Pippin

Book by Roger O. HirsonPippin at the Music Theatre Company

Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz

Directed & Choreographed by Jessica Redish

Music Direction by Ian Weinberger

Produced by The Music Theatre Company

At the Karger Center, Highland Park

Slick choreography makes Pippin soar in intimate space at Karger Center

I must confess that I’ve never been a fan of Stephen Schwartz’s Pippin having seen it butchered several times.  But, as I have learned through the years, the younger directors often make mediocre show stage worthy. That sure is the cast with The Music Theatre Company’s production of Pippin.

Pippin at the Music Theatre Company

Pippin, with Stephen Schwartz’s music and lyrics, is a musical fable about the son of Charlemagne set in 780 A.D. Pippin (Andrew Keltz) is the young prince in search of happiness and personal fulfillment. We meet a troupe of actors channeling the style of Bertolt Brecht led by the Leading Player (the charismatic Joey Stone). They invite the audience to join them in telling Pippin’s story. Through 70’s pop-rock music and slick Bob Fosse style choreography, Pippin unfolds as a journey into self-fulfillment for the nerdy Pippin played with innocent boy-next-store  Andrew Keltz.

But the real star of this well-danced musical is Joe Stone as the Leading Player. Stone sings, dances and narrates the story with panache and deft aplomb. Stone double as the dance captain who leads the very polished stylized dancers who make this production dazzle. Add terrific work from James Rank as Charlemagne, from Angela Stemberg as Fastrada, the queen, and Zach Zube as warrior brother of Pippin and you have the ingredients for a fun musical fable.

Pippin at the Music Theatre Company

While dance dominates, one performance stands out as fabulous: Peggy Roeder, as the grandmother Berthe, stops the show with her sing-along with the Boys number “No Time at All” – where she advises Pippin : “It’s time to start livin’.” Roeder was a hoot!

We witness war, combat and revolution being satirized through song and dance in a most entertaining musical. While the material isn’t earth-shattering, director/choreographer Jessica Redish has cast from the “A” list of  young Chicago  talents including nine Equity players.  The result is a slickly polished production of Pippin. Redish’s production is the finest I’ve seen yet of Schwartz’s 70’s musical. How they afford such a fine cast is a miracle. Get to Highland Park to rediscover Pippin.

Recommended

Tom Williams

Talk Theatre in Chicago podcast

Date Reviewed: March 29, 2012

Jeff Recommended

For more info checkout the Pippin page at theatreinchicago.com

At the Karger Center, 1850 N. Green Bay Road, Highland Park, IL,  call 847-579-4900, www.musictheatrecompany.org, tickets $40, Thursdays thru Saturdays at 8 pm, Sundays at 2pm, additional Tuesdays & Wednesdays at 8 pm, running time is 2 hours with intermission, through May 6, 2012