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'Pippin' Still Fascinates Despite Technical Flubs

Kyle O'Connor, a student at South County Secondary reviews "Pippin," by Robert E. Lee High School.

The curtain opens. The audience is greeted by a troupe of vaudevillian actors chanting "Join us." The ragtag group of performers promises illusion, horror, battles and romance. Thus begins Robert E. Lee High School's enchanting production of "Pippin."

The show, by Roger O. Hirson, Bob Fosse and Stephen Schwartz, is a sort of play within a play. The Leading Player (Steven Einhorn) calls together a troupe of actors to perform a show loosely based on the life of Pippin the Hunchback, son of Charlemagne. Pippin (Kyle Daileda) yearns to discover his life's calling. Along the way, he becomes a soldier, a king and an exile.

The play's real world and show become fascinatingly intertwined, leading to the unexpected finale. The show, with music and lyrics by Schwartz, ran for 1,944 performances on Broadway and is the 28th-longest-running Broadway musical.

The actors of Robert E. Lee High showed great professionalism when dealing with frequent technical mishaps. They persevered through the troubles and remained focused.

Although a number of actors struggled with singing, the difficult score was tackled with aplomb.

As the Leading Player, Einhorn brought the alluring ringmaster to life via grandiose facial expressions and an array of physical gestures. Serving as the link between the real world and the show, Einhorn drove the plot with his musical interludes and mysterious soliloquies.

Megan Lennox brought a soft innocence to the part of Catherine, and her rebellious character's reason for defying the script was clear. Lennox did an impeccable job of adjusting to microphone malfunctions and never faltered during "Kind of Woman," showing off her fine soprano.

The most memorable performance came from Erin Dooley, as Berthe. Through physical and vocal characterization, she was able to accurately portray an old woman, and the song "No Time at All" had the audience literally singing along. The duo of Lewis (John Christensen) and Fastrada (Sylvia Boateng) brought a splash of energy to the stage through their bumbling comedic antics.

Other notable performances were by Aaron Barksdale as the Peasant, Kevan Olsen as Charles and Bethany Tagauding as Death. Each stayed in character and added life to low-energy scenes. Olsen should also be commended for his hilarious improvised line after a prop was fumbled.

The Robert E. Lee pit orchestra did an admirable job keeping up with and adjusting to rushed songs and sound troubles, although at times it overpowered the singing on stage. Even though some actors were occasionally left in the dark, the lighting (by Nate Frank) was overall very striking. Especially beautiful was the variety of lighting effects on the cyclorama, containing many different color schemes and patterns.

It takes a certain degree of "Magic" to successfully perform a musical such as "Pippin." The cast and crew of Robert E. Lee High pushed through mishaps and put on a commendable production.

By Washington Post Editors  |  November 18, 2008; 12:03 PM ET
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