Picture this: Eldest son graduates a good college in Padua, Italy, comes home briefly, and then decides to forsake his fortune and hit the road to find his own “extraordinary”. Sounds like a slacker, right? Only this eldest son is Pippin (Paul Harestad), son of King Charles, or Charlemagne (Dan Murphy), leader of the Christian world.
Pippin begins his quest for meaning hoping to distinguish himself in battle. After all, his idiot step-brother Lewis (Erik Montague) enjoys wielding weapons on and off the battlefield and gets plenty of paternal recognition. Pippin’s step-mother Fastrada (Stephanie Heuston) would love to see Pippin disemboweled so her son could inherit the throne. However, Pippin finds himself upset by the futility of war, and decides that perhaps revolution is a better way to find his purpose.
While Pippin is light and good-humored, it allows plenty of room for satire on war, thoughts on the old and new orders, and who deserves to lead, along with plenty of fake blood and guts, and some hilarious one-liners, most of them delivered by the world-weary King.
It’s an enjoyable show. Paul Harestad, with his beautiful tenor, is perfect as the young, guileless Pippin trying to find himself. Dan Murphy’s delivery is as comical as what comes out of his mouth. Stephanie Heuston and Erik Montague perform their roles with zest, and Paul Angelo’s direction yields perfect timing. Other cast members include Joan Freed as Pippin’s mother Berthe; Kelly Sina as Catherine; and Theo Curl as Theo.
Leading Player (Jessica Tidd) directs the on-stage action and foretells many happenings. She’s sly, vampy, naughty and fun. A talented ensemble deliver both songs and excellent dance routines choreographed by Erin Shannon. Musical direction is by Valery Saul, and it’s fun to watch the musicians, integrated with Samie Pfeifer’s set, throughout most of the production.
The play (book by Roger O. Hirson, music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz) premiered on Broadway in October, 1972, and enjoyed a five-year run,, and was directed and choreographed by Bob Fosse. It’s Broadway revival was in 2013.
Pippin runs through October 14 at Lakewood Center for the Performing Arts. It is appropriate for ages 8 and up.