‘Pippin’ searches for his corner of the sky in NCT’s season finale

Updated April 27, 2018 - 3:56 pm

Like Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Pippin is a prince — the son of the medieval king Charlemagne.

Unlike Hamlet, however, Pippin’s looking for his “Corner of the Sky.” As he reasons in the aforementioned song, “So many men seem destined to settle for something small, but I won’t rest until I know I’ll have it all.”

Pippin’s journey in search of “having it all” inspires Nevada Conservatory Theatre’s production of the musical, which opens an eight-performance run Friday at UNLV’s Judy Bayley Theatre.

“Pippin” itself has been on quite a journey since the show’s 1972 debut, which was helmed by legendary director-choreographer Bob Fosse, who won Tonys for his direction and choreography. Four decades later, the show returned to Broadway, winning a best revival Tony Award in the process.

For NCT’s “Pippin” director, Michael Lugering, the question is “how does a play have an afterlife?”

Lugering, who teaches acting at UNLV, loved parts of the ’70s version, which featured a hippie-like, counterculture vibe — embodied by, among others, Pippin’s grandmother Berthe (Sherri Brewer), who’s departed the palace for a simple country life.

Yet, the director acknowledges, “there are aspects of the original, which I adore, that appear dated.”

The Tony-winning revival, by contrast, employed a literal life’s-a-circus structure, transforming Pippin’s picaresque journey of self-discovery into a Cirque-style carnival featuring acrobats, jugglers, tumblers and trapeze artists.

“Not a skill set that we have,” Lugering notes, citing the simplicity of the NCT production’s set — a series of simple painted cubes arranged, and rearranged, on a turntable — that’s “kind of magical.”

Overall, NCT’s production focuses on what he calls “the meat of the piece,” which makes room for domestic conflicts — between Pippin and his father, his stepmother and others.

Add the various temptations offered by the devilish Leading Player (Keith Dotson and Delius Doherty share the role, for which Ben Vereen won a Tony in the original production), who presents Pippin with alternate visions of life: one filled with fame and power, another with such simple joys as “sweet summer evenings, hot wine and bread, sharing your supper, sharing your bed …”

Helping Pippin discover the latter: winsome widow Catherine (Alyssa Tortomasi), who describes herself as “your average, ordinary kind of woman … others as nice you meet often, I know — at least once or twice every decade or so.”

Composer Stephen Schwartz avoided the dreaded sophomore slump with “Pippin,” the follow-up to his first Broadway score, “Godspell.” Schwartz’s later Broadway forays include a minor musical you may have heard of, “Wicked.” (He also has three Oscar-winning songs to his credit, from the animated features “Pocahontas,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” and “Prince of Egypt.”)

Schwartz and librettist Roger O. Hirson revisited some of their work for “Pippin’s” Broadway revival, the composer noted in a 2014 interview prior to “Pippin’s” Smith Center tour stop.

“We revisited every aspect of the show to make it work for contemporary audiences,” Schwartz said. (For example, some of the musical’s sardonic war references were inspired by the Vietnam War, but apply equally well to contemporary conflicts in Afghanistan and beyond.)

“I have a lot of faith in audiences, (who) come to something to be entertained,” the composer said, “but also to be engaged, to be told a story they can relate to and care about, (that) can speak to them about their own lives.”

Or, as Lugering comments, “The part that interests me is helping Pippin find his corner of the sky — even if it’s not where he thought it was.”

NCT salutes founder

“Pippin” opens an eight-performance run Friday at UNLV’s Judy Bayley Theatre, closing Nevada Conservatory Theatre’s season.

But “Pippin” also honors the memory of NCT’s founder, UNLV professor emeritus Robert Brewer, who died in May 2017.

“We dedicate this production of ‘Pippin’ to our late colleague Prof. Robert (Bob) Brewer, who left this world last spring to find his very own ‘Corner of the Sky,’ ” reads a memorial tribute on display at the theater. “At UNLV, our fondest memories of Bob’s significant achievements are his commitment, passion and leadership of the Nevada Conservatory Theatre (NCT).”

Brewer, who arrived at UNLV in 1989 to head a new musical theater program, founded NCT in 2003 and served as its artistic director in its early years.

The goal was to “train students at the highest level,” explains “Pippin” director Michael Lugering, who’s taught stage and screen acting at UNLV since 1991. ”Could we blur the line between academic and professional theater?”

At NCT, students work with professional actors “and not simply (as) apprentices and walk-ons,” Lugering notes. (For example, “Pippin’s” title character is played by undergraduate Ryan Baker; professionals who have appeared in NCT productions include Sandy Duncan, Sally Struthers and Armin Shimerman — alias Quark, the Ferengi bar owner of “Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,” who played Scrooge in 2015’s “A Christmas Carol.”)

As NCT’s artistic director, Brewer directed more than 30 productions — and encouraged Lugering to direct a musical. After he suggested “Pippin,” Lugering contacted Brewer’s widow, Sherri, and told her, “I’m going to dedicate it to Bob and I want you to play Berthe,’ ” the title character’s life-affirming grandmother. Sherri Brewer has “done 20 shows at UNLV.”

Following Friday’s performance, Lugering will make a brief speech to the audience — which is expected to include some of Brewer’s friends and family, the director says.

It may be “Pippin’s” opening night, he acknowledges, but Brewer’s “legacy is more important than this individual show.”

