Stage Door: 'Pippin' Steps Out at Carnegie

Aug 19, 2011 at 1:10 pm

Stephen Schwartz is well known in the world of musical theater as the composer of Wicked, the mega-hit Broadway musical that’s been running since 2003 (more than 3,200 performances to date). But he started his career a long time ago, composing the music for Godspell way back in 1971. At the age of 24, he followed Godspell with another hit, the 1972 musical Pippin (which ran for five years, nearly 2,000 performances). It’s the season opener in a three-weekend run at Covington’s Carnegie Center beginning Friday. —-

Pippin is best remembered because it was staged by iconic director and choreographer Bob Fosse. His signature dance moves — “jazz hands,” for instance — were more or less invented for Pippin, a tale very loosely based on the life of the son of Charlemagne, the medieval ruler of much of western and central Europe in the late eighth and early ninth centuries. Pippin’s coming of age — with a lot of ups and downs and bumps in the road — is told as a medieval-style pageant staged by a troupe of wandering players. The focus is on the Leading Player, first played by Tony Award winner Ben Vereen in his breakthrough Broadway role.

Pippin calls for a lot of dancing, magic and stagecraft. Bringing that to the Carnegie will be Ken Jones, head of the theater program at Northern Kentucky University, who might have as much energy as the legendary Fosse. His efforts will be further augmented by music director Jamey Strawn, and choreographers Jay Goodlet and Jane Green.

Starting a show in mid-August is an invitation to be ignored, in my opinion: Last year the Carnegie produced an excellent production of Big River in the same slot, and it did not get seen by as many people as might have been hoped. I suggest that you break out of your summer doldrums for this one. It’s likely to start the 2011-2012 theater season with a lot of flash. Tickets ($19-$26): 859-957-1940.