Westfield High School
An unrestrained circus "spread a little sunshine" with spectacular choreography, imposing skill, and formidable ASL interpretation to tell the story of a disoriented prince in Stone Bridge High School's production of Pippin.
Roger O. Hirson's Pippin premiered at the Imperial Theater on October 23, 1972. The show won countless awards and was revived in 2013. Pippin also appeared in Her Majesty's West End Theater in 1973. The plot follows Pippin, a young prince, as he searches for his purpose in life. He attempts to join Charlemagne's army, invest in women, and even become king. He fails at all of those and continues his search with the help of the Leading Players of the performance troupe telling his story.
Caleb Rouse portrayed Pippin with intensive acting and vocal ability that shined throughout the performance. His striking vocals brought a strong sense of hope to the audience in "Corner of the Sky." Kyle Broderick and Paravi Das as the male and female Leading Players+ demonstrated powerful vocals in songs like "Glory." Broderick executed difficult tricks and dances flawlessly, giving the audience an unforgettably breath-taking experience.
The performance troupe ensemble performed inspiring choreography and expertly told Pippin's story through movement. Their voices intertwined to create splendid melodies. The ensemble's dances gave the audience a resplendently lyrical interpretation of Pippin's story. One dancer in the ensemble, Karen Zipor, performed a flowing, eagle-like dance to symbolize Pippin's lost feeling during "Corner of the Sky" and other songs as well.
To enhance the show, Phoebe Taylor translated the entirety of the script to American Sign Language. An ASL character was added to many of the roles in the musical. These characters represented the soul of their speaking counterpart. Sometimes the two were at peace, other times the being and soul fought. The ASL characters signed the lines spoken by their corresponding character to provide entertainment for the deaf community, who struggle to find inclusive shows such as this one.
The makeup and costumes of Pippin displayed immense detail and added to each character's being. The flower costumes consisted of colorful leotards and long strings of flowers tied to the waist and draped to the floor. The makeup for the mermaid was incredibly detailed, down to each vibrant scale. The leading players had a single shining, green spot on their faces which matched their ASL character's snake-inspired look.
The unruly performance troupe and vigorous leading players brought "glory" to Stone Bridge High School's Pippin.
Dominion High School
Nearly everyone's had an existential crisis; when, for just a moment, you wonder what your life's purpose is to be and where your place is in the whole, wide world. Now imagine that existential crisis played out on a stage in front of you, complete with brightly hued dancers, exaggeratedly long noses, and a preponderance of sign language. Signed and delivered, Stone Bridge's Pippin was an entertaining Saturday evening for all who were privileged enough to see it.
Originally performed on Broadway in 1972, Pippin saw Broadway revival in 2013 and has since embarked on a successful national tour. Written by Tony award-winning playwright and composer Stephen Schwartz and originally choreographed by Bob Fosse, Pippin tells the story of the eponymous prince's search for life's meaning. The musical begins with Prince Pippin's adventures within the walls of his father Charlemagne's kingdom, and as he attempts to derive meaning out of his various trials he falls further and further into resolve that he must overthrow his father. In the second act, Pippin finds himself collapsed onto a street, before being helped by a lady named Catherine into the life he never wanted—that of an everyman, a farmhand and stand-in father with no special significance to be had.
Any characterization of Stone Bridge's rendition of Pippin would be incomplete without referencing the incorporation of American Sign Language into the production. All of Pippin's principal players were paired with an ASL counterpart, who both signed all their lines in a manner accessible to deaf audiences and expressed, through clothing choices and facial expressions, the speaking character's inner emotions. Entirely translated into ASL by senior Phoebe Taylor, Stone Bridge's Pippin often thus had two parallel scenes occurring simultaneously, with both the speaking and deaf actors interacting and conversing with those of their own label. The effect of the ASL actors on the production was profoundly fantastic, and was perhaps the most memorable aspect of the entire show.
Lead actor Caleb Rouse, playing the titular Pippin, was exceptionally well-suited for the role. He tackled the diverse vocal requirements of the character with ease, and maintained genuine chemistry with Catherine (Julia Berg) during their stage time together. Rouse's performances in "Prayer for a Duck" and "Corner of the Sky" accurately conveyed the scene's emotional content. Though his ASL counterpart (Phoebe Taylor) had no speaking lines, Berg was equally as effective in portraying Pippin's inner confusion and despair as Rouse was in vocalizing it.
Much of the supporting cast, however, provided the show's highlights. Ben Lechtman's comically boastful Lewis and his money-hungry mother Fastrada provided much of the comedy in the play's first act, and Taylor Stevens' Theo picked up the comedic mantle for the latter half of the show. The Birds and the Bees' ensemble, inserted to make the production's raunchier elements more family-friendly, were also among the show's funniest elements.
The costumes and technical effects were designed in the vein of 1920's Vaudeville, which became more and more eminent as the show progressed. Complete with bright rainbow paint in almost every shade, the set of Pippin provided the farcical foil to the show's heavy, existential plotline.
Overall, Stone Bridge's performance of Pippin combined advanced technical elements with genuine emotion for a production which was rich in both playful fun and advanced meaning.