Preview

What: Nevada Conservatory Theatre’s “Pippin”

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday; also 7:30 p.m. May 3-5, 2 p.m. May 5-6

Where:Judy Bayley Theatre, UNLV, 4505 S. Maryland Parkway

Tickets: $27.50-$33 (unlv.edu/nct)

Contact Carol Cling at ccling@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @CarolSCling on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Entertainment
CES final night showcases Drake at XS Nightclub
Drake performed for CES attendees and club-goers at XS Nightclub in Encore at Wynn Las Vegas in the early morning hours of Friday, Jan. 11, 2019. (John Katsilometes Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Happy Hour party at Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace
Conventioneers mingled during the Hardware Massive CES 2019 Happy Hour Bash at The Hangover Suite at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
CES 2019 Has A Cordless Hair Dryer
CES Has A Cordless Hair Dryer (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES Opening Party in Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace
CES conventioneers packed Omnia Nightclub at Caesars Palace, and let loose as they danced to DJs into the night. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails
Print intricate designs, your pet or your face on your nails (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
CES 2019: Panel talks Impossible Burger 2.0
Panel talks Impossible Burger at CES during launch at Border Grill on Monday, Jan. 7. (Ben Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets
Momofuku Makes A Cocktail With Bok Choy And Beets (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Dream of AJ Montgomery
AJ Montgomery lost part of his leg in a vehicle accident but found his dream as a performer in “Le Reve.” (John Przybys/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kelly Clinton-Holmes of the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes chats with Kelly Clinton-Holmes, director of the Stirling Club's New Year's Eve entertainment.
Month-by-month entertainment coming in 2019
“True Detective” Season 3, HBO (Jan. 13) Travis Scott, T-Mobile Arena (Feb. 6) Robbie Williams, Encore Theatre at Wynn Las Vegas (March 6, 8, 9, 13, 15 and 16) “Game of Thrones” Season 8, HBO (April) Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas Motor Speedway (May 17-19) “Fiddler on the Roof,” The Smith Center (June 4-9) “The Lion King” (July 19) Psycho Las Vegas, Mandalay Bay (Aug. 16-18) Life is Beautiful, downtown Las Vegas (Sept. 20-22) “Tim Burton @ the Neon Museum” (Oct. 15) “Frozen 2” (Nov. 22) “Star Wars: Episode IX” (Dec. 20)
Lacey Huszcza invites you to find something to love at the Las Vegas Philharmonic
Lacey Huszcza, executive director of the Las Vegas Philharmonic talks about the orchestra's wealth of programming. (Janna Karel/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Gina Marinelli offers La Strega preview
Gina Marinelli used a pop-up New Year’s Eve dinner at Starboard Tack to preview items she’ll feature at her new Summerlin restaurant, La Strega. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
New Year’s Eve at Sparrow + Wolf
Sparrow + Wolf’s New Year’s Eve party was a sort of official unveiling of its newly renovated space. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas NYE Fireworks - VIDEO
The full show: A spectacular view from the rooftop of the Trump International Hotel as 80,000 pyrotechnics illuminated the Las Vegas Strip at the stroke of midnight. Fireworks by Grucci choreographed launches from the Stratosphere, the Venetian, Treasure Island, Caesars Palace, Planet Hollywood, Aria and MGM Grand.
Debra Kelleher Of The Stirling Club
Debra Kelleher, DK Hospitality President talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the Stirling Club.
Richard Ditton Of The Stirling Club
Richard Ditton, an investment partner of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
NYE at the Stirling Club
John Katsilometes reports from the reopening of the Stirling Club on New Year's Eve 2018.
Michael Stapleton of the Stirling Club
Michael Stapleton, COO of the Stirling Club talks with Johnny Kats about the reopening of the club.
Recap the Countdown on Fremont Street — VIDEO
Nearly 40,000 people packed Fremont Street to enjoy America's Party Downtown. As the tradition stands, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman counted down the clock on the 3rd Street Stage, alongside her husband and former mayor, Oscar Goodman.
New Year's Eve live from the Las Vegas Strip Bellagio Fountains - Video
Reporter Aaron Drawhorn near the Bellagio Fountains as hundreds of thousands gather to celebrate New Year's Eve in Las Vegas
Ryan Reaves describes the flavors in Training Day beer
Ryan Reaves talks about the flavor of Training Day, the new beer from 7Five Brewing that was launched at the PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ryan Reaves describes his new beer
Golden Knights winger Ryan Reaves talks about his new beer from 7Five Brewing at a launch party at PKWY Tavern on West Flamingo Road. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas' five biggest NYE concerts
Imagine Dragons at The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas, Lady Gaga at The Park Theater at Park MGM, Maroon 5 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center, Bruno Mars at T-Mobile Arena, and Tenacious D at The Joint at the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo
Celebrate New Years Day, Hangover Day and Bloody Mary Day at Cabo Wabo (Janna Karel Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant
Michael Symon, chef and owner of Mabel's BBQ, talks about his first Las Vegas restaurant. Bizuayehu Tesfaye @bizutesfaye
New American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
American Eagle flagship on the Las Vegas Strip lets you customize your clothing
Bellagio Conservatory display is Majestic Holiday Magic
Majestic Holiday Magic at the Bellagio Conservatory
Las Vegas Ready for 2019 NYE Fireworks Show
The city of Las Vegas is ready to celebrate "America's Party" with a new and improved fireworks show that will pay tribute to the Golden Knights.
Sugar Factory makes a shareable Christmas cocktail
If you’re looking to share holiday cheer, this goblet is big enough to split among at least a few friends. The bubbly punch is made with cherry vodka, cranberry juice and a scoop of Christmas tree gummy candies — just in case it’s not sufficiently sweet.
New Year's Eve fireworks are ready to fly in Las Vegas
Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority and Fireworks by Grucci unveil details of “America’s Party 2019” New Year's Eve fireworks and entertainment extravaganza during a news conference at the Fashion Show Mall in Las Vegas Thursday, Dec. 20, 2018. (K.M. Cannon Las Vegas Review-Journal)
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like