Milton’s much-anticipated musical brings song, dance, and according to director and performing arts faculty member Pam McArdle, “quite a spectacle” to Kellner’s main stage. Pippin, written by Stephen Schwartz in 1972, is loosely based on Pippin the Hunchback, the son of King Charlemagne. The play is set in “780 A.D., or thereabouts” in “The Holy Roman Empire, or thereabouts.”
Home from college and ready to find truth, to discover his calling, Pippin attacks the questions that every young person asks. “What’s great about this play,” says Pam, “is that it could be any time, any place, any person of that age.” In his attempts to find himself, Pippin experiments: he goes to war, gets involved in politics, has an “experience of the flesh.” Finally he meets the lovely, ordinary, widow Catherine, “and that’s all I’ll tell you,” Pam says, not giving anything away.
“Visually the play is very cool: Cirque du Soleil meets Commedia dell’Arte,” Pam says. “The costumes are funky—almost clown-like—and the staging is colorful, yet simple. And it’s all very clever, very tongue-in-cheek. There’s an edge to the way that Schwartz wrote this play, and there are some mature moments, but the cast is enjoying working those out. We’re giving this play the full treatment. I know things are going well when the students leave rehearsals singing the songs.
“The choreography for Pippin is what put Bob Fosse on the map. The students, in working with Kelli [Edwards, Milton’s dance teacher], are learning about new choreography, new terminology. Fosse’s particular style includes a lot of interesting, isolated movements. Vaudeville, minstrel, jazz, ballet, cakewalks and soft shoes are part of the choreography. The music, which Ted Whalen [of the music department] is doing, is very ’70s—lots of rock and guitar. This huge musical is the largest one we’ve staged in awhile; 40 students are in the cast, and the whole thing is a play within a play. The lead performer is also the narrator; in the opening number, ‘Magic to Do,’ he invites the audience into the play saying, “Come on in, join us for awhile.” The fourth wall is always being broken down, with the lead performer asking the audience things like, ‘Can you believe this?’” As the opening number says, “Leave your fields to flower, Leave your cheese to sour, Come and waste an hour or two…”
Join the cast, crew and theatergoers in Ruth King Theatre for Milton’s production of Pippin on Thursday, November 20 and Friday, November 21 at 7:30 p.m. and on Saturday, November 22 at 7 p.m.