Pippin is delighting Theatre Ancaster audiences for one more weekend at Ancaster Highschool. This musical, first choreographed by Bob Fosse on Broadway, still has considerable play in our modern world. The music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and the book by Roger O. Hirson speak to the coming of age of a young man. As it turns out, like a good poem, the themes presented in his tale have stood the test of time and managed to echo quite succinctly into our current lifestyles. For instance, although in its day it strongly reflected the struggle of young men with the demands of the draft and the Vietnam War, today it effortlessly morphs into a commentary on the modern man’s quandary with consumerism.
In lead roles, the main ensemble in this student production is easily a collection of some of the strongest performers I’ve seen in the area. Taylor Frisina as the manipulative Leading Player has an amazing vocal range and a stage presence that keeps the narrative vibrant. Imagine that this role was played by Ben Vereen in the past and it requires both power and charm to pull it off. As her puppet, Owen Lapsley as Pippin is a true triple threat. He’s comfortable and excels in voice, dance and acting. He’s easy to watch and is an enigmatic protagonist.
Also, Ashley Smith as Berthe has a lovely comedy turn as Pippin’s grandmother in her routine “No Time at All”. It’s a crowd pleaser and even requires a little participation. In the second act, we meet Isobel Cooke, as Catherine, and not only does she fully embody the earnestness of her character, she also takes the play to another level with her unencumbered sweetness. Her delivery and portrayal are simply natural and in contrast to the burlesque like manipulations of the Band of Players and The Party Guests, we finally see a path for Pippin: one he chooses not one he is swayed by.
Director Sam Frisk not only assembles a top notch cast and disciplined chorus, he also creates an innovative space with his set design. It can accommodate both crowds and intimate scenes and has a striking cyclorama that mirrors the actions and emotions of the production. It’s a visual delight with lovely small touches like messages from the orchestra pit and banners for audience participation. Particularly, a haunting scene with gauze and shadow which symbolically represents Pippin’s many youthful affairs is simple but exquisitely rendered.
In slang Pippin means a person much admired. In this case, it’s a production much admired with a very important message for young and old. You might see it as the manifestation of draft dodging during the Vietnam War. You might see it as simply growing up and making choices. You might sense the manipulation of the Lead Player is like the trap of consumerism: a system where choice is an illusion. You might see it all and much more and that’s the beauty of this musical. You will also certainly see yourself at some point. Enjoy. V
Audience Advisory: Contains adult content suitable for children 13+
February 28, 29, 7:30 pm
Adult: $20 | Senior (65+): $18 | Student (up to and including university): $10
Buy tickets online at theatreancaster.com
Theatre Auditorium at Ancaster High School,
374 Jerseyville Rd., Ancaster