Pippin by Archmere Academy in Claymont, DE
March 7, 2018
Review submitted by Maggie Farr of Jenkintown MS/HS
Filled with magic, tragedy, and love, the story of a young prince named Pippin is told by the leading player of a mysterious performance troupe that follows his path to finding the true meaning of life. Archmere Academy’s presentation of the rather complicated musical, Pippin, engaged the audience throughout the whole performance by inviting the audience in with them to discover the life of Pippin.
Pippin, with lyrics and music by Stephen Schwartz, was first performed on Broadway in 1972 directed by Bob Fosse, becoming the 34th longest running show of all time. There have been several different interpretations of this popular musical’s meaning. The characters Pippin and his father Charlemagne are both based on individuals who lived during the Middle Ages. The Leading Player, a quintessential role in the show, has been played by both male and female.
Archmere Academy’s performance of Pippin shined a different light on the musical by avoiding the circus aspects typically chosen to be done by theater groups, using rather a type of theater called Vaudeville, which helped build up to the grand finale at the end. The rendition of this show was a new, refreshing portrayal that enchanted the audience.
The musical Pippin has a number of roles which allow each person to truly shine on stage. Jack deBruin (Pippin) gave an enlightening performance with his joyous acting and impressive dance skills. Giavanna Mariano (The Leading Player) “led” the show through her engaging attitudes with the audience; she was able to draw the audience in and create an experience for not only the cast. She played a very significant role in the show and with attitude and wit, she was a joy to watch.
The supporting roles, including Fastrada, Lewis, Charlemagne, Catherine, and Berthe, gave a fantastic performance that really made the audience laugh. Bella Abbrescia (Fastrada) had a rich, beautiful voice in her song “Spread a Little Sunshine”. Riley McAvinue (Lewis) had perfect comedic timing and was always in character throughout the whole show; he had the audience in tears with his funny, but smart physical and vocal choices. Pat Beck (Charlemagne) engaged the audience just like the Leading Player with his funny lines and great voice, especially during his solo song of “War Is A Science”.
Kyla McAvinue (Berthe) gave a marvelous performance, with her perfect voice, accent, and body positioning. Her song was a true favorite by the audience. McAvinue’s performance not only made the audience laugh but warmed their hearts too. Katherine Alberta (Catherine) also gave a graceful performance with her comedic timing and loving attitude towards Pippin.
The ensemble, especially the Dancer Chorus, always stayed in character and was fun and alive to watch. The stage crew was subtle on stage and did not take away from the characters during the show. Some characters in the cast had a bit of trouble in terms of vocal pitch, but overall Archmere Academy’s cast and crew did a great job unraveling the intricate story of Pippin.
Review submitted by Emily Dubin of Jenkintown MS/HS
The thrilling story of a young man struggling to find his “corner of the sky” is brought to life with a magical performance that breaks the fourth wall while incorporating existentialism, war, romance, and of course, comedy. This musical is known as the tale of Pippin presented by the cast at Archmere Academy.
The story follows Pippin (Jack deBruin): a distraught young man fresh out of college who is on the hunt for something that will give his life meaning and help him feel true fulfillment. The story unfolds with the guidance of the Leading Player (Giavanna Mariano), who appears to be setting Pippin up for a grand finale that she promises the audience throughout the show. However, much to the Leading Player’s dismay, this does not go as she planned.
A very ensemble-heavy musical, Pippin’s most vibrant numbers highlight both lead and ensemble actors. Despite a few technical difficulties with sound throughout the show, the whole cast did a wonderful job at overpowering the pit orchestra so every audience member could hear the beautiful masterpieces such as “Morning Glow”, “Glory”, and especially the “Finale”.
Being a key role in this musical, the Lead Player must be played with clear insight as to the essence of this character, lest it throw off the balance of the whole production. Fortunately, Giavanna Mariano did a beautiful job at capturing the audience’s attention through the mysterious and cunning nature of the Leading Player. It was evident that Mariano was completely immersed in her role as she not only drew the audience in with intriguing proposals, but managed to incorporate the appropriate amount of comedy and sternness with her driven attitude.
The supporting role that stood out the most was Pippin’s Grandmother: Berthe (Kyla McAvinue). It is obvious that Berthe, along with several other characters, are written into Pippin’s story to provide comic relief, as it can get pretty dark if you understand the existential part of the story. McAvinue not only blew the audience away with her beautiful voice, but did a fantastic job at portraying a character that everyone can relate to in one way or another. She had great comedic timing in places where it was certainly needed and never ceased to leave the audience smiling at her performance.
Although Pippin is most often portrayed within a circus-like setting, Archmere put their own spin on the show by choosing to make it more like Vaudeville. This may have been a bit confusing to audience members unfamiliar with Pippin, but it was definitely a creative way to transform Pippin into something more than a ‘Cirque du Soleil’ performance.
Overall, Pippin is a wonderful musical that everyone can find something they adore within it and Archmere Academy did a wonderful job at bringing out every detail that Pippin is supposed to encapsulate in a young man’s search for solidarity. The cast was whole-heartedly devoted to putting on a show that left the audience smiling and of course a little bit scared. Congratulations to the cast and crew!