Friday September 22nd 2017

“Pippin”

Highly Recommended**** Is there perfection in one’s life? How does one find true happiness in life? And at what cost? These are the questions raised in  The Music Theatre Company’s new production of “Pippin”, with a book by Roger O. Hirson and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. Often, theater companies try to bring this musical to a different level by playing it on a serious note, but what Jessica Redish has placed on her stage in Highland Park, is the very heart and soul of what the creators intended us to view- a comical look at our lives as we see it and as others live it. Redish uses the very small stage at The Karger Center in downtown Highland Park to full advantage as she directs her sterling cast into all the nooks and crannies of a young man in search of true happiness and fulfillment. The original production was stage by Bob Fosse and Redish has kept his mood and movements alive.

A Leading Player ( skillfully played by Joey Stone ) is our “narrator” as he tells us the story of King Charlemagne ( James Rank) , his new wife, Fastrada ( an adorable Angie Stemberg), her son Lewis ( played to the extreme by Zach Zube) and his son, Pippin ( Andrew Keltz, who it seems will be playing young men in search of their identity for years with his boyish looks and charm). This playful fable takes us through battle, temptations, politics, power struggles and the quest for the power to rule the world. As we join A Leading Player on this journey through marvelous song and dance, we find that Pippin, despite attaining all he feels will bring him his happiness, we see that perhaps what we dream of, is not the answer at all.

For those of you have never been to Karger Center, it is a very intimate spot, with no stage at all, but rather the floor of the auditorium with seating on three sides, two long and narrow and one side four rows deep instead of two. The door that we enter through becomes the rear of teh stage and the aisles are used by the actors as well. Tight quarters are in many cases a difficult chore for the director/choreographer ( Redish handles it all with great style) and the tech people who are limited in what they can do with sets ( although Stephen H. Carmody does some very razzle/dazzle things here) and lighting ( Charles Cooper nails it). The costumes ( Jessica Snyder) are not as glitzy as a big scale production, but they do work in setting the tone of the story and the five piece orchestra makes the music sound as if many more instruments were present.

In a show like this, a story telling, farcical jab at the “Musical Comedy” itself, it is the cast of players that make the show work. They are near to the audience, so near that you can feel their breath and see their eyes. This cast is energetic, spirited and talented and as an audience member, what else could you want. The ensemble appears to be loving every minute of the 2 hours of fantasy they present and each deserves mention:Brian M. Duncan,Sasha Kostyrko,Kristin O’Connell, Tommy River-Vega,Emily Rogers,Jeremy Sonkin and Lucy Zukaitis, small in numbers, large in talent.

There are some very special performances in addition to those mentioned previously: “Pippin’s grandmother is played by Peggy Roeder ( through April 13th) who has one number “No Time At All” which is a show-stopper, She is worth the price of the ticket alone and even though she is leaving for other commitments, her replacement is another Chicago favorite, Cindy Gold, so nothing will be lost for the audience), Catherine, who changes Pippin’s life is played to perfection by Jess Godwin and her little boy, Theo by Isabelle Robert. This is a well put together cast in a fine tuned production and while I do not find any of the music from this show hummable or even memorable, it all fits the tale being told and what else can we ask? We are entertained and walk out of the theater with a warm and fuzzy feeling.

To get your “warm and fuzzy” in Highland Park, you will have to visit The Music Theatre Company’s production of “Pippin” which will run at The Karger Center located at 1850 N. Green Bay Road ( plenty of free parking) through May 6th with performances as follows:

Thursdays,Fridays and Saturdays at 8 P.M., Sundays at 2 P.M.  There are also some additional performances on Tuesdays and Wednesdays which will be at 8 p.m. as well( you can check the box office or website for these ).

To purchase your tickets call 847-579-4900, visit the box office (daily 10 am-6 p.m.) or visit www.themusictheatrecompany.org  where you can also find local area restaurants who offer dining discounts with your tickets.

All tickets are priced at $40 and there are no bad seats in this intimate, charming space.   

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