Pippin – Review by Bonnie Goldberg

There’s clearly magic in the air when Shannon Cheong as Pippin returns from college after graduation and confronts his father Charlemagne (Gene Choquette) about how to achieve a meaningful life. Pippin is the vulnerable and impressionable lad who wants to soar like an eagle and fly free, hoping to find his “corner of the sky.” Not content with the small life he feels he is trapped in, he seeks change and experiences.

Thao Ngyuen, with full regalia, plays the Leading Player, the tempter/narrator who has the power to control the directions and misdirections that Pippin pursues. From now until Sunday, August 21, Playhouse on Park in West Hartford will be using theatrical sleight of hand to present the son of the king’s quest for fulfillment in this amazing musical with book by Roger O. Hirson and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, and cleverly directed and choreographed by Darlene Zoller.

Pippin is many things to many people. His name signifies one of the Hobbits who join Frode on his quest to follow the Fellowship of the Ring. Or it could mean a yellowish apple with a rare wine-like flavor or even a computer created by Apple to play CD games. In this instance, Pippin is the son of one of the world’s greatest emperors, Charlemagne.

Enter Pippin, with all his wide eyed idealism, who is actively searching to discover a life that is not common place or ordinary, but rather completely fulfilling. To that end, he enlists the aid of his father Charlemagne, a gruff and self-absorbed king, his alluring step mother Fastrada, Kate Wesler, who only wants to promote the well being of her own progeny Lewis, a battle ready Brad Weatherford, and the Leading Player or Master Showman, an engagingly fascinating Thao Ngyuen, who could easily be mistaken for the devil or an angel.

Another important person in Pippin’s world is his grandmother Berthe, SuEllen Estey, who sings him a lovely song about not worrying and just living, “No Time at All,” that the audience is invited to share. A love interest is introduced with the widow Catherine, Juliana Lamia, and her child Theo, played by Ryan Byrne and his prized duck, but Pippin, who has already tried to find his way in the arts, religion and even to unseat his ruler father is still not satisfied. An outstanding and energetic ensemble includes Dalton Bertolone, Leyland Cockerl-Patrick, Rae Janeil, Teagan La’Shay, Oleode Oshotse,Stephanie Reuning-Scherer,Kristen Schoen-Rene, and Julia Solecki.

Noted for sensational songs like “Magic To Do,” “Corner of the Sky,” “Glory,” “No Time At All,” “Morning Glow” and “Love Song,” it is sure to astonish and amaze, under the musical direction of Colin Britt.

For tickets ($40-50), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Road, West Hartford at 860-523-5900 ext. 10 or online at www.playhouseonpark.org. Performances are Tuesday at 2 p.m.,Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. There is a talk back with the cast on Sunday.

Keep your eyes glued on the imaginative center ring as Pippin rides off into the world to capture his destiny in every magical and mysterious way possible.