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Magic is being done in Incline’s “Pippin”

Review by Nathan Top of “Pippin”: Incline Theatre

The Warsaw Federal Incline Theater’s “Pippin” proves to be dazzling, funny, and sincerely moving.

Music and lyrics written by the acclaimed Stephen Schwartz (“Wicked”, “Prince of Egypt”), “Pippin” tells the story of the title protagonist as he searches for the ultimate source of meaning and fulfillment for his life. The story is told using the premise of an unusual performance troupe whose greatest goal is to see Pippin through the story, through war and sex and kinghood and sex and farm labor and more sex, so that he might live out the ultimate finale of the show. Show director Matthew Wilson achieves a strong tone throughout the show, which is trickier than it might appear as the show roller-coasters through humor and sincerity. The brisk pace of the show makes the two and a half hour show (with intermission) fly by, all the way up until the simple yet profound conclusion.  The Leading Player, portrayed by the versatile Nora Degreen, is a strong yet charming guide through the show, earning the audience’s trust with ease. Her dancing is a delight to watch throughout the production. The young man playing Pippin, uncredited for various reasons, brings fresh and winning life to the role and, man, can he belt a high G. Another standout vocalist is Justin Glaser, who plays Charlemagne, whose powerful voice filled the theater on each of his numbers. As far as comedic timing goes, Angela Alexander Nalley, portraying Berthe, has it down to an art, knocking her big number “No Time At All” out of the park and Ella Rivera, playing Fastrada, deftly captures the irony of her song “Spread a Little Sunshine.” Maddie Vaughn, portraying Pippin’s love interest Catherine, brings humor, chemistry, and heart to the role.

Everyone in this cast can sing. This is not always the case so it must be said, especially for a musical with such a demanding book. The chorus at the end of the first act is truly radiant as they sing “Morning Glow” and continues to shine throughout the second act. Music director Michael Kennedy has done tight work with a marvelous cast.

But if a great cast is not enough to get you through the door, there is magic being done on stage. Seriously, the cast does magic tricks throughout the show for both plot and effect. The scenic designer, Brett Bowling, cleverly sets the actors up for success in this aspect and the magic consultant, Sir Pat-Trick, has done his job well.

The only thing left to be desired from this top notch production would have been a live pit. While canned music is suitable and necessary in a lot of instances, the synergy between a stellar cast and live pit orchestra was missed in this production. The show occasionally felt like the recordings of the songs were directing the actors through the numbers, rather than the other way around.

Even without a live pit, the show soars. If you are interested in toe-tapping tunes, wit-filled comedy, and a story that will cause you to reflect long after, grab a ticket to “Pippin” which runs until August 4th, 2019 at the Warsaw Federal Incline Theater. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling the Box Office at 513-241-6500.