Review: Raleigh Little Theatre's PIPPIN

By: Jun. 03, 2019
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BWW Review: Raleigh Little Theatre's PIPPIN

Loosely based on the fictitious life of Pippin the Hunchback, this musical tells the story of the young prince Pippin, Heir to the Frankish throne, who is in search of the secret to true happiness and fulfillment. He seeks it in the glories of the battlefield, the temptations of the flesh, and the intrigues of political power. When I last saw Pippin, it was a circus at DPAC back in 2015. Now through June 16th, Raleigh Little Theatre is presenting their own production of the 1973 Tony-winning musical, and it could not be more different.

Under the direction of Patrick Torres, the stage is set with a ghost light in the center of a black environment. From there, the narrator known only as The Leading Player shows up, inviting the audience to join them as the company starts the show. The overall design aspect of this production is very small with an inventive set designed by Elizabeth Newton that is placed in front of the visible backstage area of the Cantey V. Sutton Theatre. The choreography by Chasta Hamilton is very athletic. Of course, we cannot talk about Pippin without talking about the local players for this production.

Jesse Farmer gives a very charismatic performance as the title character. We, the audience, relate to him as Pippin goes on his emotional journey. Deanna Richards gives a powerhouse performance as The Leading Player. She nails everything from the singing to the dancing to comedy. Not to mention that the character itself does serve as a conscience to Pippin several times throughout the show. Comedic highlights come from Douglas Kapp as Pippin's father, Charlemagne; Rebecca Johnston as Pippin's grandmother, Berthe; and Molly Hamelin as the widowed farm-owner, Catherine. I'd also like to give a shout out to Amy White as Pippin's stepmother, Fastrada, who even gets to have an outstanding dance break in her big number, 'Spread a Little Sunshine'.

Overall, RLT's staging of Pippin does seem to pay homage to Bob Fosse's style on the original production while still doing their own thing with it. Not to mention that the timeless story itself of course feels relevant and the catchy score by Stephen Schwartz is terrifically brought to life by both the cast and onstage orchestra. I'd also like to end this review by sending my condolences to the family of the show's recently deceased book writer, Roger O. Hirson, who passed away at the age of 93 on May 27th.

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