Recommended Theater: PIPPIN (North Coast Rep)

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by Milo Shapiro on July 18, 2023

in Theater-Regional,Theater-San Diego


Here’s a can’t-miss opportunity: Beginning tomorrow, July 19, North Coast Rep is presenting the perky but dark 1972 musical, Pippin. With a book by Roger O. HirsonPippin is about about a prince searching for fulfillment in the realm of his father, Charlemagne (a.k.a. King Charles). Constructed like Children’s Theater — although it’s clearly for the older crowd, dealing with regicide, combat, and lust, to name a few — the first act is a chain of scenes (most with a character who appears only once): Pippin as warrior; Pippin as king; Pippin as sex machine.

Act II follows the depressed prince as he attempts domesticity with a widow and her young son. Then he’s back to his futile quest, egged on all the while by a chorus of street performers and the Leading Player, a Sportin’ Life emcee who devilishly urges Pippin to explore facets of life that, once discovered to be empty, may lead the youth to despair and maybe even suicide.

Amy Smith, Robert Zelaya & Leslie Stevens

I have a soft spot in my heart for Pippin. First, the cheeky and sophisticated tunes by Stephen Schwartz captured my imagination with soaring ballads and bouncy Broadway burlesque; the original cast album rarely left my turntable. Second, the timeless parable of simplicity triumphing over the desire for more remains persuasive. Born in the year that disillusionment with politics, Watergate, and the Vietnam War was growing thick, America was rethinking her gung-ho egocentrism, and a show which parodied the futility of war, power, and the burgeoning sexual revolution in a stylized but darkened Vaudevillian context was a breath of fresh air, running a whopping 1.944 performances.

Robert Zelaya; (2nd Row) Katie Karel, Brendan Dallaire, Katy Tang;
(3rd Row) Spencer Kearns, Amy Smith; (Back Row) Leslie Stevens, James Oblak

Pippin was designed to be presented in a highly theatrical and entertaining style, so it’s exciting to know that Nick DeGruccio has come on board as director. Stage and Cinema has covered many of his shows with glowing reviews (The End of It, Next to Normal, Man of La Mancha to name a few). The exceptional cast includes Brendan Dallaire, Melissa Glasgow, Katie Karel, Spencer Kearns, Jason Maddy, Gracie Moore, James Oblak, Amy Smith, Leslie Stevens, Katy Tang, and Robert Zelaya. The choreography by Roxane Carrasco adds another layer of enchantment to the production. The musicians Ron Councell, Nikko Nobleza, Mark Margolies, and Tom Versen ensure an extraordinary musical experience. The production design team, including Marty Burnett (Scenic Design), Matthew Novotny (Lighting), Zoë Trautmann (Costumes), Paul Peterson (Sound), Alyssa Kane (Props), Peter Herman (Hair & Wigs), and Shawna Voragen as the Stage Manager, bring this production to life.

photos by Aaron Rumley

North Coast Repertory Theatre
987 Lomas Santa Fe Drive in Solana Beach (San Diego)
Wed at 7; Thurs & Fri at 8; Sat and Sun at 2 & 7; Wed at 2 (select dates)
July 19 – August 20, 2023
for tickets, call 858.481-1055 or visit North Coast Rep

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