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Theatre talk: 'Pippin' is a jewel

Elizabeth Youngman-Westphal

Special to The Village News

Each night, once the theater is cleared, it is universally accepted that an empty theater is inhabited by the ghosts of players past. They are guided out of their hiding places once the building is cleared. Only a single bulb, a ghost light, is left burning center stage to tempt the spirits out to play.

"Pippin" (Brenden Dallaire) did not know that detail. He was not prepared "for things that go bump in the night." Instead, he was just another weary backpacker searching for the meaning of life with just one goal for this night, to find refuge. Dallaire plays a convincing role and is well suited for this part. Much to his surprise, he wasn't alone in this abandoned theater, in fact, he was met by the Leading Player (Robert Zelaya).

Bob Fosse directed this fantasy to Broadway, winning a Tony Award for his efforts. Although the idea was conceived by Mitch Sebastian, Fosse was the real imaginaire breathing life into the characters.

Known only as Leading Player, he steps into the big shoes of Ben Vereen who incidentally won a Tony for this exact same role. Zelaya's rhythmic, bendy style is homage to both Fosse's original choreography and Vereen's talent. Whether it is his innate ability or choreographer Roxanne Carrasco's guidance, Zelaya has swag.

"Pippin" encounters all of the players as Leading Player coaxes them out from their hiding places. After all, they only have until dawn to romp and make merry. They are Fastrada (Katie Karel), Theo (Spencer Kearnes), Charlemagne (Jason Maddy), Berthe (Gracie Moore), Lewis (James Oblak), Player (Amy Smith) and Player (Leslie Stevens).

The show trips along under the direction of conductor Ron Councell playing piano, Mark Margolies the reeds, Nikko Nobleza guitar and cello, and Tom Versen rounds out the band on drums and all things percussion.

What adds to the charm of "Pippin" is Nick DeGruccio used a soft hand when directing. The backstage crew includes Marty Burnett who built the amazing set, Matthew Novomy designed the impressive lighting, Paul Peterson the beautifully clear sound and Zoe Trautmann designed the interesting costumes. Peter Herman's wig and hair design read well from the audience too.

A special shout out to Gabby for coming to my aid after I had to make a mad dash across town to the correct theater, sliding into our seats just after curtain.

First on Broadway in 1972, this show stands the test of time. It's a jewel. "Pippin" runs until Aug. 20 at North Coast Repertory Theatre in Solana Beach. For more details, contact the Box Office at 858-481-1055 or You will be glad you did. Out of 10, this show is rated 8.5.

Elizabeth can be reached at [email protected].


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