One of the central themes in “Pippin” is the idea that our life is comparable to a theatrical show. Sure, we individuals can make our own choices and decide on our own path, but how many of those decisions are controlled by those around us…? In “Pippin” it’s not entirely clear if what the audience is experiencing is a self-contained performance, or if parts of the show spill out into real life. The entire concept of ‘real’ is challenged, becoming more difficult to determine as the show unfolds.
When arriving to one of my first rehearsals for the show to play the role of Pippin, director Yaeli Greenblatt challenged me to find common ground with the character: to ‘play the part’ of Pippin, but to also be myself. This was challenging, as Jeff and Pippin don’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of issues. For instance, as Jeff, with his supportive wife, three wonderful little boys, and full-time job dealing with high-power laser systems, I strive to make rational decisions, knowing how small mistakes can have large consequences; Pippin, on the other hand, goes through life trying new things as they are handed to him without much thought for what he is leaving behind. And if things don’t go well, he just moves on to the next thing.
However, there are many parts of the show where I am able to feel fully myself, despite the fact that I inhabit Pippin’s skin. Pippin’s opening number, “Corner of the Sky,” is an anthem whose topic resonates with practically everyone—the nervousness and excitement of setting off to find one’s true passion in life. Who doesn’t feel excitement and hope when setting off on a new journey or project, as both Pippin and Jeff feel during “Morning Glow”?
There’s an endearing scene where young Theo (Anaelle Rashba) tries to get Pippin out of bed by interesting him in a pet duck, which for me is the all too familiar feeling of my sons coming in at 5:15 in the morning whispering in my ear if I can fix some toy or get them breakfast. Both Jeff and Pippin have mastered the art of groaning and rolling over.
For me, one of the biggest challenges of the show is not breaking character and cracking up at the show’s funniest moments, like when the Leading Player (Rebecca Sykes) decides to throw Pippin a curve ball with her hilarious antics, or pretty much every interaction with Pippin’s half-brother, Lewis (Richie Mann). Luckily, Pippin has a sense of humor, and is allowed to laugh sometimes, too. Or is it actually Jeff peeking through from underneath the guise of the character?
After a 13-year hiatus from musical theater, I am so excited to finally be singing to someone who isn’t my showerhead. I grew up loving Stephen Schwartz, having performed in a less famous musical of his, “Children of Eden,” when I was 14 years old, and having seen “Wicked” on Broadway. I am thrilled to be playing one of Schwartz’s most iconic roles, and can’t wait for you to help both Pippin and me find our “Corner of the Sky.”