Pippin descends deeper into failure and despair, he begins to rebel against the Leading Player (Steve Einhorn), the ringmaster-like narrator of his story. What ensues is a madcap, often frightening exploration of the meaning of human life.

As the seductive Leading Player, Einhorn effectively combined smooth mannerisms and a wicked smile; Daileda’s Pippin was a lovable, endearingly awkward male ingenue. Also noteworthy was the lovely Megan Lennox, who lit up the stage as Pippin’s widowed lover Catherine. By turns flirtatious and pragmatic, Lennox delivered songs like the charming “Kind of Woman” with charisma and a winsome mezzo voice.

Olsen, in the pivotal supporting role of Charlemagne – referred to as King Charles in this production — displayed a level of stage presence and technique impressive for a teenager. As his devious wife Fastrada, Sylvia Boateng boasted a rich, full soprano that switched effortlessly between musical styles. And Erin Dooley, as zesty grandmother Berthe, was not only remarkable but unforgettable; quavering but feisty, Dooley’s convincing delivery and mellifluous tone shaped her solo “No Time At All” into the evening’s showstopper number.

The knight’s ensemble, featured as a kind of Greek chorus throughout the production, was always energetic. Led by graceful featured dancers Allison Queen and Meghan Perry, they provided an often intriguing backup to the stories being played out onstage. Many actors had difficulty with projection and presence, and some struggled to stay on pitch throughout the challenging score, but not a single cast member strayed out of character.

Pippin‘s metafictional conceit requires it to look flashy and artificial; the well-selected props in Lee’s production perfectly fit the bill. Costumes, selected and created by Joanmarie Ruiz, only heightened the illusion with their circus-like feel. Microphones were erratic and fuzzy throughout the production, but Nate Frank‘s colorful lighting shone with inventiveness and technical proficiency. And though the orchestra made a few missteps in tone and volume, each instrumentalist did a laudable job of following the onstage vocalists.

In the musical’s opening sequence, the Leading Player sings that there are “miracle plays to play.” And with energetic actors, a creative crew, and the captivating aura of a three-ring circus, Robert E. Lee High School’s Pippin strove to conjure up a miracle of its own.

by Sarah Marx of Homeschool Teens N Theatre

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