Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

July 11, 2022

REVIEW: Playhouse on Park, "Pippin"

Playhouse on Park, West Hartford, CT
through August 21, 2022
by Rebecca Phelps
Upon arrival at Playhouse on Park one becomes immediately aware that this is a much beloved, and well cared for little gem of a downtown theatre. The main stage is an intimate, black-box style theatre with seating three quarters around the stage and pit band tucked into the remaining side. Although tight and without wings or proscenium, the configuration is a perfect one for the musical Pippin which is set in no particular time or place, or as the director puts it, "Perhaps right in your head." It brings the magic up close and personal as the cast and action are never farther than arms reach from the audience.
The cast is as strong as one could ever imagine. Pippin is a showcase for classic Bob Fosse style choreography, which is fully explored in this production by the artful and imaginative direction of Darlene Zoller, director/choreographer, and co-founder of Playhouse on Park. Zoller has a lot to work with; this cast being exceptionally gifted dancers. Each has vocals strong enough to carry off the significant demands of the fantastic Stephen Schwartz score, performed flawlessly by an accomplished pit band.   
Photo by Meredith Longo
The story of King Charlemaigne's son, Prince Pippin, a naive seeker of true happiness and
fulfillment in life, has a familiar ring for today's current atmosphere of angst, anxiety and confusion. Ultimately, Pippin's decision to take control away from the Leading Player and submit himself to the "unextraordinaryness" of a more life-affirming path leads to a rather anti-climactic ending. But then, here comes young Theo; and the next generation of seekers begins all over again with the classic "Corner of the Sky" anthem. The Leading Player (performed perfectly by Thao Nguyen) and all his Players, stand-outs: Fastrada (Kate Wesler) and Lewis (Brad Weatherford), provide irresistible entertainment as they draw us into their intrigue, illusion, humor and magic, right along with Prince Pippin (played to perfection by Shannon Cheong).