Thursday November 23rd 2017

“Pippin”

There are not many musicals that come along where there are no memorable songs- not one that you find stuck in your mind or that you begin to hum as you drive home, but “Pippin”, a sort of “rock musical” written by Stephen Schwartz ( music and lyrics) with a book by Roger O. Hirson, might just be the perfect example. BoHo Theatre, a troupe that strives to “bring art to the stage” takes this unfamous musical to new heights on the intimate stage at Theater Wit on Belmont Avenue. With a rather bare bones, simple, but slick production staged by Peter Marston Sullivan with some dandy choreography by Brenda Didier, BoHo has breathed new life into a musical that most people have only heard of. While I myself am not fond of the book or the music in this piece, what BoHo has put onstage is a delightful and entertaining two plus hours with a strong cast of players who shine at all they do.

The story of “Pippin” is that of a young man, a prince who is supposedly destined to live an extraordinary life. His father is the King and almost as powerful as the Pope. By the way, his father, Charlemnage is played to perfection by Michael Kingston who continues to grow as one of the strongest character actors in Chicago. He also takes on a role in the ensemble and does a great job as Pippin’s Grandmother ( a real hoot!). The King has another son, Lewis ( played with just the right amount of “campiness” by Sawyer Smith). Lewis is the fighter, the dumber of the sons and Pippin ( deftly handled by Shaun Nathan Baer, who has great pipes) the son close to perfection- the extraordinary one.

The very sexy Jenny Lamb handles the role of their mother Fastrada with great flair and is brings this campy role to another level. Yes, this show is “CAMP” and makes fun of many ideals and lifestyles. The story is told by a narrator, called Leading Player ( Travis Porchia with all the right moves and a very menacing persona) and all o fthe ensemble members are “players” at one time or another. Each of them has a part in telling us this story that deals with politics, war, religion, war, jealousy, incest, vanity and love. The true message of this story is whether or not anyone really knows what their fate may be. Can someone know what his or her future will bring? Can love triumph all? Many will see,in this farcical look at the world, that if we just let our lives run their course, all the pieces will fit into place. Pippin does find this out as the Players try to begin the finale, leaving us with no Finale to run. Is there an audience member who is ready to take on this task? No, as you will find out when you see this sparkling production, Pippin’s new found love’s son, Theo ( a darling performance by Gabriel Stern) might just be the man!

The ensemble players are highly energetic as they take on many roles, sing many songs and dance many numbers. Daniel Spagnuolo, Leslie Allison Smith,Christopher Logan, Maggie Portman ( one of our town’s finest little dancers). Kelsey Anderson ( who does a few dance number herself) and one of my favorites, Dana Tretta who shows upin the second act in a principle role, that of Catherine, a widow who saves Pippin from his own ego. What Sullivan proves with this production is that a solid cast, put to the task of understanding the material can overcome the plainness of the material itself.

Nick Sula and his little orchestra provide great sound and make this music come alive and while scant , the set design by John Zuiker allows this small stage to work effectively. Some of you may know some of the songs ( but I doubt many). “War Is A Science” ,”Extraordinary” and “Right Track” are three of the  17 or so written to tell this story. Of them all “Glory” shines and the opening sequence “Magic To Do” must be listened to closely as it truly sets the tone. “Pippin” will continue at Theater Wit located at 1229 West Belmont Avenue through November13th with performances as follows:

Thursday,Friday and Saturday evenings at 8 p.m. and Sunday afternoons at 2 p.m.

Tickets are a mere $18-$28 ( a little more than a movie ticket for live theater that will be far more enjoyable). You can get your tickets at the box office, by phone at 773-975-8160 or visit www.bohotheater.com

 

 

 

 

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