Fairfield Summer Theatre presents ‘Pippin’

There’s magic to do as Fairfield Summer Theatre presents composer Stephen Schwartz and librettist Roger O. Hirson’s classic 1972 musical “Pippin” beginning Thursday, July 27 at the Fairfield High School Performing Arts Center.

Humorous, fanciful and cynical, “Pippin” is centered on the soul-searching, titular son of King Charlemagne. After college graduation, the young prince chooses to venture out into the world on a quest for absolute fulfillment. However, his complicated yet committed adventure overwhelms him as he battles war, the flesh, revolution, politics and domestication. Along the way, he’s guided by the captivating and mysterious Leading Player dutifully reminding him of his purpose.

“I believe ‘Pippin’ resonates with everyone and will continue to be relevant because we all go through the excitement and sometimes turmoil of self-discovery,” said Mike Embree, who portrays Pippin and whose previous Fairfield Summer Theatre credits include the titular role in “Jesus Christ Superstar” and Tateh in “Ragtime.”

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“The score and script do a brilliant job of making you feel like you are enjoying a musical comedy, but also witnessing moments of love, family, despair, and regret we can all relate to. I hope to convey the genuine story of the character, but also the realization we all come at some point that life has a way of placing us in the right moment at the right time based on the choices we make.”

“While this show has been somewhat of a staple in high schools and community theatre for a few decades now, there has certainly been a renewed interest in it the last few years,” noted director/vocal director Ryan Heinrich, whose acting credits include the Human Race Theatre Company’s production of “Fiddler on the Roof.” “I think society’s willingness to talk about and accept mental illness and depression as real things and not as taboos coincides with this resurgence of ‘Pippin.’ It’s part of what made the recent Broadway revival so powerful.”

The 2013 Tony Award-winning revival of "Pippin" memorably took the material's traveling troupe foundation, conceived by original creator Bob Fosse, to new heights by incorporating a circus concept with the aid of Montreal's Les 7 Doigts de la Main. Heinrich, staging his 10th Fairfield Summer Theatre production, says his version will contain a dark, carnival-infused essence.

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“The first challenge with directing ‘Pippin’ is defining the world the title character is thrust into,” he said. “We know from the script that all the characters are part of some traveling, performing troupe. In the original Bob Fosse production, this troupe was mysterious and nebulous. In the recent Broadway revival, they were very clearly defined as performers in a glitzy Cirque du Soleil-inspired big tent show. After thinking about it for many months, I landed on setting ‘Pippin’ as a show inside an old-fashioned, seedy, traveling carnival. The character of Pippin is lured in, manipulated and tested by this troupe. I felt by setting it within this underbelly of society, it really gives the ensemble a very dangerous quality and strengthens the natural tension in the show.”

The principal cast includes Sami Shaaban as Leading Player, Allen Young as Charlemagne, Wendy Vogel as Fastrada, Chelsey Cavender as Catherine, Kathy Campbell as Berthe, Matt Neal as Lewis, and Benjamin Brown as Theo. The artistic team includes choreographer Dani Brockmann, lighting designer Eric Cimini, costumer Debbie Johnson, and conductor/pianist Darin Art.

Schwartz’s delightful score includes “Simple Joys,” “No Time At All,” “Morning Glow,” “Spread a Little Sunshine,” “On the Right Track,” and “Love Song.”

“We all want to feel extraordinary but what happens in life to make us feel that way may be different than we intended,” Embree added. “Recognizing when you have arrived to the people and time in life that makes you truly happy can be a difficult task, but when you do it’s a magical feeling that puts us all in our own special corner of the sky.”

Want to go?

WHAT: “Pippin”

WHERE: Fairfield High School Performing Arts Center, 8800 Holden Blvd., Fairfield

WHEN: July 27-30; 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday; 2 p.m. Next Sunday

COST: $18 for adults; $16 for students and senior citizens; $10 for children ages 12 and younger

TICKETS/MORE INFO: Call (513) 874-7469 or visit www.fairfieldsummertheatre.com

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