OU Weitzenhoffer School of Musical Theater presents ‘Pippin’, hopes audiences will be ‘blown away’ | Culture

In 800 CE, Charlemagne was crowned Holy Roman Emperor by Pope Leo III. Known for bringing Europe together under his rule and for facilitating a cultural and intellectual renaissance, the Emperor’s legacy lives on. In total, it is estimated that Charlemagne fathered at least 18 children, including a son named Pippin.

In 1972, “Pippin”, the musical, directed by Bob Fosse with an original score by Stephan Schwartz, opened on Broadway. Based on the real life of Charlemagne and Pippin from the Roman Empire and set in the Middle Ages, but not historically accurate, the show depicts the story of the journey of an extraordinary young man, aided by a mysterious troupe of traveling gamblers, according to Schwartz’s website. The production was revived in 2013, winning four Tony Awards, including Best Revival of a Musical.

“Pippin” opened last weekend at OU’s Elsie C. Brackett Theater, directed by Weitzenhoffer School of Musical Theater dance instructor Lyn Cramer.

Although the production is almost 40 years old, Lily Nicholas, a musical theater major as lead actress, said audiences will be blown away.

“It’s such a different story,” Nicholas said. “It’s something that really makes you think, and it’s very exciting all the time.”

Cramer said audiences can expect music, dancing and great voices.

“We’re a modern theater company, but we put it in the Middle Ages,” Cramer said.

“It’s definitely the longest show we’ve done in years, and I’ve been on 22 of them. It’s incredibly involved because there’s an amazing amount of dancing in the show.

Lindsay Lee Alhady, a musical theater student, said the students auditioned for the show in the fall. Estrada, Pippin’s stepmother, has been a dream role for Alhady since she was 13.

“When I heard we were doing ‘Pippin’, I knew exactly what I wanted out of it,” Alhady said. “I had been working on the strongest material for months before I got to the audition because I was so determined to achieve that goal. It was great to walk in there and feel that the training and the education I have acquired over the past four years at this university have come to fruition.

Cramer said rehearsals began Feb. 7 after winter break. Since then, cast members have rehearsed six days a week every week, on average.

The show features several lead roles and an ensemble portraying actors from a traveling acting troupe in the Middle Ages. Nicholas said understanding the story behind “Pippin,” both historical and theatrical, was helpful in preparing for her lead role.

“There are a lot of different parts in this show that are taken from iconic actors or stories from the past,” Nicholas said. “I really wanted to understand Charlemagne’s Roman Empire and the story of him and his son Pippin, who eventually took over…I just had to do a lot of imitations and exude the energy of the ancients performers.”

Alhady said she had fun rehearsing for the production.

“It’s just one of the coolest rehearsal experiences because I spent a lot of time doing ensemble work,” Alhady said. “A lot of my past experience comes from working in coordination with many other artists to achieve something that’s bigger than me, and that energy is a big part of the show. I’m a dancer first and foremost, and that was really cool to be able to be treated like an actor and work through the show I had the time of my life.

Nicholas also said she had a positive rehearsal experience working with each cast member.

“This show is very well handled by the ensemble,” said Nicholas. “They play a huge role in telling the story… Yes, I’m the main actor, but at the end of the day, we’re all just players. It was really enjoyable in the rehearsal process to work with each person in the ensemble and see how they all work together and how they transform their characters.

Cramer said audiences should expect some magic, as the production includes several illusions. Touring illusionist Rob Lake served as the magic consultant for the show. Nicholas said the inclusion of magical elements has added value.

“When we go out and watch it from the audience, it’s a really, really great extra element that makes the performance even better,” Nicholas said.

Overall, being part of the production was a learning experience for everyone involved, including Nicholas. She said she really understood that there is no creative freedom if you are not flexible.

“If you don’t constantly discover new things that you can do with this role and maybe a new thought that your character has in that moment, it’s going to fall flat,” Nicholas said. “It’s something that everyone on the show has been really great at coming up with every night, which has been really fun.”

Alhady said she also learned to trust herself and her acting on stage.

“The saying ‘technique equals freedom’ really comes into play for this process because I’ve worked so hard focusing on my foundation, and now I’ve reached a place where I’m able to release that and trust myself as a performer that I want to be,” Alhady said.

“Pippin” kicked off last weekend with three shows at OU’s Elsie C. Brackett Theater. It will air three more shows at 8 p.m. on April 8 and 9 and at 3 p.m. on April 10.

Tickets are available for purchase on the OU University Theater website and by calling 405-325-4101. A live stream is available for purchase here for all performances. The production contains adult content.

Alhday said she hopes audiences fall in love with “Pippin.”

“All I hope is that people who also have the same love for (Pippin) can come and have fun, and people who have never seen him can experience it for the first time. times and feel the impact and the love I had when I was so young,” Alhday said.

James C. Tibbs