By SAMANTHA PIDDE
Timber Lake Playhouse has opened its 60th Anniversary Season with a slightly irreverent and exceptionally fun musical, “Pippin”.
With its book by Roger O. Hirson and Music and Lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, this performance within a performance radiates a vaudevillian circus feel, while telling the story of a young man trying to find himself.
TLP's troupe of performers shine in this delightful musical. Returning resident performer Nissi Shalome is the quintessential ringmaster in the role of Leading Player, radiating charisma and showmanship, with just the right touch of menace, while pushing the story and Pippin along. The opening "Magic to Do" lead by Shalome and the rest of the cast is haunting, enticing and enchanting.
Resident performer Jack Hale truly is "Extraordinary" in the titular role of Pippin, a young man trying desperately to find his place in the world, displaying the perfect blend of naiveté, idealism and self-centeredness. Hale's voice is beautiful and full of longing in "Corner of the Sky."
Former Savanna resident Darren Mangler returns to TLP in the role of Pippin's father, Charlemagne. Mangler is hilarious as this tired, tyrannical ruler and father.
Resident performers Ciarra Stroud and Josh Lee are wonderful as Pippin's would be family, Catherine and Theo. Stroud's rendition of "I Guess I'll Miss the Man" is beautifully sad, defiant, and powerful.
Resident performers Autumn Key and Luis Garcia-Godoy are resplendent as Charlemagne's manipulative wife and son, Fastranda and Lewis. Megan Graal gives a surprising, vivacious performance as Pippin's eternally youthful grandmother, Berthe. Her song "No Time at All" is delightful and fun.
The production is rounded out perfectly with the rest of its ensemble of performers: Janessa Altvater, Margot Frank, Joey LaPlant, Quinn Martin, Caleb Mathura, Eli Nash and Emma B. Resek.
Whether familiar with “Pippin” or not, the musical numbers will get audience members humming along. The songs range from silly to sad to hauntingly beautiful and everything in between. This wonderful music would not be possible without the orchestra, directed conducted by Michael McBride.
The orchestra includes McBride on keyboard, Ben Heppner on drums/percussion, Roy Brown on bass, Matt McClure on guitar, Melody Walker on violin/fiddle and viola, Crystal Duffee on Reed one, Cathy James on Reed two, Jon Rarick on trumpet, Joe Titus on trombone; P. Blake Moran on keyboard two, and Katie Mark on French horn.
The entire musical maintains a wonderful traveling circus feel, never letting the audience forget it is watching a performance. While part of this is due to the wonderful acting, the choreography, set, costumes and lights feed into this circus vibe.
None of this would have been possible without the talented hard work of Paul Stancato as director and choreographer, Felicia Finely as associate choreographer, Garth Moritz as stage manager, Addison Calvin as technical director, Matt McClure as set designer, Damerius Kennedy as costume designer, Rob Littlefield as lighting/media designer, Corey Cochran as hair/makeup designer, Nick Leek as sound designer, Callie Hester as properties designer, and crews.
“Pippin” is showing at the playhouse in rural Mount Carroll through Sunday, June 27. Tickets are available online at timberlakeplayhouse.org or by calling the box office at 815-244-2035. The box office is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.