Magic to do


By Roger O. Hirson & Stephen Schwartz
Directed by Nancy Robillard
St. Bart's Players
Equity showcase (closed)
Review by Elias Stimac

Musical-theatre lovers know that Pippin is a medieval history lesson circa 780 A.D. told in song with humor at its heart. With a thoughtful and taunting book by Roger O. Hirson and inventive and infectious music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, the show is often revived in the singular style of the original Bob Fosse production. St. Bart's Players opted for that approach as well, giving the task of recreating Fosse's flashy moves to choreographer Kenneth Grider, who did a fairly faithful job.

For those unfamiliar with the piece, "Pippin" (Chris Carlisle) is an unfulfilled young man who does plenty of soul-searching while he tries to find his "corner of the sky." Being the son of a king (Erik Hanson) affords him plenty of opportunities to screw up and start over again, but nothing that Pippin undertakes brings him the satisfaction and success that he craves. Only when he meets up with a young widow (Amy Jane Finnerty) and her precocious son (Anthony Alic) does Pippin realize that there's more to life than pursuing greatness.

Director Nancy Robillard guided the smaller scenes with well-paced economy and wit, but couldn't consistently maintain the same level of focus when the entire company was onstage. Also, there were multiple instances of foul language and suggestive grinding that seemed gratuitous, regardless of whether the show was being performed in a church.

Nancy Evers provided solid musical direction, many times inspiring the cast to choral excellence. Individually, a few of the soloists weren't always perfect, but retained the spirit of their character despite some missed notes. Evers also played piano with her orchestra - Joel Stein on synthesizer, George Kapsalis on guitar, and Jim Erwin on drums - and earned a big laugh when told to stop playing during the climax of the action.

Carlisle was an affable Pippin, and seemed to really grow emotionally along his personal journey. David Pasteelnick showed singing and dancing skill as the Leading Player, but never achieved the commanding charisma that the role requires. Although miscast because of their ages, Hanson as King Charlemagne boasted a commanding voice, and Finnerty showed a feisty side as Pippin's love interest. Several supporting players were standouts - Elisabeth Gravitt as Pippin's scheming stepmother, Kevin Boyer as his haughty half-brother, and Dolores Rogers as his grandstanding grandmother.

The rest of the company, in addition to earning vocal laurels, kept in step in Grider's moves, and included Alex LeFevre, Val Moranto, Jon Bennett, John C. Taylor, Debbi Bauml, Susanna Breese, Amanda Brewster, Steve Channon, Hadyn Joy, and Suzanne Slade. (Grider himself was also one of the players.)

On the technical front, Charlie Calvert hid some surprises in his stark set design, including an overhead space that served multiple functions. Elizabeth Gaines provided the colorful lighting choices, particularly dramatic in the "Glory" war sequence. Kimberly Glennon misfired with her contemporary punk costumes, but redeemed herself with the stunning metallic battlegear.

Box Score:

Writing: 2
Directing: 1
Acting: 1
Set: 1
Costumes: 1
Lighting/Sound: 1

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Copyright 2002 Elias Stimac