By Nathan Reiff
What’s the meaning of life? Is it to work towards a goal of contentment and stability? Is it to forever seek magic, mayhem and mystery? Those were the questions that Stone Bridge High School attempted to answer in their production of Pippin.
Debuting on Broadway in 1972 with lyrics and music by Stephen Schwartz and a book by Roger O. Hirson, the production follows the eccentric Pippin (Caleb Rouse), heir to the throne of his father King Charlemagne (William Helmrath), and a whimsical cast of “players” as Pippin desperately searches for a sense of meaning and fulfillment in a life dominated by expectation and ambition.
Commanding and masterful in leading the bulk of the production, Rouse was brilliant in documenting Pippin’s growth from an ambitious boy to grown man, content in his corner of the sky. An equally talented singer, his vocals chilled the audience in numbers such as “Corner of the sky,” where his exemplary tone was on full display.
A superb cast of supporting characters were equally captivating in their own rights as the story went along. Helmrath as Pippin’s father was hilarious and brilliantly fit for the role with with a tacky, yet memorable charm.
Ainsley Steger as Pippin’s grandmother Berthe was perfectly over-the-top and vivacious in her number “No Time at All”, with excellent comedic timing to boot. Also note-worthy was Julia Berg was the widow Katherine, whose transition from providing comedic relief to becoming an integral component of the story was seamless and impressive.
The enthusiastic ensemble of was led by The Leading Players Paravi Das and Kyle Broderick, both of whom were excellent in engaging the audience as a charismatic duo in an otherwise chaotic scenario.
Costume and make up design was the technical highlight of the show. Elaborate designs of Leading Players and their ASL leading player were enhancing to the mysterious and quizzical vibes of their characters. The elaborate scaled make up of the snake (leading player ASL) and a mermaid character of the ensemble was eye-catching, and an impressive display of creativity.
Choreography while not always perfectly executed, was ambitious and fun to watch. The set, while unremarkable, worked well for an ensemble of such a size.
Perhaps the most memorable and creative component of the production was its American Sign language (ASL) component. Along with each lead actor was an interpreter in costume and make up following them along as a shadow figure interpreting the play in sign language. Complicated and risky, but with great reward as the ASLs kept up incredibly well with their actors, even outshining them at points. A unique and brilliant touch.
With a chaos and energy reminiscent of 20th century Vaudeville, the Stone Bridge Cast electrified the stage with their cheeky adaptation of this beloved musical.
[Nathan Reiff is a student at Lake Braddock Secondary School. This review of the April 22 performance at Stone Bridge High School is part of a series published in a partnership between Loudoun Now and The Cappies, a writing and awards program that trains high school theatre and journalism students to be expert writers, critical thinkers, and leaders.]