Musical Theatre Guild successful with PippinPippin, music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz, directed by Melinda Fennell, in the Student Center's Sala de Puerto Rico, Friday, Feb. 1.
MIT Musical Theatre Guild productions are usually either very good or very bad: Pippin happily falls firmly into the former category.
Curtis Fennell '78 put in a strong performance as the Leading Player, a combination of singer, dancer, and master of ceremonies. He provides a transition between scenes, speaking to both audience and actors, sometimes giving background information, sometimes criticizing delivery of lines.
Pippin, played by Warren J. Madden '85, is the son of Charlemagne, Carl Dashfield '87, in search of a purpose to his life. His plaintive cry "I gotta find my corner of the sky" sums up his desperate quest.
Madden performed the character well, convincingly displaying the confusion and frustration of the young Pippin. The role suffered a little, however, under Madden's weak voice, which was easily upstaged when others were singing.
Pippin's search for fulfillment leads him to try his hand at many activities, including soldier, artist, revolutionary, and emperor, but none of these provide satisfaction. The turning point comes when beautiful Catherine, played by Denise Cormier, finds Pippin lying in the street. She takes him home with her.
Cormier's striking looks and strong, clear voice captured the hearts of the unattached men in the audience, and her character, after a slight struggle, captured the heart of the story's hero. Love is not enough, however, and Pippin leaves once again to find the complete fulfillment he so desperately longs for. In the end, Pippin must decide between taking what life has given him, or giving up his life in a grand finale, guaranteed to leave the plaintiff's cry answered.
This production of Pippin marks the second time the Musical Theatre Guild has used a dinner-theatre format, which lent itself well to the cast's interaction with the audience. The Sala was not quite so well suited to the production, though, as space limitations required a very small main stage and three widely spaced secondary stages.
Throughout the performance the players seemed to be preoccupied with the risk of unplanned falls from the main stage, particularly during some of the more energetic dance routines. The spacing of the secondary stages required all of those sitting in the middle of the theatre to twist around in circles at times to follow the action.
Choreographer Cindy Millington W '86 and director Melinda Fennell made good use of the space available, and the production turned out to be enjoyable, entertaining, and well worth the price of admission.