On September 27, 2019, UNCG’s School of Theatre opened their 2019-2020 season with the classic musical, ‘Pippin’. The opening night was met with a nearly full house, on a balmy, end-of-summer evening perfect for a colorful and eccentric experience with well-orchestrated music and phenomenal choreography.
‘Pippin’ is the story of a young man trying to find his purpose. Wanting his life to be extraordinary, he is aided by a mysterious troupe of actors and performers to help him on his quest for meaning. ‘Pippin’ originally debuted on Broadway in 1972. The music and lyrics are by Stephen Schwartz, the book by Roger O. Hirson, and the choreography by the amazing Bob Fosse. The show went on to win numerous awards, and saw a successful revival in 2013, which also received critical praise and esteemed accolades, including the Tony for Best Revival of a Musical. Directed and choreographed by Erin Farrell Speer, The School of Theatre has taken on the famous musical. I am happy to say that it was adapted successfully and the whole show was one to behold.
In the intimate space of Taylor Theatre, we were met with an almost barren stage. Once the lights dimmed, however, and the chords of the first song struck, the stage came to life with the introduction of the Leading Player, played flawlessly by J. Andrew Speas, who beckoned, “Join us, leave your fields to flower…” to the audience. Energy was then injected into the atmosphere with The Ensemble, the ‘us’ who, undoubtedly, were one of the most enjoyable aspects of the entire show.
The titular character of Pippin was played by Parker Perry, who appeared in previous School of Theatre productions such as ‘Outside’, ‘Hair’ and ‘Heathers: The Musical’. Perry acted very well throughout the show. There was not one moment where I saw a lag or break in the acting, and I was very convinced by his prowess. Others of the main cast included Forrest Wilson (Charles), Madeline Saintsing (Fastrada), and Maddie Conti (Catherine), were an absolute delight to watch, and their portrayal of the characters and their interactions kept me laughing, intrigued and invested.
The music was directed by Dominick Amendum; all of the original soundtrack was adapted and sung wonderfully by the main cast and supported by a strong orchestra. The scenic design, done by Randall McMullen, enveloped the entire stage with the world we were sucked into, enhanced beautifully by the lighting, which was designed by Caleb Taylor. In creating the world of ‘Pippin’, the lighting was superb. Costumes were designed by Jacquelyn Whiteside. All of the designer elements, each with a unique tinge, made this production its own beast.
‘Pippin’ was the perfect show to kick off the season. It was fun, hilarious, hit deep, emotional beats and left an impact on the audience with how the story unfolded. The College of Visual and Performing arts is becoming more esteemed with what talent the school continues to recruit, and the School of Theatre probably has the most talent within the entire college. I can’t wait to see what else is in store for this season. On October 24, ‘The Wolves’ opens. Following will be ‘The Normal Heart’ starting on November 7, and ‘The Witches’ on November 16. If interested, a 1981 video production of ‘Pippin’ can be viewed on Youtube.com.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment