When director Barbara Hume requested the rights to stage “Pippin” at Bainbridge High School this spring, she was totally unaware of the revival this 1970s existentialist musical was experiencing in the theater world.
As a pleasant surprise, she discovered the American Repertory Theater will be putting on the same show this fall.
“I saw a production of ‘Pippin’ in New York … and fell in love with the story,” Hume recalled, though there were aspects of the musical she wanted to reinterpret.
Since then, she has always wanted to put on her own ‘Pippin’ production. One, she said, that would not miss “the point of Stephen and Schwartz and Roger Hirson’s vision of the power and impact of love in a relationship” while faithfully presenting Pippin’s impressively substantive plot line.
“Pippin” is about a young man trying to discover the most fulfilling life he can.
In his journey he pursues delusions of grandeur, but finds only disappointment and disaster until he realizes the true meaning of life is found in “a common love shared with another,” in Hume’s words.
In the play, the title character faces and falls to a parade of temptations presented to him by the Leading Player, the omnipotent character directing the play from the stage, until he is quietly lead to a simpler and purer life by his lover Catherine.
Hume’s motivations aren’t entirely personal, though. She believes “Pippin” can teach a useful lesson to high school students.
“The story impresses the power of moderation in all things,” Hume said, “and the negative impact of the sensational — a lesson I feel high school students would benefit seeing staged.”
Though “Pippin” might be a showpiece of ’70s postmodern existentialism, the message and style hasn’t been lost on the cast.
“It’s really different. It’s super funky,” said senior Arie Thomson, who plays Pippin. The Bainbridge High production embraces the novelty of Pippin’s ridiculousness, with the characters dressed as clowns and performing bombastic song-and-dance numbers.
According to sophomore Alex Fuller, who plays the Leading Player, Pippin might seem like a crazed circus show on the outside, but it holds “deep meaning presented with a frivolous coating” and can teach a lot to any audience member who comes prepared to interpret it. And even if the audience doesn’t want to deal with deeper meanings and messages, the spectacle of the show will be all the entertainment they need.
The for “Pippin” curtain will open at 7:30 p.m. May 3 at the Bainbridge High School Theater. Admission is $7 for students and $10 for adults.
Performances are also planned for Saturday, May 4; Friday, May 10; and Saturday, May 11.