BWW Review: PIPPIN at Bergen County Players
Editor's Note: We welcome this guest review by Kevin Doheny. He is a freelance writer and former researcher at Rick McKay's Second ACT Productions, Producers of the documentary "Broadway: The Golden Age". Our readers can look forward to more of Kevin's writings.
The spirit of Fosse/Verdon is alive and well with the Bergen County Players, in Oradell! Their delightful production of Pippin that opened this weekend at the Little Firehouse Theater on Kinderkamack Rd is a must see for any fan of the Fosse/Verdon canon. For those unfamiliar, Pippin tells the coming of age story of, (who else) Pippin, son of Charlemagne and although set in 780 A.D. it also stands as an anti war allegory. Pippin was originally staged in the early 70's and the parallels to the Vietnam War are palpable. It also speaks of love and hope and joy. All wonderfully played by the stellar Bergen County Players.
The production, excellently directed by Perry Award winner Ellyn Essig, is faithful to what I know of the original while still remaining fresh. Choreographed by Diana Baer who is surely a Fosse fan, due to how much of the (necessary) original choreography she used (danced very well by the cast, but I will get to that soon). I also particularly enjoyed the use of lighting by Gerard Bourcier, who also designed the lively set. Stephen Schwartz's now legendary score was handled well by music director Steve Bell with some fine musical moments along the way. The talented Maureen Mulvihill did the makeup and costumes that were nicely done, especially the now classic painted faces of the chorus members!
Taking us on this fantastical journey is a cast of characters starting with someone called the "Leading Player" created and made famous by Ben Vereen on Broadway and more recently by Patina Miller. The role was played by Kimberly Olson Bunker whose spirited performance thrilled me several times during the show. Her "Magic To Do" drew me right in and I was hooked from that point forward. Another highlight of many was the dance number known as the "Manson Trio"(made famous for some, by the original TV commercial for Pippin) this original, faithful choreography was danced beautifully by Kimberly; along with dance captain Elisabeth Erdmann and Cassandra Barckett.
Now, Pippin really isn't much without... Pippin... and in Tom Kiely you get exactly what you need! His hopeful optimism shines through and his "Corner of the Sky" gave me chills. I particularly enjoyed the dynamic between Pippin and his father Charlemagne, played by the dynamic Mark Bogosian. The ever annoying Lewis played well by Dan Loverro and the ever plotting and cunning Fastrada played by the delightful and "cheeky" Elaine Thoman in a role that was originated by Chita Rivera on Broadway.. Carol Fisher who is wonderful as Berthe gets us all if a great mood (no spoilers, but be prepared to sing) and rounding out the very talented cast as Catherine and her son Theo are Candice Belina and Alex Café who each give gorgeous performances. In particular Candice and Tom's moving and believable version of "Love Song" and Alex's reprise of "Corner of the Sky". Last but certainly not least the chorus members (Angelina Aragona, Cassandra Barckett, Aaron Correa (a star on the rise, mark my words) Elisabeth Erdmann, Eitan Hiller, Eric Holzer and Jenna Stewart) carried the show along in a way that made it all the more enjoyable.
If you are looking for a fun night on the theater filled with talented actors on stage giving a great performance of what's now become a classic Broadway musical, look no further than the Bergen County Players' production of Pippin, they've certainly got some "Magic To Do"
Pippin will be performed at the Little Firehouse Theatre in Oradell from September 14th through October 12th, 2019. Shows will be on Fridays and Saturdays at 8pm and Sundays at 2pm. Tickets can be purchased online at http://www.bcplayers.org/ by calling 201-261-4200 or by visiting the box office at 298 Kinderkamack Road in Oradell during regular box office hours.
Photo Credit: Alan Zenreich