Reviewer: Howard Steven Frydman aka “The Howard”
Theater: Playhouse On Park
Book: Roger O. Hirson
Music & Lyrics: Stephen Schwartz
Director: Darlene Zoller
Choreographed by: Darlene Zoller
The Howard’s Exhale – “Pippin – Smart Sexy, and Savvy !”
Well Leapin’ Lizards and a Hellzapoppin’– Its “Pippin” at the POP and its absolutely Phenomenal! Yessiree Bob, The Howard says Pippin is Savvy, Sexy and Smart and jam-packed with foot stomping musical fun! This final production in Playhouse on Park’s 13th Main Stage Season, running from July 6th till August 21st is chocked filled with all those glistening glorious ingredients that make for a successful production! From the get-go of its first song – “Magic To Do” – POP’s Pippin is indeed aglow with all the love, sweat and sweet tears that go into mounting such a massive staging and it unfolds to a most appreciative audience- let me tell you! This Summer the BIG Takeaway – make a beeline flight to see Pippin at POP.
First of all – this production has a major case of the “Z’s”, it has been lovingly stamped all over- which is a good thing to have. Yes, my friends it’s been “Zoller-fied”, namely this production is filled with elaborate and oh-so stunning dance movements created by the Sorceress Supreme of Dance, Director/Choreographer Darlene Zoller. Pippin, beyond its story and music, is all about movement, you know Fosse Fosse Fosse, (Bob Fosse directed and choregraphed the original Broadway production in 1972) and Ms. “Z” has indeed provided an excellent showcase for our talented ensemble of dancers. In fact, it’s a beautiful site to behold to see our two leads Shannon Cheong as “Pippin” and Thao Nguyen as the “Leading Player” in duel leaps, and for a magnificent second, frozen in mid stride on stage. One can see the endless hours of rehearsals that have gone into this production, from a small hand gesture over the head, to aerobatics and intricate high jumps from center stage. You can literally envision Ms. “Z’s” coaching in every move on the POP stage – Bravo to both her and her charges.
So, what’s the matter with Pippin- like the kid endlessly playing brain draining video games during the summer break and his Pop at the bedroom door screaming to mow the lawn, he is just a bit confused and just doesn’t know what’s real or not and isn’t sure what to do with his life- Oy! Kids?! What’s the matter with kids today? Well pull up a seat (at POP of course) and hear a tale, told by the Leading Player (Thao Nguyen) and his theater troupe about this kid from yesteryear, the middle ages that is – a real Prince, Prince Pippin (Shannon Cheong) the son of the mighty King Charlemagne (Gene Choquette) who seeks to answer the question – the meaning of true satisfaction and his purpose in life – does a life fulfilled come from battle, human temptations, or ultimately from finding true love? Along the way to discovery– the Leading Player introduces us to Pippin’s Grandmother Berthe, (SuEllen Estey), his half-brother, the muscle bound war machine Lewis (Brad Weatherford) and his step-mother Fastrada (Kate Wesler) who as we find out is deviously trying to make sure that her son Lewis will be King Charlemagne’s heir and not Pippin. Oy again! By the way, a kid -Theo (Ryan Byrne) with his pet duck shows up in the second act along with his widowed farm owner mom – Catherine (Juliana Lamia)– and I beseech thee, don’t leave your seat for a second – the Finale it’s a Doozy!
By the way, there is a 15-minute intermission in Pippin – during the climax of the 1st act, King Charlemagne dies and drops to the floor, and for that entire 15 minutes, on stage mind you, actor Gene Choquette does not move, not one muscle- for a blessed 15 minutes till the second act begins, WOW! I do need to take note of our actors- Shannon Cheong as Pippin and Thao Nguyen – besides those dance moves, what impressive voices on both, clear, loud and pristine. Our entire class of Pippin – many musical theater graduates are truly outstanding in both voice, movement, and stage presence, excluding those cast members already mentioned, our singular gratitude to; Dalton Bertolone, Leyland Cockerl-Patrick, Rae Janeil, Miss Teagan La’Shay, Oleode Oshotse, Stephanie Reuning-Scherer, Kristen Schoen-Rene, and Julie Solecki. The coveted “Howard Noticed You Award” goes to Ms. SuEllen Estey as Grandmama “Berthe”- you literally steal the show with your rendition of “No Time at All” – I delight when the lyric reaches “By a man who calls me Granny” for most Pippin aficionados know it’s a gentle acknowledgement to Actress Irene Ryan, who not only portrayed the original Berthe on Broadway but achieved international notoriety as “Granny” on the long running “The Beverly Hillbillies” TV series. Friends, POP’s Pippin” is infused with memorable songs, spectacular choreography by Ms. Zoller and is a smart savvy class act! Enjoy!
Tickets are now on sale for PIPPIN, and range from $40-$50. Group rates available! Student and Senior discounts are also available. Student Rush is $10 (cash only), available 15 minutes prior to curtain. 2pm matinees are on Tuesday, Saturday, and Sunday. Evening performances are at 7:30pm on Wednesday and Thursday, and at 8pm on Friday and Saturday. There will be a talk back with the cast after each Sunday matinee.
COVID-19 Policy: Vaccination card checks and masks are not required. However, masks are strongly recommended.
For more information or tickets, call the Box Office at 860-523-5900 x10 or visit http://www.playhouseonpark.org. Playhouse on Park offers discounts for group sales; inquire today! Playhouse on Park is located at 244 Park Road, West Hartford, CT 06119.
Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at TheHoward24@gmail.com.