CONGRATULATIONS TO LANDMARK MUSICALS FOR A SUCCESSFUL RUN OF “PIPPIN!” (SEE OUR REVIEW BELOW).
UP NEXT: THE INCREDIBLY FUNNY MONTY PYTHON’S “SPAMALOT!”
FINE AND FUN, PIPPIN RETURNS TO ALBUQUERQUE
The Rodey Theatre is a perfect venue for Pippin, the 1970s musical by Oscar- and Grammy-winning composer Stephen Schwartz. The atmosphere at the Rodey is more than a little bit Broadway, with a pit to accommodate a full orchestra (one hallmark of producing company Landmark Musicals) and a big stage to give the dancers room to kick.
“Kick” might be too strong a word, for Choreographer Louis Giannini harks back to some cool Bob Fosse moves and freshens them for this performance. The Leading Player (Hasani Olujimi) showcases those moves for us from the start, establishing himself as the driving force behind the narrative. With jazz hands, perfectly executed steps and a signature tight, black outfit, Olujimi struts for the crowd through songs like “Magic To Do” and “Glory.” He offers all that razzle-dazzle (yes, I know that’s a song from Chicago, another Fosse-choreographed favorite) to distract us from the plans he has for Pippin. Olujimi, last seen for Landmark in La Cage aux Folles, puts his considerable energy and talents to use as a classic song-and-dance man to lead us down that primrose path.
Also a strong performer is Trey Caperton as Pippin himself. He puts across the character as a young man in search of his “Corner of the Sky,” while being led astray by the horrors of war, too-much-too-soon sex, and the ambitions of others. Caperton, who got a chance to perform in New York by achieving Best Actor in the New Mexico High School Musical Awards, is a senior at Albuquerque Academy with a clear path back to Broadway. He carries this musical well.
Gene Corbin as Charlemagne is secure in his portrayal of a monarch who knows all the ropes and finds them ho-hum. His wife Fastrada as played by Lisa Fenstermacher is a sexy, ambitious woman with two sons, of which Lewis (Beau Brennon) clearly is her favorite.
It looks like Pippin is doomed to obscurity. Or is this what happiness looks like? When he meets the widow Catherine (ably played by Mackenzee Donham-Stradling as a last-minute replacement for Kir Kipness) and her son Theo (Oliver Groves) in Act II, he resists domestic bliss. But they’re all so cute together! Caperton, Donham-Stradling and Groves, young as he is, have the fearless aplomb of actors born to the stage.
Special mention goes to Samantha Blauwkamp as Berthe, Pippin’s grandmother. Her song-and-dance, “No Time At All,” with the young men of the Ensemble was funny and well played. It’s the song that won a Tony for Irene Ryan in the original, and you will have great fun with it and Blauwkamp.
Costuming by LaRue Schultz and John Deering retains the playfulness/cynicism of the 1970s, with Fastrada and Berthe in lacy things with bustiers. Ribbons on Ensemble costumes in bright colors capture the circus-like atmosphere of most scenes. Pippin traditionally appears in drab colors because he does not belong to the glitzy world of the others. And with all of these barefoot dancers on stage, there is not one pair of footless tights left in Albuquerque.
The able, crowd-herding director is Gary Bearly, with wizard music director Darby Fegan. The production design is by Dahl Delu, our local Emmy award-winning scenic designer. There is a ton of talent up there on Pippin‘s stage.
-Stephanie Hainsfurther publishes ABQArts.com.
The Rodey Theatre • UNM Main Campus
7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 2 p.m. Sundays
• IN PERSON (no fees) at UNM Bookstore or the Pit, Popejoy before the show
• ON LINE: www.unmtickets. com • PHONE: 505-925-5858 or 1-877-664-8661
Reserved seats $22, $24, $26
$2 discount for seniors and students
Photo by Max Woltman. Above, l. to r.: Lisa Fenstermacher (Fastrada), Hasani Olujimi (Leading Player), Trey Caperton (Pippin), and Gene Corbin (Charlemagne).