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Pippin and friends...Ali Lidbury

The IU Theatre presents the musical Pippin. It opened on November 2nd and continues through the 10th in the Ruth N. Halls Theater. Young composer and lyricist Steven Schwartz had an earlier 1970 Broadway success with Godspell. It was based on traditional prayer book texts. For Pippin’s original book and lyrics Schwartz teamed with veteran writer Roger O. Hirson. Bob Fosse directed and choreographed the award winning 1972 production.

Adam Hass-Hill plays Pippin, Charlemagne’s somewhat feckless, purpose seeking college graduate son. The late sixties and early seventies were indeed a time of tumult in America and Schwartz has said that he identifies with this conflicted character’s search for his “corner of the sky.” Pippin falls in with a traveling troupe of singing, dancing, players who play various roles in his efforts throughout the play

Victoria Wiley was Pippin’s and our magical guide; singing, dancing, and playing a variety of roles in his story.  

Despite concerted tries and enthusiastic help from the players, Pippin has a series of debacles. He first fails at war with the Visigoths. Pippin has no mind for the strategy. His brother Lewis, Henry Miller is much better at playing a nicely single minded warrior. The initially enthusiastic Pippin is appalled by the carnage and falls into reflection.

Love is the next port of call for our hero. Pippin seeks manfully to explore love with an array of anonymous partners His mother Fastrada, Ali Lidbury is much better at love, or at least at debauchery. All this, despite her extend ed protestations that she’s a simple housewife and mother.

Kingship, the reign of enlightened monarchy is the next cause that Pippin fastens upon. For this he has to murder his father, wittily played by Luke Major. The actual ruling proves to be even more of a balancing act than he anticipated. In his acts and counter acts, Pippin actually hangs a character that his father hanged in an earlier scene…one of the best laughs of the evening came as the hapless fellow exited with the line “Not again!”

Seeking wisdom, Pippin appeals to the family matriarch played by Cassia Scagnoli. Yes, this pale, granny glassed, white haired Jewish grandmother is the same actor who played Tiger Lily for Cardinal’s Peter Pan! Scagnoli has a field day with her role and even led the audience in some song choruses.

Utterly at his wits end, Pippin seeks prayer and finally appeals to the evening’s leading player, to resurrect his father. Utterly defeated, he retreats to bed. However, this is after all a comedy and we all remember how Voltaire and Leonard Bernstein worked things out for Candide don’t we!

The charmingly feisty landed widow Catherine, Nina Donville with her even more charming son, Theo, Coen Berin and an only slightly less charming duck whose name I’ve forgotten appear. They work to successfully resurrect Pippin’s interest in life. A somewhat happy or at least livable way of life, sans costumes, lights and music ensues.

Kenneth Roberson is the director and choreographer. There’s plenty of action in the play and the dancers seemed at their happiest when they got do an in line Charleston. Terry LaBolt is the music director and led singers and sextet from the keyboard. Justin Gannaway presided over the wild complexities and unities of the costuming. The scenic design by Jeremy Smith is a glittering, towering wrap with a huge open crown that moved up, down and angled for the varied scenes.

The IU Theatre production of Pippin plays through November 10th in the Ruth N. Halls Theatre.

At the theatre for you, I’m George Walker

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