Bollywood pizzazz brightens Circle’s ‘Pippin’
‘Pippin: A Bollywood Spectacular’
Circle Theatre, 1010 W. Madison St., Oak Park
8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 3 p.m. Sundays through Dec. 23
$26 Fridays; $30 Saturday-Sunday; $28 students/seniors
(708) 660-9540 or www.circle-theatre.org
Updated: November 20, 2012 11:46AM
It’s 40 years since Stephen Schwartz’s musical “Pippin” first found success on Broadway.
Now, local audiences get to see it in a new light at Oak Park’s Circle Theatre where Kevin Bellie is staging the show as “Pippin: A Bollywood Spectacular.”
The excellent, 16-member cast, in Indian attire, elaborate jewelry and ornamental bindis on their foreheads presents a colorful display in fine Bollywood style. The only disappointment is his cast is shy of Asian players.
However, the well-tuned troupe has terrific voices and knows how to find high gear for the intricate hip-hop line-dance movements that demand perfect synchronization. And Bellie is at the top of his game with his choreography here.
Though based on actual historical characters of the early middle ages, “Pippin” is meant to be fantasy. The story follows an idealistic young man, Pippin (Neil Stratman) in a quest for fulfillment in his life. He’s intent on not wasting time with “common ordinary pursuits” and insists: “I want my life to be more than long.”
Pippin finds little comfort in his disinterested father, Emperor Charlemagne (Noah Sullivan) and is at odds with his dim, narcissistic stepbrother Lewis (Shawn Quinlan), and his stepmother, Queen Fastrada (Jennifer Bludgen).
He tries war, but Pippin finds he has no stomach for blood shedding and pillaging..
Next, encouraged by his grandmother Bethe (Patti Roeder) to “take time to start living,” Pippin tries sex, in a dance sequence that’s a true stunner. But this too, disappoints Pippin.
Under the guidance of the mysterious Leading Player (Christopher Logan), a charismatic tour guide of sorts, Pippin takes to the notion of fighting tyranny. What better target to eradicate than his father, the despotic Charlemagne?
Fratricide and power don’t do it for our hero either. Pippin sinks into despair.
A widow, Catherine (Khaki Pixley) takes him in, though he hardens his heart against any emotional involvement with her or her young son Theo (Sam Gray).
Is domesticity the solution? Or might it be becoming part of the “perfect flame,” as Leading Player suggests?
A dilemma, for sure.
“Pippin” is a richly textured entertainment, a fitting farewell achievement for Bellie, who stepped down on Nov. 14 after nine years as artistic director of Circle Theatre. He plans to continue as a freelance director-choreographer. It will be interesting to see where his talents lead him.