Lake Region’s Pippin — a lively performance with a groovy feel
copyright the Chronicle November 5, 2014
by Joseph Gresser
ORLEANS — Lake Region Union High School’s production of Pippin could be taking place anywhere, at any time.
That, of course, is only true of what happens on stage. In our world the shows will be performed at 7 p.m. on Thursday, November 6, Friday, November 7, and Saturday, November 8. Audiences can be confident the shows will go on at the Opera House at the Orleans Municipal Building.
On stage the Lake Region actors are decked out to represent people from many walks of life — a police officer, a cowhand, and a nun for instance. In fact, they represent a touring company of actors who are getting ready to present their performance.
Their show is theoretically set in the early Middle Ages, but nothing in its design recalls that setting. The actors double as stagehands and create the required scenic elements by arranging pieces from a giant set of children’s blocks.
Players occasionally speak directly to the audience or interact with the pit band — a four-person combo led by Music Director Sara Doncaster — and the lighting crew. The singers and dancers, basically the whole cast, spend much of their time off the stage in the aisles of the opera house.
Nate Chambers plays Pippin, the son of Charlemagne the Great. He dresses like a normal high school student, and like a normal high school student is only looking for his place in the world.
Unlike most high school students, though, Pippin is the son of a king and feels a heavy burden of expectation resting on his shoulders.
Through the course of the show he takes a variety of paths, that of a soldier, a revolutionary, and an artist, among others. But he finds none fully satisfying.
He is helped on his journey by the other members of the acting troupe, especially the Leading Player (played with the proper amount of bite by Angelann Rousseau), but the audience can be forgiven for suspecting that Pippin is being led down a path that provides entertainment for them, but danger for him.
He is not helped by his father, played by Jade Jarvis, whose focus on statecraft, killing, and looting, leaves little time for a paternal relationship. Nor is his stepmother, Fastrada (Emma Strange), much help. Her concern is to advance the career of her son Lewis (Gratia Rowell), who is the polar opposite of the too-thoughtful Pippin.
After finding that war won’t be his calling, Pippin is directed to visit his grandmother Berthe (Karamae Hayman-Jones). In a show-stopping number, she urges him to go out and have a good time.
Cutting a wide swathe through the female population of the troupe, which in this production is everyone but Mr. Chambers, Pippin finds that romance without love is meaningless.
He leads a revolution against his father, but discovers that kingship is not a gentle path.
The Leading Player lures Pippin to the door of Catherine (Bianca Mackay) as part of a plan intended to lead to a theatrical immolation, but true emotions come into play, overcoming the script.
The show, which first hit Broadway in 1972, is very much of its time. It has some of the groovy feel of its near contemporary Hair, but there is a refreshing tartness in the script that overcomes any trace of flower power sweetness.
With lively choreography, sharp characterization, and strong singing, Lake Region’s production of Pippin, will reward those lucky people whose path leads them to Orleans this weekend.
contact Joseph Gresser at [email protected]
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