THEATER REVIEW: ‘Pippin’ at Rubber City Theatre by Lisa DeBenedictis

 

Through Sun 8/27

Dane CT Leasure, founder and artistic director of the newly named Rubber City Theatre company (formerly Rubber City Shakespeare Company), has directed a musical version of Pippin that intrinsically has more resolve and compassion than the Bob Fosse version that opened on Broadway in the early 1970s.

This story begins with the Leading Player (alluringly portrayed by Jailyn Harris) as a narrator of a tale that has its genesis in the story of Pepin the Hunchback, first son of Charlemagne, heir to the throne, a young prince who is searching for his own “Corner of the Sky.” Pippin talks to his fellow scholars of his dreams and they applaud Pippin on his ambitious quest for an extraordinary life.

Pippin returns home to the castle and estate of his father, King Charles aka Charlemagne. Jay Sigler (King Charles) and Nate Summers’ (Pippin) relationship is empathetically directed with humor and an authenticity that provide the foundation of relatibility to the entire production. Jay Sigler is humorous and swaggering as the King who is busy but fond of his cerebral progeny. Pippin as portrayed by the gifted Summers is simultaneously curious and naïve; jubilant and earnest. This multifaceted portrayal is crux of connection that pulls the audience into story and makes one root for Pippin’s triumph throughout battle, love, lust and journey of self discovery.

This production is buoyed by remarkably talented cast (Bronwyn Craven as Berthe, Pippin’s perceptive and ebullient grandmother; Danielle Gruhler as Fastrada, Pippin’s cunning and treacherous stepmother; Logan Honsaker as Pippin’s stepbrother. the narcissistic and mercenary Lewis,; and Kyla Williger as Pippin’s cherished sweetheart the widow Catherine.

But the joy of this production is positioned squarely on the shoulders of the exceptional choreographer Kevin Lambes and the talented ensemble players and dancers (Morgan Bedilion, Lucy Bowers, Shelby Carlisle, Emmy Cohen, Scott Thankasiu, Barbara Trotter, Frank Castorena and John Rader). This ensemble generates extravagant dance numbers, and glitz and glamor which propel this play beyond its plot trajectory.

An ending with a circumforaneous closure that was first produced in 2013’s multiple Tony acclaimed revival provide Stanley Niekamp (as Theo) and Nate Summers’ new audiences a less ambiguous conclusion than Fosse’s 1972 version. Katie Wells’ costume design and Sharon Alberson’s music direction are superlative and noteworthy. This production runs Thursdays through Sundays through August 27th.

rubbercitytheatre

[Written by Lisa Rene’ DeBenedictis]

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