Ephrata Performing Arts Center (EPAC) takes a vibrant approach to the staging of the Stephen Schwartz musical, Pippin. The audience will see glitzy and vibrant costumes, dazzling lights, phenomenal choreography and outstanding performances. Pippin at EPAC is an immersive experience that showcases the edginess of this musical through the wonderful direction of Edward R. Fernandez and Kristin Pontz. The show is edgy, seductive and creative in its set design, costume design and choreography. This particular production of Pippin is not afraid of pushing the envelope and using the character, Pippin’s, coming of age story to reveal the dangers of our pursuit of fame, sex, wealth and desiring to live an extraordinary life. The production of Pippin at EPAC is unique and exhilarating, and everyone involved with this show have created a solid production of Pippin that audiences will surely enjoy.
If you are not familiar with the story of Pippin, it is about a young prince, Pippin, on his search for the meaning of life and feeling fulfilled. In this musical a touring performance troupe, led by a Leading Player, tells the story of Pippin and his quest to find meaning in his life. Pippin has music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Roger O. Hirson. The show originally opened on Broadway in 1972 and was directed by Bob Fosse. Recently, in 2013 it had a Broadway revival that was directed by Diane Paulus. Even though this musical opened in 1972, the production at EPAC feels like you are encountering a brand new show. This production is inspired and exciting, and I truly loved the show.
The first person the audience encounters in Pippin is The Leading Player who serves as the ring master of the production. Michael Roman portrays this enigmatic figure. Roman gives a solid and self-assured performance in this role. He leads the ensemble in a strong and stimulating opening number, “Magic to Do.” Playing the role of Pippin is Jeremy Hammer. Hammer is engaging as Pippin,embodying radiance, optimism, frustration and despair, as he goes on his life’s quest to find something that makes him feel fulfilled. He shines in this role and his rendition of “Corner of the Sky” is beautifully performed. Playing Pippin’s father, King Charles, is Kevin Lambert. Lambert’s moments onstage are over the top and impressive. He sings “War is a Science” with zest. This particular number in the show was one of my favorite moments due to the performance by Lambert and the ensemble as well as the wonderful choreography by Kristin Pontz. Elizabeth Checchia portrays Fastrada, Pippin’s stepmother. Checchia is perfectly conniving and marvelous in this role. Jordan Eck plays Lewis, Fastrada’s son and Pippin’s competitor for the throne. Eck gives a gallant performance making this character commanding while depicting how Lewis is power hungry for the throne. In the role of Pippin’s grandmother, Berthe, is Clare Daher. Daher brings sass to this role and is delightful to watch. She advises Pippin to live life to the fullest in her song “No Time at All,” and audiences cannot help but smile and laugh during this charming song. Jordyn McCrady portrays Catherine, a widow who eventually becomes Pippin’s love interest. McCrady gives an impressive and poised performance. There is a sincerity about her performance that makes her character the heart of the musical. In addition, her song “I Guess I’ll Miss the Man” is powerful. Sanjay Samuel portrays Catherine’s son, Theo. Samuel makes Theo feisty delivering comedy and endearment and by the end creates a bittersweet moment. Lastly, I need to mention the one animal in the show, Georgia. Anytime there is an animal in the show it always gets the biggest reaction from the audience and Georgia’s appearance was no exception.
I would be amiss if I did not mention the artistic team for this production. Gregor MacGregor designed the set. Kate Willman designed the gorgeous and shimmering costumes. Jeff Cusano is the Lighting Designer and Jon Leyden is the Sound Designer. Zack Smith serves as the Music Director. Lastly, Karey Getz is the Stage Manager.
Pippin runs at EPAC through August 3, 2019. For more information and tickets please visit their website at www.ephrataperformingartscenter.com or call the box office at 717-733-7966.
Final Thought: Pippin at Ephrata Performing Arts Center is a stunning production. The show is full of strong performances, ambitious choreography and energetic musical numbers. In addition, at its surface it is an entertaining musical, but dig a bit deeper and the lessons of this show will give you food for thought long after the show is over.
Kelli Curtin is founding editor and writer for theatresensation.com. She has maintained a love of the performing arts since a very early age and she is excited to share her passion about theatre and the Arts with her readers. Kelli can be found on Twitter, Facebook and on Instagram.