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‘Pippin’ steps in as freeFall Theatre’s summer replacement

Bill DeYoung



The original 1972 Broadway production of "Pippin" featured Ben Vereen (left) as the Leading Player, and John Rubinstein as Pippin.

Even though next season has already been announced, and celebrated in advance, freeFall Theatre Company’s ongoing 2018-2019 season is still, well, ongoing, as the current hit, Buyer & Cellar, makes abundantly clear.

There’s one more show before the late-summer break, but it’s not what was originally intended as the season finale.

Barry Harmon’s Under Fire – announced a year ago for the July 12-Aug. 4 slot – has been replaced. “As happens with these things, there was a little snag with the underlying rights to the source material,” explains artistic director Eric Davis. “We just couldn’t work it out before we needed to, to get the show ready for an audience.”

The source material for Harmon’s musical was the 1983 Gene Hackman film Under Fire, itself based on the true story of an American journalist murdered during a bloody revolution in Central America.

Eric Davis

“I was very much looking forward to doing that show, and this absolutely doesn’t mean that we may not be able to do it in the future,” Davis shrugs. “But these things happen with new pieces, especially with things that have complicated royalty issues.”

Instead, Davis will direct Stephen Schwartz’s 1972 Pippin, a musical theater warhorse that’s been revived numerous times over the decades, most recently by director Diane Paulus on Broadway, in 2013.

Schwartz composed the songs for Pippin as the followup to his 1971 breakthough, Godspell. Like that freewheeling musical, Pippin – ostensibly a story about a young man’s search for meaning in his life, directed by a troupe and a “Leading Player” – can be interpreted different ways.

“I’ve loved Pippin for a long time, since high school, when I first encountered the piece,” says Davis. “It’s just the kind of musical that I love, and the kind of play that I love, frankly, that has the ability to take on the interpretation of the particular production, and the director.”

Paulus set her interpretation in a circus, which Davis saw and loved. “We aren’t doing that with our production,” he says, “but that’s a great example of how many different ways a piece like this can be interpreted.”

Davis will also choreograph the show – and he hints that intends to avoid aping Bob Fosse’s trademark dance steps (Fosse won twin Tony Awards for the original Pippin, for direction and choreography).

Casting is nearly complete, he says, which will give everyone in the company plenty of time before rehearsals begin, in earnest, next month.

Davis has plans to put the freeFall stamp on Pippin.

“Without giving too much away, what I’ll say about it is that the piece employs a lot of anachronisms and freely uses styles and times,” he explains. “And so we’re really embracing that idea, and letting Pippin on his journey not only move through space, but also through time.

“So the settings, the styles and the looks of things will be an eclectic voyage through time and space that sets the piece in a variety of locations – and times – that highlight the episodes that he’s going through.”

Tickets are available here.

















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