BWW Review: PIPPIN at Westchester Playhouse
"Pippin" is a musical written by Stephen Schwartz and Roger O. Hirson and originally directed by Bob Fosse. It tells the story of the young son of Charlemagne desperately looking for a place to belong.
The ensemble cast weaves the story of Pippin (played by the charismatic Kyle Ray), a young prince who longs to find passion and adventure in his life. To prove his loyalty to his distracted father, King Charles (the effervescent Jon Sparks), Pippin goes to war. But when the Leading Player (played by the very competent Samantha Barrios) convinces the prince to fight tyranny, Pippin kills Charles and takes over the throne.
Upon further investigation of this complex story, the audience finds itself in a play-within-a-play situation. Where the Leading Player has "chosen" an audience member to perform the Ultimate Finale (which we later find out is death).
Throughout Pippin's journey (which also becomes the audience's journey) we discover multiple life lessons and milestones: good versus evil, sexual exploration, political strengths and weaknesses, adult responsibilities, and the meaning of Life (to name a few).
In the end, Pippin (and many audience members) realize that it's ok to be common. One does not have to be extraordinary. Happiness comes from within and not from the world around oneself and their influences.
For a musical that was originally presented in 1972, the themes still (to this day) echo strongly making this musical one of the most timeless musicals in theatre history.
Director/Choreographer Alison Boole has assembled a rather solid ensemble of actors. Within her staging and choreography, Boole utilizes their strengths as a whole, but has opportunities to give a nod to the great Fosse such as in the recreating of "The Manson Trio" with Barrios and featured dancers Roy T. Okida and Victoria Miller (a former Las Vegas Folies Bergere dancer).
Vocals are the strength of this cast, though. Beautiful harmonies and strong performances are what you will get out of this production. Kudos to Music Director Catherine Rahm and to the live orchestra who lend so much exuberance to the production.
Aside from the above mentioned performers, other standouts include Lyndsay Palmer (a coquettish Fastrada), the dry comical stylings of Joanna Churgin (Berthe), and the professionalism and stage presence of Shawn Elliott Plunkett (Theo).
The Westchester Playhouse has been in existence for seven decades and it is to their testament that productions of quality continue to be presented.
"Pippin" plays through June 22 at the Westchester Playhouse, 8301 Hindry Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90045. For tickets: 310-645-5156 or www.kentwoodplayers.org
Photo Credit: Gloria Plunkett