Quince Orchard High School
Bizarre. Enthralling. One man's search for his life's meaning as he gets pushed around in the wildest game of cat-and-mouse. Justice High School's production of Pippin is sure to snatch your attention while leaving you mystified.
The classic Fosse musical, Pippin, first hit the Broadway stage in 1972. Composer Stephen Schwartz, director and choreographer Bob Fosse, and Roger O. Hirson paired up to tackle humanity's defining question: What is the purpose of life? For the titular character, Pippin, answering this question is a bit of a struggle. The audience follows Pippin as he grapples with finding his place in the world and finding something that doesn't bore him to death. Pippin's narrative is an elaborate philosophical question, with a cast of highly memorable side characters strung along.
Elijah Kassa (Pippin) animated his role with a bookish charm. Kassa bounded across the stage, his energetic steps knowing no rest and his cool, down-to-earth attitude kept the performance grounded. Kassa guided the viewers along on his journey of self-discovery, selling every high and low sufficiently. Although the innocent glint in his eyes had faded by the end of the show, Kassa still relished every moment, stringing the lovable, quirky energy of Pippin along for the ride.
Right alongside Pippin, pushing him along on his journey, was the spellbinding Valeria Peterson (Leading Player). Peterson sauntered around the stage and moved in a graceful, cat-like fashion. Peterson masterfully brought out the sinister in her character while delivering enchanting vocals in songs such as "Glory". Despite all this, the area where Peterson excelled the most was expertly replicating the iconic Fosse choreography throughout the show. In the number "The Right Track", Kassa and Peterson played off each other expertly, providing witty banter and undeniable chemistry while executing Fosse-inspired choreography.
All the glitz and glamour of the show melted away when Sofi Hemmens (Catherine) stepped onto the stage. Plain and sensible, Hemmens gave a striking contrast to the chaos, transporting the audience during her song packed with passion-filled vocals. As she sang, her voice cascaded over the audience in a waterfall of sound. As she broke down onstage, sobs wracked her body in a heart-wrenching manner.
At the foundation of the show, Justice's run crew, led by Ronan Bates, kept the show sailing smoothly. The crew rotated the flats seamlessly, proving themselves to be virtually undetectable and silent throughout the show. When they were heard intentionally, in a bit between the Leading Player and crew members setting a bed, the crew retorted back with charming banter. From beginning to end, warm spotlights shone upon the actors, bathing them in light. A cyc, or a plain background lit with colors, shifted from blues to reds, giving the stage a flair that matched the production, thanks to the work of Elizabeth Cheek and Benjamin Ward. As a whole, the technical elements blended masterfully with the actors onstage, melding to create a fantastical world.
Although Pippin was a spectacle to behold, the spirit of this show lay within its message. The theme of searching for belonging speaks to any high schooler and is sure to remind them that there is a place for them in the world. Colorful and exhilarating, the world of Justice High School's production of Pippin is an extravaganza that is sure to please an audience.
Herndon High School
It's rare for a show that ends in literal flames to also be a cheerful comedy- but Pippin, performed in this instance by Justice High School, promises its audience a wide range of emotions. It's certainly, as the Leading Player says, a performance that will "burn in your memory forever!"
Pippin opened on Broadway in 1972 at the Imperial Theatre and ran until 1977- a stunning showcase of director Bob Fosse's distinctive choreography, and the lyrical skill of Stephen Schwartz. It was revived in 2013 under the direction of Diane Paulus and won the Tony Award for Best Revival. The story is deceptively simple, opening on a player troupe that promises a thrilling tale of intrigue and illusion- starring Pippin, son of King Charlemagne. As the musical unfolds, Pippin searches for the meaning of life, aided by the troupe and its mysterious Leading Player. But the Player has an ending in mind for Pippin that's far from a happily ever after.
Justice's production, full of mime makeup and ominous silhouettes, nevertheless brought bright colors and cheer to the stage. The whole cast displayed enthusiasm, dancing in every corner of the stage in numbers such as "Extraordinary" and "No Time at All". The latter was made doubly engaging when the audience was encouraged to join in. Justice's auditorium was full of smiles as people sang along, following the lyrics projected on the backdrop.
The heart of any production of Pippin is, of course, its titular character- played in this instance by Elijah Kassa. Kassa sprung across the stage in every scene, grinning from ear to ear with endless enthusiasm. With an open mouth or brightly lit eyes, Kassa demonstrated charming reactions- and nowhere was this more evident than in his scenes with Berthe (Jasper Geer). The two had playful chemistry, hugging and bantering just like a real grandma and grandson would. The Leading Player, portrayed by Valeria Peterson, captivated with sharp movements and strong dancing. In songs like "On the Right Track," she displayed impressive vibrato while delivering beautiful high notes.
The supporting cast also gave memorable performances- Catherine, played by Sofi Hemmens, sang angelically, with sweet expressions as she gracefully walked about the stage. Fastrada, played by Angel Stanfield, waltzed flirtatiously from character to character, flouncing through songs with excellent energy and singing her own solos with beautiful vibrato. The cast displayed enthusiasm and boundless energy throughout every song.
The makeup of the show, done by Charlie Boucher, Makayla Freeman, and the Make-Up Mavens, was a strong point, with intense detail given to all the player troupe's faces. Their clown makeup helped show their division from the "Real world" of Pippin and his family, yet highlighted emotions with bright colors and designs. The lighting of the show (by Benny Ward and Elizabeth Cheek) helped transport the audience into the world of Pippin, with lights waving through the audience and glowing on the titular character as he walked the aisles. The end of every song was a strong silhouette, especially when the Leading Player was onstage- her very first entrance showed only her shadow, yet her precise movements as she adjusted her hat, built excitement for what was to come.
Overall, Justice's production of Pippin was a cheerful affair. Pippin's journey to discover himself brought a sweet, timeless message to its audience- it's never too late to go out and find your "Corner of the Sky."