Pippin by Sun Valley High School in Aston, PA
March 19, 2019
Review submitted by Stephen D’Antonio of Archmere Academy
Astonishing Acrobatics. Cunning Costumes. Enormous Energy. Glamorous Games. Lavish Lighting. Tremendous Talent. Does this sound like a circus? Not quite, but close–it sounds like Sun Valley High School’s “extraordinary” production of the musical Pippin!
The suspense-filled musical Pippin features an acting group looking for new, fine actors to recruit. Following a “play within a play” format, their “show” is directed by the “Lead Player,” and the troupe recruits a young man Pippin to go on a quest. Pippin endlessly tries to find fulfillment through war, advice from his grandma, education, and even love; however, he never feels fulfilled. Not until the acting troupe tries forcing him into performing one, perfect act does Pippin find his happiness.
It takes some extraordinary talent to put this challenging show on stage, but with ease, Sun Valley delivered. The entire cast worked together to bring a heavy-hearted (and complicated) show to life. The mysterious nature of all the Players, coupled with an intense choreography track, greatly supported the carnivalesque essence of the show.
As the leading role, Zack Volturo (Pippin) faced a challenging vocal score, an intense character development, and a copious amount of stage time. Volturo overcame these obstacles with ease, and repeatedly shined due to his strong stage presence and superb chemistry with castmates. Alongside Volturo, Hanna Buerklin’s enticing performance as Leading Player added to the mysterious aspect of the show. Together, Buerklin and Volturo’s opposing personalities and strong vocals blended excellently to create a perfect duo as the show’s leads, especially seen in the fun number “The Right Track.”
In the supporting cast, the relationship between Lewis (Tommy Christaldi) and his mother Fastrada (Alexa Rode) interestingly added to the show. Finally, Catherine’s (Chiara Robinson’s) lively characterization and compelling vocals shined immensely throughout the second act. She beautifully conveyed her deep character development in songs such as “I Guess I’ll Miss the Man.”
Despite sound difficulty, the technical end of the show flowed almost flawlessly. The intense lighting design by Tommy Christaldi incredibly upheld the circus and mysterious atmosphere of the show. The simple set allowed for many of the set-changes to be done by cast members, but the excellent communication between cast and crew allowed to smooth changes.
Overall, Sun Valley High School truly “had magic to do” in their performance of Pippin! Congratulations on “spreading a little sunshine” in an excellent show!
Review submitted by Anna Bobok of Upper Merion Area High School
Sun Valley High School “spread a little sunshine” of their own this weekend with their spell-binding production of Pippin!
Loosely based on Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne and his son, Pippin follows the titular hero’s journey to find his place in the world. Confronted with bloody battles, lustful liaisons, political power, and a desirable demise, Pippin must determine which path will give him the complete fulfillment he yearns for, or if that one perfect path even exists. Filled with dulcet melodies from the brilliant Stephen Schwartz, Pippin continues to enchant audiences nearly fifty years after its release.
The curtains opened as Sun Valley’s ensemble of players slinked across the stage in an eerie yet enticing performance of “Magic To Do,” showcasing an infectious energy and dancing prowess that carried throughout the entire performance. Molly Thorpe, Caitlin Riley, and Alexa Rode demonstrated bewitching grace in their featured dances, especially the number “With You.” Harmonies from the cast were strikingly spine-tingling in the show’s “Finale,” where they performed a chilling a cappella rendition of the anthem “Corner of the Sky.”
Zack Volturo was utterly charming as the conflicted Prince Pippin. Volturo fostered sincere and tender relationships with each of his fellow actors, especially Hanna Beurklin’s brazen Leading Player. Buerklin oozed confidence as she swaggered across the stage to orchestrate Pippin’s entire life story, riffing her way through numerous complex songs and dances.
Whether he was portraying the brainless brick Lewis, strutting across the stage as a rambunctious chicken, or delivering a skillful accordion performance, the audience could always spot Tommy Christaldi on the Sun Valley stage. Christaldi was outstandingly hilarious, alongside Alexa Rode (Fastrada) in their peppy number “Spread a Little Sunshine,” where the two established an overly loving mother-son relationship that was hysterical to watch.
The Sun Valley Stage Crew was comprised of the real magicians of the show, performing disappearing and reappearing acts throughout the performance expertly. Tommy Christaldi’s bright and flashy lighting design perfectly captured the show’s chaotic nature. Hair and Makeup for the ensemble was dark and distinct, making some characters look almost like circus clowns or mimes. The Sun Valley Marketing Team reflected the show’s circus-esque aesthetic as well with a carnival at the entrance to the theater, complete with games, streamers, and a handmade photo-taking station.
Sun Valley’s Pippin proved to audiences that magic can be found just about anywhere, even on a high school stage!