It’s that time of year again when the Little Theater is full of music as the Chappell Players perform their annual spring musical.
Last weekend, the theater group opened their run of the show “Pippin.” This is the story of the first son of Charlemagne, Pippin. He comes back from school and decides to go to war in an attempt to earn the approval of his father. After realizing war is not for him, Pippin begins his journey to find himself and the meaning of his life.
Auditions for the show were held during the last week of January with rehearsals beginning shortly after that.
“There really wasn’t much decision-making when it came to audition,” Sebastian Scott, who played the title character of Pippin, said. “I’ve seen the show before and I know how entertaining it can be, so of course I wanted to be a part of it.”
“I auditioned for the show because I love being on stage and performing for people,” said actor Daniel Conti, whose character was Leading Player.
“I actually was very skeptical in auditioning because I don’t consider myself a dancer or a singer,” said senior Raj Singh who played the role of Charlemagne. “A couple of my close friends were going and I figured it was my last chance to be in a show, so there I went.”
For some of those involved with the show, “Pippin,” is the perfect show to put on now, considering what is going on in the world.
“It addresses aspects of war, leadership, of dictatorship, manipulation of press,” said Leeanne G-Bowley, director and choreographer of the show. “Those kinds of things are all incorporated into the show so it’s very relevant to the times.”
Putting together this show did present some challenges to the Chappell Players.
“Well, for me, it [the most challenging part] was definitely performing a song,” Singh said. “I was pretty scared about how it would turn out and put a lot of criticism on myself about it.”
“For me, finding a way to create the character of Pippin was a great challenge because Pippin in the script is a very bland, passive character,” Scott said. “It’s very easy to portray him as na√Øve, wide-eyed innocent, but I think there’s a lot more depth to him than his scripted lines truly convey. Finding a way to bring that complexity out and make it a part of my performance was very difficult because I’ve never had a role like this before.”
“I would have to say that putting together the different pieces if the show was the most challenging,” said Joanna Willis, who played Fastrada in the show. “We didn’t always have the ability to work on all facets of the show, those being vocals, lines and dance at the same time, so it made it somewhat difficult to understand the flow of the show.”
The first performance of “Pippin” took place Friday, with two additional showings on Saturday and Sunday. The entire run of “Pippin” is dedicated to Richard Pretzer, Mixed Chorus director, and former Chappell Player Charmaine Lalane, both of who passed away this year.
“I was very happy with opening weekend overall. We had some pretty good turnouts and I think the audience enjoyed the show in general,” Conti said. “There were a few rough spots here and there, but that’s expected.”
“I thought that opening night was amazing,” Willis said. “It seemed to me that the cast had a really good time up there and we all went out there with the attitude that we were going to make opening night the very best we could.”
“Everything came together this weekend. The cast really stepped up to the plate and gave their heart and souls out on the stage,” said G-Bowley. “The technical aspect of the show worked out as well. I’m very pleased with everything thus far.”
“Pippin” is one show that contians various messages that viewers can take home with them.
“My hope is that this show will encourage discussions about such issues as war, government and dictatorships,” G-Bowley said.
“I hope people come out of the show realizing not to believe everything [they] hear or believe what people of authority believe,” said Singh. “I hope they can look at the evidence in a given situation and come to a conclusion on their own, regardless of what other people say or think.”
“There are a lot of themes in ‘Pippin,’ but I feel the most important one is the need to recognize yourself: who you are and what your place in the world is,” Scott said. “Don’t let others tell you what you should do with your like. Ultimately, that decision has to be made by you or you will never be truly happy.”
For some of the Chappell Players, putting on “Pippin” marks the end of their acting careers with the theater group as St. John’s University students. It also marks the end of something they have enjoyed doing.
“It truly, deeply saddens me. It has been a great few years that I have been involved with the theater group,” Singh said. “I know that the theater group will be in good hands because of our young, great talent.”
“As my last performance here as an undergraduate student, I couldn’t have wished for a better end,” said Scott. “I’ve made a lot of memories and learned a lot of lessons in my time with the Chappell Players, and while I hate to see that time come to an end, I’m very grateful that I was given the chance to go out with a bang.”
If anyone missed seeing “Pippin” opening weekend, there is still time to go to the show. This week, performances are scheduled for Thursday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. Tickets are $5 for students and seniors and $10 for general admission.
Those involved with “Pippin” have plenty of high hopes for the show’s remaining performances.
“I just hope that everyone stays healthy and continues to do their best,” Conti said. “If we get big audiences, that’s great, but it’s more about the performance itself than whether the house was full or not. I would enjoy what we’re doing whether there were 50 or 300 people in the audience.”
“I’d just like to see everyone maintain the level of energy and dedication that has been present during this opening weekend run,” Scott said. “Of course I’d like to see more seats filled in the audience, but as for the cast, I think we’re in a really good place and we just need to keep up the good work.”
Other than the shows going well, some members of the theater group would like to see the overall turnout increase for the shows that they have left.
“I hope to see a lot more students at the performances so that they may see just what it is that the Chappell Players dedicate their time to,” said Willis. “‘Pippin’ as a play carries a very important message that is imperative for us all to understand and although I may be somewhat biased, I think it is a performance that shouldn’t be missed.”
“I would love to see a greater turnout of students and faculty. Having a good audience is integral to the performing arts,” said G-Bowley. “The support from the St. John’s community has been great thus far. The performance of the cast is already marvelous, yet it can only get better with the support of a great audience.”