Robin Downward identifies with the lead character of “Pippin” — a young man in search of significance; a young man on a quest for fulfillment.
Downward, director of Randall Theatre’s production of the long-running Broadway musical recalls when he performed as part of the company and was later cast in the role of the title character.
“The story of a young man searching to find where he fits into the grand scheme of the world proved to be the perfect show for a young man struggling to do the same,” he wrote in a press release. “Both times I performed in it, I was at interesting turning points in my life.
“The role of Pippin is near and dear to my heart. When I played him, I was also searching for my corner of the sky, questioning exactly where I needed my life to go. It was one of the most joyous times in my life. Now that I get to direct it, I am sharing my passion for the show with a whole new cast.”
Performances are set for Friday and Saturday, July 27-28, and Thursdays through Saturdays, Aug. 2-4 and Aug. 9-11, at the community theater, 10 E. Third St., Medford. Matinees are set for 2 p.m. Sunday, July 29, and Sunday, Aug. 5. Tickets are $22 for reserved seats, $17 for reserved seats on Thursdays, and can be purchased at randalltheatre.com or by calling 541-632-3258. Pay-what-you-want tickets will be available at the door, subject to availability.
“Pippin,” with music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz and book by Roger O. Hirson, opened in 1972 on Broadway. Famed choreographer Bob Fosse directed the original, stylized production and also contributed to the libretto. The musical uses the premise of a mysterious performance troupe led by a Leading Player to tell the story of young Prince Pippin and his longing for true happiness.
Randall’s production features Nicholas Hewitt as the young prince who explores the glories of war, the temptations of love, and the intrigues of political power.
“He discovers happiness lies not in the extraordinary, but in the ordinary moments of every day,” Downward says.
Act I opens with the troupe and Leading Player (Lauren Panter) telling the audience of the “Magic to Do” as they introduce Pippin and his father, the tyrannical King Charles (Keith Fuller).
While the protagonist Pippin and his father Charlemagne are characters who bear a slight resemblance to historical figures that reigned in the Middle Ages, the plot is fictional.
The responsibility of leading the Holy Roman Empire leaves Pippin lost and confused, so he leaves his post in search of something more fulfilling — his “Corner of the Sky.” Soon a young widow named Catherine (Courtney Gage) comes into Pippin’s life with her child, Theo, and Pippin embraces the idea of true love and family.
Unforgettable lyrics and music underscore the humor and pathos.
“I love this musical,” Downward says. “It’s timeless and wonderful.”
“The production is normally done campy as there is quite a bit of comedy,” he says. “I’ve chosen to accentuate the comedy while bringing forward the more serious emotional aspects of the characters.”
The cast of characters that dance in and out of Pippin’s life include Fastrada, Pippin’s conniving stepmother (played by Kathy Wing); Lewis, Pippin’s dim-witted yet motivated stepbrother (David Alonso Rodriguez); Pippin’s grandmother, Berthe (Toni Holley); and Catherine’s daughter, Theo (Madeleine Fichera).
The troupe features the talents of Annalise Williams, Sage Ashley, Sarah Reed, Travis Crump, Natalie Koenig, Jeff Mercer, Andrea Koell and Alexander Hume.
Payne! Smith designed the choreography for the show. Paul Cosca and Michael Williams handled musical and choral direction.
The rest of the production staff includes Nicholas Hewitt (set design), Liz Lund Oppelt (sound), John Wing (music coordinator), Keith Oppelt (lighting), and Alayna Riley and Toni Holley (costume design). Rebecca Denley is the stage manager with assistance from Sarah Scherby and prop masters Toni Holley and David Alonso Rodriguez.
“Pippin” is rated PG-13 for its mild adult themes.