By Connie Morrison
Coming of age may be a common storyline, but it’s one that doesn’t seem to lose its appeal. Perhaps because everyone has grappled with the existential questions of the meaning of life and finding a place in the world.
So it is with the coming-of-age musical comedy “Pippin,” by Roger O. Hirson, and music and lyrics by Stephen Schwartz. The Lower Shore Performing Arts Company will stage the production April 27 and 28 in Chincoteague, and May 4 and 6 in Princess Anne.
The story characters are very loosely based on Pippin, first-born son of Charlemagne, emperor of Holy Roman Empire. The likeness pretty much ends at the names, as the musical veers far from any historical facts, imagining Pippin’s coming-of-age story as he discovers what brings satisfaction and contentment.
“Pippin is looking for purpose,” said Ryan Pidgeon, of Exmore, who plays the role of Pippin in his first production with the company. “I think that’s something everyone can identify with.” At some point, every person wrestles with the questions, “What am I supposed to do? Where do I fit in?”
Pocomoke High School Junior Alana Troxell has found she fits in at the theater company. After several shows with the group, she has stepped into the antagonist role of Leading Player. “My character leads him in the wrong direction,” she said. “I get the bad guy roles a lot. It’s kind of fun.”
The appeal of playing a character so different than oneself is part of the appeal of theater, said Troxell. “It’s an escape.”
Besides the collection of eager-to-learn students, adults of all professions from across the lower Shore are drawn to the theater, said Takeisha Jackson, the company’s public relations director. “People need this creative outlet because their jobs have absolutely nothing to do with the arts,” she said.
Director Mark Taylor, an attorney by day, said “Pippin” is one of his favorite musicals, with a classic rock and jazz feel, akin to others of the same early 1970s like “Hair” and “Godspell.” A collection of student and professional musicians will back the cast’s vocal performances.
Despite the upbeat music, “Pippin” covers “serious issues like war, love, and politics. Although he doesn’t quite find happiness, we ask, ‘What will bring happiness to Pippin?’” continued Taylor. “The answer is something young and old can relate to.”
Taylor enjoys working with the predominantly young cast, but stresses that “Pippin” is not children’s theater. “The mission of the theater company is to teach the art of performance to young and old alike,” and there are both youth and adults in the production. That played a large part in the selection of “Pippin,” because of its appeal to all ages in both the story and music.
The music, said Taylor, keeps the story moving along. “The audience will find themselves tapping their feet and moving in their seats.”