The Main Street Theatre & Dance Alliance (MST&DA) is ending their spring season with a lively staging of Pippin, presented by the Teen Theatre.
This coming-of-age musical, which is based on a book by Roger O. Hinson, with music and lyrics by four-time Grammy winner Stephen Schwartz, explores a young man’s search for a meaningful life. The MST&DA production sets the story at a circus, complete with singing, dancing, and acrobatics.
“The Band of Players are circus performers and the play-within-a-play takes place within a circus tent,” explains Director Jackie Lucid-Cusick. To help set the scene, MST&DA collabora
ted with local artist Laura Hussey of the Roosevelt Island Visual Arts Association. “RIVAA has created a stunning backdrop for this play,” says Cusick.
Pippin is loosely based on the historical figure of Charlemagne, called Charles, and is set in the Middle Ages. It deals with themes that will be familiar to teen actors, such as what exactly makes for an extraordinary life, and what is and is not important.
High-school senior Jack Humphrey plays Pippin, who is determined to live a meaningful life – a desire he expresses in the iconic song, “Corner of the Sky,” by the line, “I want my life to be something more than long.”
His attempt at self-fulfillment starts with going to war, in part to impress his father. When he doesn’t find the life of a soldier satisfying, he visits his paternal grandmother who tries to convince him to live in the moment. Her song, “No Time at All,” which I heard in rehearsal, is wonderful, with the whole troupe joining in for the chorus.
Pippin’s search for meaning then turns to other routes, from sex to revolution, all to no avail. The end of the musical will be a surprise for audiences unfamiliar with the story.
Pippin marks the final production for five high school seniors in the cast, all of whom are longtime members of the MST&DA theater program. Humphrey will attend Boston University in the fall and plans to study voice. Mallaigh Ashton, who plays Catherine, hopes to continue her involvement in theater in some fashion but has not decided on a major for her college years. She has been doing theater since she was four years old. Ty Scanlon plans to take a gap year and hopes that some kind of theater involvement will continue for him. When asked about his favorite experience with MST&DA, he said, “There are too many to count.”
They all agreed that the best part of their time with MST&DA was the opportunity to get to know each other so well and to become close to the others in their group. On hearing that, Cusick said she was touched. “We have an amazingly talented group of teens…doing an incredible job.”
In addition to Cusick, Chana Meltzer serves as the play’s co-director. Its music director is Jonathan Fadner.
Performances take place at the Howe Theatre in the Cultural Center at 548 Main Street. Four performances of Pippin will take place Friday, May 19, at 8:00 p.m.; Saturday, May 20, at 2:00 and 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday, May 21, at 7:00 p.m. The show is recommended for ages 8 and older, with parental guidance. Tickets, which can be purchased in advance at www.mstda.org, are $20 for general admission and $15 for seniors and students.