Photo: Aaron Rumley.

Pippin

North Coast Repertory Theatre, San Diego

Written by:
Lynne Friedmann
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A young man in search of meaning and significance in his life finds unexpected magic in North Coast Rep’s enchanting production of “Pippin.”

The time is now, and we meet Pippin (Brendan Dallaire) as he stages a break-in of a deserted and derelict theater. Meandering backstage he beholds the ghost light moving across the boards of its own accord and soon Pippin is surrounded by a gaggle of costumed performers who appear seemingly out of thin air.

The troupe draws the boy in as it commences to tell the story of another Pippin, the first-born son of King Charlemagne (a majestic Jason Maddy, who must have been royalty in a former life). This sets in motion a journey of good and evil, reality and fantasy propelled by music, lyrics and choreography that made the show a smash hit when it debuted on Broadway in 1972 and continues to delight. Proof positive is the opening number (“Magic to Do”), which will be your earworm for the rest of the week.

Suddenly finding himself the heir to a throne, our Pippin envisions greatness for himself (“Corner in the Sky”) which he attempts and fails (at times comically) to achieve through battle and deeds of valor. In frustration, he turns to his naughty grandmother Berthe (Gracie Moore, making the most of every moment of this meaty role) who advises him to lighten up, life is short (“Not Time at All”) and don’t take things so seriously. Pippin goes overboard by becoming self-indulgent and hedonistic.

Steering Pippin along toward his own selfish agenda is Leading Player (Robert Zelaya), who is charming, manipulative and sets up Pippin like a bowling pin. Zelaya is utterly compelling in the role.

The rock-solid cast is in the excellent hands of director Nick Degruccio. High marks to set designer Marty Burnett, light designer Matt Novotny, costume designer Zoë Trautmann, sound designer Paul Peterson and hair-and-wig designer Peter Herman. Thanks to prop designer Alyssa Kane, I will never look at a store mannequin again without thinking of body parts after a medieval battle.

by Lynne Friedmann

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