“Pushing the envelope,” “very risqué,” and “edgy” are a few of the words and phrases I heard from Thursday night’s opening performance of Pippin at the Dutch Apple Dinner Theatre.
Having not seen a Pippin performance before, nor having read even a small synopsis about the musical, I was caught off-guard during Act I of the play; however, if you walked out after the first act, you really missed one heck of a “finale.”
The scene opens with a circus-like troupe and the Leading Player, played superbly by Housso Semon, singing Magic to Do. Pippin – who is the son of King Charlemagne – is played by head-turner Naysh Fox. He enters with his song Corner of the Sky, which basically explains his need to find fulfillment in his “extraordinary” life.
To make a long story short:
Pippin goes to war to prove himself; he then leaves the war and stumbles upon his exiled grandmother’s house (learning from her that he needs to experience the “simple joys” of life – enter provocative song and dance number). Feeling empty from meaningless “sexcapades,” the Leading Player and the troupe lead Pippin to commit tyranny and eventually kill his father (with some encouragement from his step-mother, Fastrada, and step-brother, Lewis). He tries to rule in his father’s place (very political scene) but realizes – in Act II – that no one can please everyone, so Pippin begs the Leading Player to bring his father back. And, with some “magic,” the knife is removed from the king’s chest, and he returns to the throne.
Continuing to find fulfillment, Pippin studies art and religion but ends up flat on his back on the side of the road in utter despair. Enter my favorite character, Catherine, played by the animated and enamored Savannah Sprinkle, whose voice is angelic. Catherine is a widowed-mother who owns a large estate. She and her young son, Theo, played by York talent, Seth Erdley, invite Pippin to stay with them, where Pippin finds the daily life boring and mundane. He tries to comfort Theo after the death of his duck and eventually warms up to Theo (and really warms up to Catherine).
Feeling trapped, Pippin abruptly leaves to continue to find his life’s fulfillment. He returns to join the Leading Player and the amazing acrobatic troupe. Like a bad case of high school peer pressure, Pippin is enticed to finish the grand finale, one that audience members will remember for the rest of their lives. He is hoisted on a swing and is shouted at by the Leading Player and troupe members to jump into a blaze of glory and shine like the sun.
He stops and realizes that his true happiness is with Catherine and Theo, whom have now joined the stage from afar, which frustrates the Leading Player who becomes irate and shuts down the production (taking away the costumes, lights, music, etc.). Pippin, Catherine and Theo are stripped down to their ordinary selves, which sheds light on the true meaning of finding happiness in an ordinary, simple life. The show ends with Catherine and Pippin leaving the stage and Theo returning alone, singing a verse from Pippin’s opening song, Corner of the Sky. The Leading Player and the troupe slowly creep onto the stage, showing us that the search for the “extraordinary” and “human fulfillment” is a part of life that everyone faces at some point in his or her life.
Bravo, Dutch Apple, on thinking outside the “Lancaster” box. I enjoyed the musical, but it’s not one I’d take my church group to.