Theatre Mirror Reviews - "Pippin"

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2011 by Tony Annicone


Reviewed by Tony Annicone

LaSalle Player's current show is "Pippin" which opened on Broadway on October 23, 1972, closed June 12, 1977 and ran for 1,944 performances. It is a musical with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Roger O. Hirson. Bob Fosse directed the original Broadway production which starred Ben Vereen as the Leading Player and John Rubenstein as Pippin. It tells the story of young prince Pippin, and his yearning desire to discover the secret of happiness and fulfillment. He sought it in the glories of the battlefield, the temptations of the flesh and the intrigues of political power after disposing of his father King Charlemagne the Great. But since this is an anachronistic fairy tale, Charlemagne is brought back to life after Pippin listened to his sexpot stepmother, Fastrada. Then suddenly out of the blue, your average ordinary kind of woman, Catherine picks him up off the street. Eventually Pippin is charmed by this woman with a small boy and a large estate. In the end, he finds it in the simple pleasures of home and family. Directors Brother Michael McKenery and Mr. Thomas Haynes take this musical, inject it with large doses of humor and make it a joyous romp with a talented young cast.

Brother Michael and Mr. Haynes not only cast this show well but block it beautifully, too. They play close attention to the characterizations presented by his students, making them come alive for current day audiences. They mix the comic and poignant moments together wonderfully. Jeff Allard is the musical director and taught all the intricate songs to the cast. The dances are choreographed Ann Morsilli and they include many Fosse signature dances including tap, jazz, ballet, marching and a kick-line with the youthful cast performing them splendidly. The colorful set is by William Connors and built by the students. The gorgeous costumes are by David Cabral. Stage managers Ryan Sweeney and Logan Serabian keep things running smoothly backstage and onstage all night long.

The cast is lead by Colin Whitney as Pippin. He has blond hair and blue, he looks like William Katt who did the DVD version of this show back in 1981. Colin's acting prowess comes through in this role by his energetic and sympathetic portrayal. His fantastic tenor voice soars in all his songs including "Corner of the Sky" where he starts his journey to find meaning in his life, a verse in "War Is a Science" where he leaps up to start the battle against the barbarians, "With You" where he discovers the sexual side of life, "Morning Glow" where he finally becomes king only to discover it isn't as easy as it appears, "Extraordinary" where he plugs his own self importance and "Love Song", a duet with Catherine where he finally finds meaning in his life. Colin makes the naive prince grow up quickly in the barbaric world around him and is a joy to watch in this role. Joey DeLeo is wonderful as the Leading Player. captures the deviousness and slickness of this character. The show opens with the Leading Player inviting the audience to join the performers in a story about a boy prince searching for fulfillment in "Magic to Do" where Colin and 10 other dancers swirl around the stage in a show stopping dance number. His other songs include "Glory" where he leads the troupe in a mock battle. The song is about the horrors of the Vietnam protest when it was written back in 1972, "Simple Joys" where Pippin heads out to the country to visit his grandmother and On the Right Track" with Colin where he inspires Pippin to find his way in life where they perform a jazz dance to it. His entire dialogue with the cast, his controlling scenes with Pippin and his argument scenes with Catherine are first rate, too.Nick Cancelliere and Diego Guevara play Pippin and Leading Player at alternating performances.

Charlemagne is marvelously played by John Thorsen with regal authority. His character has an eye for the pretty girls and he uses his topnotch voice in "Welcome Home" where he asks Pippin how things are going but ignores what he says. John's "War is a Science" stops the show while the warriors do a terrific march during it. He has many funny one liners including "Fornicating I'm getting is worth the fornicating I'm getting", "Soldiers are strong and stupid" and "Lewis is an asshole.". His evil second wife Fastrada is excellently played by Victoria Szlashta and their bloodthirsty dimwitted son Lewis is played by the muscular Matt Smith Her fabulous voice sells "Spread a Little Sunshine" while she and Lewis do a sexy dance to it. Victoria wears a sexy dress as the character. Fastrada plots the overthrow of Charlemagne trying to get their son to be king. Matt is very funny as the egotistical son who loves himself. Both of them brighten up the stage during their scenes. Matt is wonderful being able to play a stupid, dummy who makes his lewd and lascivious behavior laugh out loud moments. One of the biggest scene stealers in this show is Olivia Mathis as Berthe, Charlemagne's mother. She is marvelous in "No Time at All" an interactive audience participation number and does a terrific dance with her boys. Her number stops the show with the message for Pippin to enjoy life because she still does even at her advanced age. Martha Andrade plays Catherine. She is a pretty brunette with a lovely voice. She sells her songs, "Kind of Woman" where she sings about being an ordinary woman while trying to seduce Pippin, "Love Song" which she sings with Colin where they finally admit their love and "I'll Guess I'll Miss the Man", a gorgeous, earnest ballad where she laments their break up when Pippin decides to leave her. This latter song is my favorite one in the show. is wonderful as she stands up to the bullying of the Leading Player. Cameron St. Germain plays her son, Theo. He wins the sympathy of the audience with Otto, his duck. Cameron tries to help Pippin recover from despair by yelling at him, praying for his duck and in his final solo song "Corner of the Sky" to the audience. He handles this role with ease. John Coletta, Devin Carreiro, Shelby Clarke and Margaret Rogers play Charles, Fastrada, Berthe and Catherine at alternating performances. Kudos to the entire talented cast on a job well done. So for a trip back to the days of Charlemagne, be sure to catch "Pippin" before it dance out of town. I was lucky enough to have seen "Pippin" on Broadway in 1974 with John Rubenstein and Ben Vereen on his last night as the Leading Player.

"Pippin" (11 - 14 May)
@ The New Auditorium at LaSalle Academy, 612 Academy Avenue, PROVIDENCE RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide